A Final Plea To Come To Our Senses

November 1, 2004 at 2:00 pm
Contributed by: Chris

As you go to vote today, whatever your party affiliation, I’m begging you to realize the importance of this vote, and the crucial neccesity of putting us back on the right track.

We must, MUST, make a change, and now. This country simply cannot afford to continue in the direction we’re going. We can’t afford it financially, we can’t afford it in our civil relations with the rest of the world, we can’t afford it environmentally, and most of all, we can’t afford it morally.

Here are a few facts, for your consideration:

The Economy

  • Bush inherited a surplus of around $236 billion from 2000. In four years, he and his radical Republican controlled Congress have managed to turn that into a $750 billion deficit, and set a historic record for an annual deficit in 2004. Between the present value of future revenues and future commitments, there is a whopping $44 trillion gap. Now look, I don’t care what they call it, this is not fiscal conservatism. How much is $44 trillion? Well here’s what some economists from the Fed and the Treasury say could be done about the gap: The goverment could raise the federal income tax (for individuals and corporates) by 69%, or raise payroll taxes by 95%; or cut Social Security and Medicare benefits by 56%; or cut federal discretionary spending altogether – to zero. Does Bush’s promise to continue resolutely down this path still sound comforting to you?
  • This is the weakest jobs recovery ever since WW2. The unemployment rate would be much higher if not for people who’ve stopped looking or have been unemployed for a long time (and are thus no longer counted), and/or people who have multiple jobs or are “self employed” which often means no benefits and much lower income. A truer measure is the “labor participation rate,” which has fallen to 65.9% from a peak of 67.3% in January 2000. That might not sound like much, but it represents two million newly unemployed. (And yours truly was one of them for a while.)
  • Salary and wages rose just 2.4% over the past year , the smallest increase on record, while real disposable income rose just 1.4% in the third quarter, down from 2.4% in the second. What’s more, the personal savings rate fell to 0.4%, the lowest since the Great Depression.
  • The number of people living in poverty (especially children) has risen sharply in the past four years. Meanwhile, compensation for corporate CEOs is now over 419 times the income of hourly production workers. And those are the people who get nearly all of the benefit of Bush’s tax cuts.
  • The government has expanded tremendously under Bush, who has never vetoed a single spending bill. Spending has risen by $530B since 2000, a 30% increase. And the increase isn’t just about the wars, either–that only accounts for 30% of it. The rest is due to his tax cuts, and increased health care, unemployment, Social Security, and Medicare costs. To borrow the old club that the GOP liked to use on liberals, Bush is a tax-cut-and-spend “conservative.” If you’re for smaller government, and lower government spending, then you cannot vote for Bush.
  • Under the Bush administration, reduced federal aid to communities and states has resulted in cut services, not to mention a profusion of new spending measures on county ballots across the country. You gotta pay for it somewhere, folks. If you think Bush’s tax cuts are going to put money in your pocket, you’re dreamin’. It goes right back out an even bigger hole in your other pocket, including higher Social Security and Medicare payments for lesser services.

The War on Terror
First off, you have to realize that you’ve been sold a bill of goods. Hornswoggled. Baited and switched. Taken for a big, fat, $200 billion ride that left you very unpopular with the rest of the world, and with about 10x as many “terrorists” as you started. They’ve lied, they’ve dissembled, they’ve misled, they’ve misconstrued, but the truth is, Bush and co. had decided long before 9/11 to invade Iraq and to prosecute a “never ending” war of imperial ambition against much of the rest of the world…especially countries with lots of oil. Not because we wanted to grab the oil for our own immediate use, but because this administration knows, like no administration before, how critical this diminishing resource is to the future of our economy, and to our economic leverage over the rest of the world for generations to come. It’s about control of the oil.

  • It was never about wanting the Iraqis to be free (if it was, we would have started somewhere higher up a very long list of countries, like, say, Saudi Arabia).
  • It wasn’t about his WMD–they didn’t exist, and this administration knew there was no conclusive evidence they existed, but they sold us that bill of goods anyway. And now we’ve cozied up and played footsie with countries that we well know have WMD, but for various reasons of political expedience, they get a different standard of treatment.
  • It wasn’t about Saddam’s human rights violations; again, if it were, there’s a much longer list we could start with, say, China.
  • It wasn’t even about terror. There was no tie between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and they knew it. Saddam had nothing to do with 9-11, and yet Bush & Cheney have crisscrossed the country telling us that there was for the last several years. When they know it’s false. If terror was what it was really about, then we wouldn’t have opened a gaping wound that we don’t know how to heal in the center of the Muslim world, where it will fester and breed millions more “terrorists.” We would have taken out the real perpetrators of 9-11: the members of Al Qaeda and their largely Saudi Arabian roots. And we would have taken on all the other terrorist entities in the world…another long list. (You’ve got an absolute explosion of the number of “terrorists” worldwide over the last few years, and you still can believe that these “firm, resolved” policies will make you safer?)

No, it’s a much longer, deeper, more intricate story than these little nursery rhymes they’ve packaged up for an ignorant and unthinking American audience. The real motivation is about geopolitical dominance. It’s about control. And it has everything to do with energy, and nothing to do with our vaunted American ideals of freedom, democracy, and justice. Everybody in the world except Americans seems to know this.

The Environment
There isn’t enough time or space to cover this topic. This administration has sided every time with big business, and against protecting the health of its citizens, and of the environment. They use a lot of clever, Orwellian labels to disguise their true intent, but the fact is, they are destroying the environment as fast as they can. The air, the water, the soil, the food, the lot. Mostly in the service of energy projects. This has led, and will lead, to illness and Death. Death of the animals, death of the plants, and death of the citizens. Global warming: it isn’t just for liberals anymore.

It’s the one thing no politician wants to talk about. It’s the biggest issue of our lives, and the least reported on. The loss of energy production capacity will change everything, everything, you know as regular life. We have a rapidly diminishing chance to choose the right path and invest as quickly as possible into renewable energy. Bush and co. would have you choose the other path. They deride energy conservation, they scoff at higher efficiency standards, and pursue policies that will continue to suck up as much energy as we can from polluting, and dangerous, non-renewable energy sources, no matter who we have to step over to get it. And your children, and their children, and many generations of children to come will pay for it, in their health, in the hatred of other nations, and in blood. There is no other way to put it: We must change our ways now.

It’s Your Turn
Go to the polls, and vote for a fighting chance at the future. I’ll understand if you’re a Republican who can’t bring him or herself to vote for Kerry. But I hope you’ll think a minute about the future you’re leaving to those who come, and just skip that spot on the ballot. Your measly little tax cut really doesn’t hold water up against the threat that Bush’s policies have posed to your very existence. And if you think Bush is going to make you safer, maybe you ought to read what bin Laden actually said in his new video.

If you’re still not convinced, then perhaps the four below articles, from prominent, conservative Republicans who have thought this one through, should make the picture of this election, forever muddied by mud slinging and distortion, crystal clear.

Do it for yourself, and do it for our future.


American Conservative magazine endorses Kerry: Kerry’s the One

Unfortunately, this election does not offer traditional conservatives an easy or natural choice and has left our editors as split as our readership. In an effort to deepen our readers’ and our own understanding of the options before us, we’ve asked several of our editors and contributors to make “the conservative case” for their favored candidate. Their pieces, plus Taki’s column closing out this issue, constitute TAC’s endorsement. —The Editors

Kerry’s the One

By Scott McConnell

There is little in John Kerry’s persona or platform that appeals to conservatives. The flip-flopper charge—the centerpiece of the Republican campaign against Kerry—seems overdone, as Kerry’s contrasting votes are the sort of baggage any senator of long service is likely to pick up. (Bob Dole could tell you all about it.) But Kerry is plainly a conventional liberal and no candidate for a future edition of Profiles in Courage. In my view, he will always deserve censure for his vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2002.

But this election is not about John Kerry. If he were to win, his dearth of charisma would likely ensure him a single term. He would face challenges from within his own party and a thwarting of his most expensive initiatives by a Republican Congress. Much of his presidency would be absorbed by trying to clean up the mess left to him in Iraq. He would be constrained by the swollen deficits and a ripe target for the next Republican nominee.

It is, instead, an election about the presidency of George W. Bush. To the surprise of virtually everyone, Bush has turned into an important president, and in many ways the most radical America has had since the 19th century. Because he is the leader of America’s conservative party, he has become the Left’s perfect foil—its dream candidate. The libertarian writer Lew Rockwell has mischievously noted parallels between Bush and Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II: both gained office as a result of family connections, both initiated an unnecessary war that shattered their countries’ budgets. Lenin needed the calamitous reign of Nicholas II to create an opening for the Bolsheviks.

Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations. The launching of an invasion against a country that posed no threat to the U.S., the doling out of war profits and concessions to politically favored corporations, the financing of the war by ballooning the deficit to be passed on to the nation’s children, the ceaseless drive to cut taxes for those outside the middle class and working poor: it is as if Bush sought to resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliché about predatory imperialism and turn it into administration policy. Add to this his nation-breaking immigration proposal—Bush has laid out a mad scheme to import immigrants to fill any job where the wage is so low that an American can’t be found to do it—and you have a presidency that combines imperialist Right and open-borders Left in a uniquely noxious cocktail.

During the campaign, few have paid attention to how much the Bush presidency has degraded the image of the United States in the world. Of course there has always been “anti-Americanism.” After the Second World War many European intellectuals argued for a “Third Way” between American-style capitalism and Soviet communism, and a generation later Europe’s radicals embraced every ragged “anti-imperialist” cause that came along. In South America, defiance of “the Yanqui” always draws a crowd. But Bush has somehow managed to take all these sentiments and turbo-charge them. In Europe and indeed all over the world, he has made the United States despised by people who used to be its friends, by businessmen and the middle classes, by moderate and sensible liberals. Never before have democratic foreign governments needed to demonstrate disdain for Washington to their own electorates in order to survive in office. The poll numbers are shocking. In countries like Norway, Germany, France, and Spain, Bush is liked by about seven percent of the populace. In Egypt, recipient of huge piles of American aid in the past two decades, some 98 percent have an unfavorable view of the United States. It’s the same throughout the Middle East.

Bush has accomplished this by giving the U.S. a novel foreign-policy doctrine under which it arrogates to itself the right to invade any country it wants if it feels threatened. It is an American version of the Brezhnev Doctrine, but the latter was at least confined to Eastern Europe. If the analogy seems extreme, what is an appropriate comparison when a country manufactures falsehoods about a foreign government, disseminates them widely, and invades the country on the basis of those falsehoods? It is not an action that any American president has ever taken before. It is not something that “good” countries do. It is the main reason that people all over the world who used to consider the United States a reliable and necessary bulwark of world stability now see us as a menace to their own peace and security.

These sentiments mean that as long as Bush is president, we have no real allies in the world, no friends to help us dig out from the Iraq quagmire. More tragically, they mean that if terrorists succeed in striking at the United States in another 9/11-type attack, many in the world will not only think of the American victims but also of the thousands and thousands of Iraqi civilians killed and maimed by American armed forces. The hatred Bush has generated has helped immeasurably those trying to recruit anti-American terrorists—indeed his policies are the gift to terrorism that keeps on giving, as the sons and brothers of slain Iraqis think how they may eventually take their own revenge. Only the seriously deluded could fail to see that a policy so central to America’s survival as a free country as getting hold of loose nuclear materials and controlling nuclear proliferation requires the willingness of foreign countries to provide full, 100 percent co-operation. Making yourself into the world’s most hated country is not an obvious way to secure that help.

I’ve heard people who have known George W. Bush for decades and served prominently in his father’s administration say that he could not possibly have conceived of the doctrine of pre-emptive war by himself, that he was essentially taken for a ride by people with a pre-existing agenda to overturn Saddam Hussein. Bush’s public performances plainly show him to be a man who has never read or thought much about foreign policy. So the inevitable questions are: who makes the key foreign-policy decisions in the Bush presidency, who controls the information flow to the president, how are various options are presented?

The record, from published administration memoirs and in-depth reporting, is one of an administration with a very small group of six or eight real decision-makers, who were set on war from the beginning and who took great pains to shut out arguments from professionals in the CIA and State Department and the U.S. armed forces that contradicted their rosy scenarios about easy victory. Much has been written about the neoconservative hand guiding the Bush presidency—and it is peculiar that one who was fired from the National Security Council in the Reagan administration for suspicion of passing classified material to the Israeli embassy and another who has written position papers for an Israeli Likud Party leader have become key players in the making of American foreign policy.

But neoconservatism now encompasses much more than Israel-obsessed intellectuals and policy insiders. The Bush foreign policy also surfs on deep currents within the Christian Right, some of which see unqualified support of Israel as part of a godly plan to bring about Armageddon and the future kingdom of Christ. These two strands of Jewish and Christian extremism build on one another in the Bush presidency—and President Bush has given not the slightest indication he would restrain either in a second term. With Colin Powell’s departure from the State Department looming, Bush is more than ever the “neoconian candidate.” The only way Americans will have a presidency in which neoconservatives and the Christian Armageddon set are not holding the reins of power is if Kerry is elected.

If Kerry wins, this magazine will be in opposition from Inauguration Day forward. But the most important battles will take place within the Republican Party and the conservative movement. A Bush defeat will ignite a huge soul-searching within the rank-and-file of Republicandom: a quest to find out how and where the Bush presidency went wrong. And it is then that more traditional conservatives will have an audience to argue for a conservatism informed by the lessons of history, based in prudence and a sense of continuity with the American past—and to make that case without a powerful White House pulling in the opposite direction.

George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost any kind of thoughtful conservatism. His international policies have been based on the hopelessly naïve belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated by American armies—a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky’s concept of global revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft. His immigration policies—temporarily put on hold while he runs for re-election—are just as extreme. A re-elected President Bush would be committed to bringing in millions of low-wage immigrants to do jobs Americans “won’t do.” This election is all about George W. Bush, and those issues are enough to render him unworthy of any conservative support.

November 8, 2004 issue
Copyright © 2004 The American Conservative

The New Yorker endorses Kerry:

The Choice

by The Editors
Issue of 2004-11-01

This Presidential campaign has been as ugly and as
bitter as any in American memory. The ugliness has flowed mostly in one
direction, reaching its apotheosis in the effort, undertaken by a
supposedly independent group financed by friends of the incumbent, to
portray the challenger—who in his mid-twenties was an exemplary combatant
in both the Vietnam War and the movement to end that war—as a coward and a
traitor. The bitterness has been felt mostly by the challenger’s
adherents; yet there has been more than enough to go around. This is one
campaign in which no one thinks of having the band strike up “Happy Days
Are Here Again.”

The heightened emotions of the race that (with any luck) will end on
November 2, 2004, are rooted in the events of three previous Tuesdays. On
Tuesday, November 7, 2000, more than a hundred and five million Americans
went to the polls and, by a small but indisputable plurality, voted to
make Al Gore President of the United States. Because of the way the votes
were distributed, however, the outcome in the electoral college turned on
the outcome in Florida. In that state, George W. Bush held a lead of some
five hundred votes, one one-thousandth of Gore’s national margin;
irregularities, and there were many, all had the effect of taking votes
away from Gore; and the state’s electoral machinery was in the hands of
Bush’s brother, who was the governor, and one of Bush’s state campaign
co-chairs, who was the Florida secretary of state.
Bush sued to stop any recounting of the votes, and, on Tuesday,
December 12th, the United States Supreme Court gave him what he wanted.
Bush v. Gore was so shoddily reasoned and transparently partisan that the
five justices who endorsed the decision declined to put their names on it,
while the four dissenters did not bother to conceal their disgust. There
are rules for settling electoral disputes of this kind, in federal and
state law and in the Constitution itself. By ignoring them—by cutting off
the process and installing Bush by fiat—the Court made a mockery not only
of popular democracy but also of constitutional republicanism.
A result so inimical to both majority rule and individual civic
equality was bound to inflict damage on the fabric of comity. But the
damage would have been far less severe if the new President had made some
effort to take account of the special circumstances of his election—in the
composition of his Cabinet, in the way that he pursued his policy goals,
perhaps even in the goals themselves. He made no such effort. According to
Bob Woodward in “Plan of Attack,” Vice-President Dick Cheney put it this
way: “From the very day we walked in the building, a notion of sort of a
restrained presidency because it was such a close election, that lasted
maybe thirty seconds. It was not contemplated for any length of time. We
had an agenda, we ran on that agenda, we won the election—full speed
The new President’s main order of business was to push through Congress
a program of tax reductions overwhelmingly skewed to favor the very rich.
The policies he pursued through executive action, such as weakening
environmental protection and cutting off funds for international
family-planning efforts, were mostly unpopular outside what became known
(in English, not Arabic) as “the base,” which is to say the conservative
movement and, especially, its evangelical component. The President’s
enthusiastic embrace of that movement was such that, four months into the
Administration, the defection of a moderate senator from Vermont, Jim
Jeffords, cost his party control of the Senate. And, four months after
that, the President’s political fortunes appeared to be coasting into a
gentle but inexorable decline. Then came the blackest Tuesday of all.
September 11, 2001, brought with it one positive gift: a surge of
solidarity, global and national—solidarity with and solidarity within the
United States. This extraordinary outpouring provided Bush with a second
opportunity to create something like a government of national unity.
Again, he brushed the opportunity aside, choosing to use the political
capital handed to him by Osama bin Laden to push through more elements of
his unmandated domestic program. A year after 9/11, in the midterm
elections, he increased his majority in the House and recaptured control
of the Senate by portraying selected Democrats as friends of terrorism. Is
it any wonder that the anger felt by many Democrats is even greater than
can be explained by the profound differences in outlook between the two
candidates and their parties?
The Bush Administration has had success in carrying out its policies
and implementing its intentions, aided by majorities—political and,
apparently, ideological—in both Houses of Congress. Substantively,
however, its record has been one of failure, arrogance, and—strikingly for
a team that prided itself on crisp professionalism—incompetence.

In January, 2001, just after Bush’s inauguration, the
nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published its budget outlook for
the coming decade. It showed a cumulative surplus of more than five
trillion dollars. At the time, there was a lot of talk about what to do
with the anticipated bounty, a discussion that now seems antique. Last
year’s federal deficit was three hundred and seventy-five billion dollars;
this year’s will top four hundred billion. According to the C.B.O., which
came out with its latest projection in September, the period from 2005 to
2014 will see a cumulative shortfall of $2.3 trillion.

Even this seven-trillion-dollar turnaround underestimates the looming
fiscal disaster. In doing its calculations, the C.B.O. assumed that most
of the Bush tax cuts would expire in 2011, as specified in the legislation
that enacted them. However, nobody in Washington expects them to go away
on schedule; they were designated as temporary only to make their ultimate
results look less scary. If Congress extends the expiration deadlines—a
near-certainty if Bush wins and the Republicans retain control of
Congress—then, according to the C.B.O., the cumulative deficit between
2005 and 2014 will nearly double, to $4.5 trillion.
What has the country received in return for mortgaging its future? The
President says that his tax cuts lifted the economy before and after 9/11,
thereby moderating the downturn that began with the Nasdaq’s collapse in
April, 2000. It’s true that even badly designed tax cuts can give the
economy a momentary jolt. But this doesn’t make them wise policy. “Most of
the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans,” Bush said during
his final debate with Senator John Kerry. This is false—a lie,
actually—though at least it suggests some dim awareness that the reverse
Robin Hood approach to tax cuts is politically and morally repugnant. But
for tax cuts to stimulate economic activity quickly and efficiently they
should go to people who will spend the extra money. Largely at the
insistence of Democrats and moderate Republicans, the Bush cuts gave
middle-class families some relief in the form of refunds, bigger child
credits, and a smaller marriage penalty. Still, the rich do better, to put
it mildly. Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington research group whose
findings have proved highly dependable, notes that, this year, a typical
person in the lowest fifth of the income distribution will get a tax cut
of ninety-one dollars, a typical person in the middle fifth will pocket
eight hundred and sixty-three dollars, and a typical person in the top one
per cent will collect a windfall of fifty-nine thousand two hundred and
ninety-two dollars.
These disparities help explain the familiar charge that Bush will
likely be the first chief executive since Hoover to preside over a net
loss of American jobs. This Administration’s most unshakable commitment
has been to shifting the burden of taxation away from the sort of income
that rewards wealth and onto the sort that rewards work. The Institute on
Taxation and Economic Policy, another Washington research group, estimates
that the average federal tax rate on income generated from corporate
dividends and capital gains is now about ten per cent. On wages and
salaries it’s about twenty-three per cent. The President promises, in a
second term, to expand tax-free savings accounts, cut taxes further on
dividends and capital gains, and permanently abolish the estate tax—all of
which will widen the widening gap between the richest and the rest.
Bush signalled his approach toward the environment a few weeks into his
term, when he reneged on a campaign pledge to regulate carbon-dioxide
emissions, the primary cause of global warming. His record since then has
been dictated, sometimes literally, by the industries affected. In 2002,
the Environmental Protection Agency proposed rescinding a key provision of
the Clean Air Act known as “new source review,” which requires power-plant
operators to install modern pollution controls when upgrading older
facilities. The change, it turned out, had been recommended by some of the
nation’s largest polluters, in e-mails to the Energy Task Force, which was
chaired by Vice-President Cheney. More recently, the Administration
proposed new rules that would significantly weaken controls on mercury
emissions from power plants. The E.P.A.’s regulation drafters had copied,
in some instances verbatim, memos sent to it by a law firm representing
the utility industry.
“I guess you’d say I’m a good steward of the land,” Bush mused dreamily
during debate No. 2. Or maybe you’d say nothing of the kind. The President
has so far been unable to persuade the Senate to allow oil drilling in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but vast stretches of accessible
wilderness have been opened up to development. By stripping away
restrictions on the use of federal lands, often through little-advertised
rule changes, the Administration has potentially opened up sixty million
acres, an area larger than Indiana and Iowa combined, to logging, mining,
and oil exploration.
During the fevered period immediately after September 11th, the
Administration rushed what it was pleased to call the U.S.A. Patriot Act
through a compliant Congress. Some of the reaction to that law has been
excessive. Many of its provisions, such as allowing broader
information-sharing among investigative agencies, are sensible. About
others there are legitimate concerns. Section 215 of the law, for example,
permits government investigators to obtain—without a subpoena or a search
warrant based on probable cause—a court order entitling them to records
from libraries, bookstores, doctors, universities, and Internet service
providers, among other public and private entities. Officials of the
Department of Justice say that they have used Section 215 with restraint,
and that they have not, so far, sought information from libraries or
bookstores. Their avowals of good faith would be more reassuring if their
record were not otherwise so troubling.
Secrecy and arrogance have been the touchstones of the Justice
Department under Bush and his attorney general, John Ashcroft. Seven weeks
after the 9/11 attacks, the Administration announced that its
investigation had resulted in nearly twelve hundred arrests. The arrests
have continued, but eventually the Administration simply stopped saying
how many people were and are being held. In any event, not one of the
detainees has been convicted of anything resembling a terrorist act. At
least as reprehensible is the way that foreign nationals living in the
United States have been treated. Since September 11th, some five thousand
have been rounded up and more than five hundred have been deported, all
for immigration infractions, after hearings that, in line with a novel
doctrine asserted by Ashcroft, were held in secret. Since it is official
policy not to deport terrorism suspects, it is unclear what legitimate
anti-terror purpose these secret hearings serve.
President Bush often complains about Democratic obstructionism, but the
truth is that he has made considerable progress, if that’s the right word,
toward the goal of stocking the federal courts with conservative
ideologues. The Senate has confirmed two hundred and one of his judicial
nominees, more than the per-term averages for Presidents Clinton, Reagan,
and Bush senior. Senate Republicans blocked more than sixty of Clinton’s
nominees; Senate Democrats have blocked only ten of Bush’s. (Those ten, by
the way, got exactly what they deserved. Some of them—such as Carolyn
Kuhl, who devoted years of her career to trying to preserve tax breaks for
colleges that practice racial discrimination, and Brett Kavanaugh, a
thirty-eight-year-old with no judicial or courtroom experience who
co-wrote the Starr Report—rank among the worst judicial appointments ever
Even so, to the extent that Bush and Ashcroft have been thwarted it has
been due largely to our still vigorous federal judiciary, especially the
Supreme Court. Like some of the Court’s worst decisions of the past four
years (Bush v. Gore again comes to mind), most of its best—salvaging
affirmative action, upholding civil liberties for terrorist suspects,
striking down Texas’s anti-sodomy law, banning executions of the mentally
retarded—were reached by one- or two-vote majorities. (Roe v. Wade is two
justices removed from reversal.) All but one of the sitting justices are
senior citizens, ranging in age from sixty-five to eighty-four, and the
gap since the last appointment—ten years—is the longest since 1821. Bush
has said more than once that Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are his
favorite justices. In a second Bush term, the Court could be remade in
their images.
The record is similarly dismal in other areas of domestic policy. An
executive order giving former Presidents the power to keep their papers
indefinitely sealed is one example among many of a mania for secrecy that
long antedates 9/11. The President’s hostility to science, exemplified by
his decision to place crippling limits on federal support of stem-cell
research and by a systematic willingness to distort or suppress scientific
findings discomfiting to “the base,” is such that scores of eminent
scientists who are normally indifferent to politics have called for his
defeat. The Administration’s energy policies, especially its resistance to
increasing fuel-efficiency requirements, are of a piece with its
environmental irresponsibility. Even the highly touted No Child Left
Behind education program, enacted with the support of the liberal lion
Edward Kennedy, is being allowed to fail, on account of grossly inadequate
funding. Some of the money that has been pumped into it has been leached
from other education programs, dozens of which are slated for cuts next

Ordinarily, such a record would be what lawyers call
dispositive. But this election is anything but ordinary. Jobs, health
care, education, and the rest may not count for much when weighed against
the prospect of large-scale terrorist attack. The most important
Presidential responsibility of the next four years, as of the past three,
is the “war on terror”—more precisely, the struggle against a brand of
Islamist fundamentalist totalitarianism that uses particularly ruthless
forms of terrorism as its main weapon.

Bush’s immediate reaction to the events of September 11, 2001, was an
almost palpable bewilderment and anxiety. Within a few days, to the
universal relief of his fellow-citizens, he seemed to find his focus. His
decision to use American military power to topple the Taliban rulers of
Afghanistan, who had turned their country into the principal base of
operations for the perpetrators of the attacks, earned the near-unanimous
support of the American people and of America’s allies. Troops from
Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Norway, and Spain are serving
alongside Americans in Afghanistan to this day.
The determination of ordinary Afghans to vote in last month’s
Presidential election, for which the votes are still being counted, is
clearly a positive sign. Yet the job in Afghanistan has been left undone,
despite fervent promises at the outset that the chaos that was allowed to
develop after the defeat of the Soviet occupation in the nineteen-eighties
would not be repeated. The Taliban has regrouped in eastern and southern
regions. Bin Laden’s organization continues to enjoy sanctuary and support
from Afghans as well as Pakistanis on both sides of their common border.
Warlords control much of Afghanistan outside the capital of Kabul, which
is the extent of the territorial writ of the decent but beleaguered
President Hamid Karzai. Opium production has increased fortyfold.
The White House’s real priorities were elsewhere from the start.
According to the former counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke, in a
Situation Room crisis meeting on September 12, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld
suggested launching retaliatory strikes against Iraq. When Clarke and
others pointed out to him that Al Qaeda—the presumed culprit—was based in
Afghanistan, not Iraq, Rumsfeld is said to have remarked that there were
better targets in Iraq. The bottom line, as Bush’s former Treasury
Secretary Paul O’Neill has said, was that the Bush-Cheney team had been
planning to carry out regime change in Baghdad well before September
11th—one way or another, come what may.
At all three debates, President Bush defended the Iraq war by saying
that without it Saddam Hussein would still be in power. This is probably
true, and Saddam’s record of colossal cruelty–of murder, oppression, and
regional aggression–was such that even those who doubted the war’s wisdom
acknowledged his fall as an occasion for satisfaction. But the removal of
Saddam has not been the war’s only consequence; and, as we now know, his
power, however fearsome to the millions directly under its sway, was far
less of a threat to the United States and the rest of the world than it
pretended—and, more important, was made out—to be.
As a variety of memoirs and journalistic accounts have made plain, Bush
seldom entertains contrary opinion. He boasts that he listens to no
outside advisers, and inside advisers who dare to express unwelcome views
are met with anger or disdain. He lives and works within a self-created
bubble of faith-based affirmation. Nowhere has his solipsism been more
damaging than in the case of Iraq. The arguments and warnings of analysts
in the State Department, in the Central Intelligence Agency, in the
uniformed military services, and in the chanceries of sympathetic foreign
governments had no more effect than the chants of millions of marchers.
The decision to invade and occupy Iraq was made on the basis of four
assumptions: first, that Saddam’s regime was on the verge of acquiring
nuclear explosives and had already amassed stockpiles of chemical and
biological weapons; second, that the regime had meaningful links with Al
Qaeda and (as was repeatedly suggested by the Vice-President and others)
might have had something to do with 9/11; third, that within Iraq the
regime’s fall would be followed by prolonged celebration and rapid and
peaceful democratization; and, fourth, that a similar democratic
transformation would be precipitated elsewhere in the region, accompanied
by a new eagerness among Arab governments and publics to make peace
between Israel and a presumptive Palestinian state. The first two of these
assumptions have been shown to be entirely baseless. As for the second
two, if the wishes behind them do someday come true, it may not be clear
that the invasion of Iraq was a help rather than a hindrance.
In Bush’s rhetoric, the Iraq war began on March 20, 2003, with
precision bombings of government buildings in Baghdad, and ended exactly
three weeks later, with the iconic statue pulldown. That military
operation was indeed a success. But the cakewalk led over a cliff, to a
succession of heedless and disastrous mistakes that leave one wondering,
at the very least, how the Pentagon’s civilian leadership remains intact
and the President’s sense of infallibility undisturbed. The failure,
against the advice of such leaders as General Eric Shinseki, then the Army
chief of staff, to deploy an adequate protective force led to unchallenged
looting of government buildings, hospitals, museums, and—most inexcusable
of all—arms depots. (“Stuff happens,” Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld
explained, though no stuff happened to the oil ministry.) The Pentagon all
but ignored the State Department’s postwar plans, compiled by its Future
of Iraq project, which warned not only of looting but also of the
potential for insurgencies and the folly of relying on exiles such as
Ahmad Chalabi; the project’s head, Thomas Warrick, was sidelined. The
White House counsel’s disparagement of the Geneva Conventions and of
prohibitions on torture as “quaint” opened the way to systematic and
spectacular abuses at Abu Ghraib and other American-run prisons–a moral
and political catastrophe for which, in a pattern characteristic of the
Administration’s management style, no one in a policymaking position has
been held accountable. And, no matter how Bush may cleave to his arguments
about a grand coalition (“What’s he say to Tony Blair?” “He forgot
Poland!”), the coalition he assembled was anything but grand, and it has
been steadily melting away in Iraq’s cauldron of violence.
By the end of the current fiscal year, the financial cost of this war
will be two hundred billion dollars (the figure projected by Lawrence
Lindsey, who headed the President’s Council of Economic Advisers until,
like numerous other bearers of unpalatable news, he was cashiered) and
rising. And there are other, more serious costs that were unforeseen by
the dominant factions in the Administration (although there were plenty of
people who did foresee them). The United States has become mired in a
low-intensity guerrilla war that has taken more lives since the mission
was declared to be accomplished than before. American military deaths have
mounted to more than a thousand, a number that underplays the real level
of suffering: among the eight thousand wounded are many who have been left
seriously maimed. The toll of Iraqi dead and wounded is of an order of
magnitude greater than the American. Al Qaeda, previously an insignificant
presence in Iraq, is an important one now. Before this war, we had
persuaded ourselves and the world that our military might was effectively
infinite. Now it is overstretched, a reality obvious to all. And, if the
exposure of American weakness encourages our enemies, surely the blame
lies with those who created the reality, not with those who, like Senator
Kerry, acknowledge it as a necessary step toward changing it.
When the Administration’s geopolitical, national-interest, and
anti-terrorism justifications for the Iraq war collapsed, it groped for an
argument from altruism: postwar chaos, violence, unemployment, and
brownouts notwithstanding, the war has purchased freedoms for the people
of Iraq which they could not have had without Saddam’s fall. That is true.
But a sad and ironic consequence of this war is that its fumbling
prosecution has undermined its only even arguably meritorious
rationale—and, as a further consequence, the salience of idealism in
American foreign policy has been likewise undermined. Foreign-policy
idealism has taken many forms—Wilson’s aborted world federalism, Carter’s
human-rights jawboning, and Reagan’s flirtation with total nuclear
disarmament, among others. The failed armed intervention in Somalia and
the successful ones in the Balkans are other examples. The neoconservative
version ascendant in the Bush Administration, post-9/11, draws partly on
these strains. There is surely idealistic purpose in envisioning a Middle
East finally relieved of its autocracies and dictatorships. Yet this
Administration’s adventure in Iraq is so gravely flawed and its
credibility so badly damaged that in the future, faced with yet another
moral dilemma abroad, it can be expected to retreat, a victim of its own
Iraq Syndrome.

The damage visited upon America, and upon America’s
standing in the world, by the Bush Administration’s reckless mishandling
of the public trust will not easily be undone. And for many voters the
desire to see the damage arrested is reason enough to vote for John Kerry.
But the challenger has more to offer than the fact that he is not George
W. Bush. In every crucial area of concern to Americans (the economy,
health care, the environment, Social Security, the judiciary, national
security, foreign policy, the war in Iraq, the fight against terrorism),
Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush’s curious blend of
smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery. Pollsters like to ask voters which
candidate they’d most like to have a beer with, and on that metric Bush
always wins. We prefer to ask which candidate is better suited to the
governance of our nation.

Throughout his long career in public service, John Kerry has
demonstrated steadiness and sturdiness of character. The physical courage
he showed in combat in Vietnam was matched by moral courage when he raised
his voice against the war, a choice that has carried political costs from
his first run for Congress, lost in 1972 to a campaign of character
assassination from a local newspaper that could not forgive his antiwar
stand, right through this year’s Swift Boat ads. As a senator, Kerry
helped expose the mischief of the Bank of Commerce and Credit
International, a money-laundering operation that favored terrorists and
criminal cartels; when his investigation forced him to confront corruption
among fellow-Democrats, he rejected the cronyism of colleagues and brought
down power brokers of his own party with the same dedication that he
showed in going after Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal. His
leadership, with John McCain, of the bipartisan effort to put to rest the
toxic debate over Vietnam-era P.O.W.s and M.I.A.s and to lay the
diplomatic groundwork for Washington’s normalization of relations with
Hanoi, in the mid-nineties, was the signal accomplishment of his twenty
years on Capitol Hill, and it is emblematic of his fairness of mind and
independence of spirit. Kerry has made mistakes (most notably, in
hindsight at least, his initial opposition to the Gulf War in 1990),
but—in contrast to the President, who touts his imperviousness to changing
realities as a virtue—he has learned from them.
Kerry’s performance on the stump has been uneven, and his public
groping for a firm explanation of his position on Iraq was discouraging to
behold. He can be cautious to a fault, overeager to acknowledge every
angle of an issue; and his reluctance to expose the Administration’s
appalling record bluntly and relentlessly until very late in the race was
a missed opportunity. But when his foes sought to destroy him rather than
to debate him they found no scandals and no evidence of bad faith in his
past. In the face of infuriating and scurrilous calumnies, he kept the
sort of cool that the thin-skinned and painfully insecure incumbent cannot
even feign during the unprogrammed give-and-take of an electoral debate.
Kerry’s mettle has been tested under fire—the fire of real bullets and the
political fire that will surely not abate but, rather, intensify if he is
elected—and he has shown himself to be tough, resilient, and possessed of
a properly Presidential dose of dignified authority. While Bush has
pandered relentlessly to the narrowest urges of his base, Kerry has sought
to appeal broadly to the American center. In a time of primitive
partisanship, he has exhibited a fundamentally undogmatic temperament. In
campaigning for America’s mainstream restoration, Kerry has insisted that
this election ought to be decided on the urgent issues of our moment, the
issues that will define American life for the coming half century. That
insistence is a measure of his character. He is plainly the better choice.
As observers, reporters, and commentators we will hold him to the highest
standards of honesty and performance. For now, as citizens, we hope for
his victory.

Former Republican U.S. Senator Marlow W. Cook endorses Kerry

(Marlow W. Cook, a Republican formerly of Louisville, was Jefferson County judge from 1962-1968 and U.S. Republican Senator from Kentucky from 1968-1975.)

I have been, and will continue to be, a Republican. But when we as a party send the wrong person to the White House, then it is our responsibility to send him home if our nation suffers as a result of his actions. I fall in the category of good conservative thinkers, like George F. Will, for instance, who wrote: “This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and having thought, to have second thoughts.”

I say, well done George Will, or, even better, from the mouth of the numero uno of conservatives, William F. Buckley Jr.: “If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

First, let’s talk about George Bush’s moral standards.

In 2000, to defeat Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — a man who was shot down in Vietnam and imprisoned for over five years — they used Carl Rove’s “East Texas special.” They started the rumor that he was gay, saying he had spent too much time in the Hanoi Hilton. They said he was crazy. They said his wife was on drugs. Then, to top it off, they spread pictures of his adopted daughter, who was born in Bangladesh and thus dark skinned, to the sons and daughters of the Confederacy in rural South Carolina.

To show he was not just picking on Republicans, he went after Sen. Max Cleland from Georgia, a Democrat seeking re-election. Bush henchmen said he wasn’t patriotic because Cleland did not agree 100 percent on how to handle homeland security. They published his picture along with Cuba’s Castro, questioning Cleland’s patriotism and commitment to America’s security. Never mind that his Republican challenger was a Vietnam deferment case and Cleland, who had served in Vietnam, came home in a wheel chair having lost three limbs fighting for his country. Anyone who wants to win an election and control of the legislative body that badly has no moral character at all.

We know his father got him in the Texas Air National Guard so he would not have to go to Vietnam. The religious right can have him with those moral standards. We also have Vice President Dick Cheney, who deferred his way out of Vietnam because, as he says, he “had more important things to do.”

I have just turned 78. During my lifetime, we have sent 31,377,741 Americans to war, not including whatever will be the final figures for the Iraq fiasco. Of those, 502,722 died and 928,980 came home without legs, arms or what have you.

Those wars were to defend freedom throughout the free world from communism, dictators and tyrants. Now Americans are the aggressors — we start the wars, we blow up all the infrastructure in those countries, and then turn around and spend tax dollars denying our nation an excellent education system, medical and drug programs, and the list goes on. …

I hope you all have noticed the Bush administration’s style in the campaign so far. All negative, trashing Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards and Democrats in general. Not once have they said what they have done right, what they have done wrong or what they have not done at all.

Lyndon Johnson said America could have guns and butter at the same time. This administration says you can have guns, butter and no taxes at the same time. God help us if we are not smart enough to know that is wrong, and we live by it to our peril. We in this nation have a serious problem. Its almost worse than terrorism: We are broke. Our government is borrowing a billion dollars a day. They are now borrowing from the government pension program, for apparently they have gotten as much out of the Social Security Trust as it can take. Our House and Senate announce weekly grants for every kind of favorite local programs to save legislative seats, and it’s all borrowed money.

If you listened to the President confirming the value of our war with Iraq, you heard him say, “If no weapons of mass destruction were found, at least we know we have stopped his future distribution of same to terrorists.” If that is his justification, then, if he is re-elected our next war will be against Iran and at the same time North Korea, for indeed they have weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, which they have readily admitted. Those wars will require a draft of men and women. …

I am not enamored with John Kerry, but I am frightened to death of George Bush. I fear a secret government. I abhor a government that refuses to supply the Congress with requested information. I am against a government that refuses to tell the country with whom the leaders of our country sat down and determined our energy policy, and to prove how much they want to keep that secret, they took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Those of you who are fiscal conservatives and abhor our staggering debt, tell your conservative friends, “Vote for Kerry,” because without Bush to control the Congress, the first thing lawmakers will demand Kerry do is balance the budget.

The wonderful thing about this country is its gift of citizenship, then it’s freedom to register as one sees fit. For me, as a Republican, I feel that when my party gives me a dangerous leader who flouts the truth, takes the country into an undeclared war and then adds a war on terrorism to it without debate by the Congress, we have a duty to rid ourselves of those who are taking our country on a perilous ride in the wrong direction.

If we are indeed the party of Lincoln (I paraphrase his words), a president who deems to have the right to declare war at will without the consent of the Congress is a president who far exceeds his power under our Constitution.

I will take John Kerry for four years to put our country on the right path.

(The Courier Journal, Kentucky, October 20, 2004 )

The Tampa Tribune endorses Kerry:

Why We Cannot Endorse President Bush For Re-Election

W e find ourselves in a position unimaginable four years ago when we strongly endorsed for president a fiscal conservative and “moderate man of mainstream convictions” who promised to wield military muscle only as a last resort and to resist the lure of “nation building.”

We find ourselves deeply conflicted today about the presidential race, skeptical of the promises and positions of Sen. John Kerry and disappointed by the performance of President George W. Bush.

As stewards of the Tribune’s editorial voice, we find it unimaginable to not be lending our voice to the chorus of conservative-leaning newspapers endorsing the president’s re- election. We had fully expected to stand with Bush, whom we endorsed in 2000 because his politics generally reflected ours: a strong military, fiscal conservatism, personal responsibility and small government. We knew him to be a popular governor of Texas who fought for lower taxes, less government and a pro-business constitution.

But we are unable to endorse President Bush for re- election because of his mishandling of the war in Iraq, his record deficit spending, his assault on open government and his failed promise to be a “uniter not a divider” within the United States and the world.

Neither can we endorse Sen. Kerry, whose undistinguished Senate record stands at odds with our conservative principles and whose positions on the Iraq war – the central issue in this campaign – have been difficult to distinguish or differentiate.

It is an achingly difficult decision to not endorse a candidate in the presidential contest, and we do not reach this decision lightly.

The Tribune has endorsed a Republican for president ever since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, with one exception. We did not endorse in the 1964 presidential race because, as we said at the time, “it is our feeling that unless a newspaper can recommend a candidate with complete conviction that he be the better choice for the office, it should make no endorsement.”

Like the country, this editorial board finds itself deeply divided about the president’s prosecution of the war and his indifference to federal spending.

Bush Overstated The Evidence

Although Bush came to office having lost the popular vote, the nation rallied behind him after the terrorist strikes of 9/11. He transcended the political divide and became everyone’s president the moment he picked up that bullhorn on the ashes of ground zero and promised the terrorists that they would hear from us. Aside from a few dancing extremists, the world stood with us.

Bush told us to wait, and we confidently stood with him. With surety and resolve, he struck Afghanistan and the hillside holes of al-Qaida extremists. For taking out the Taliban and bringing about national elections in Afghanistan this month, the president deserves much credit. While we still haven’t caught Osama bin Laden, the ace of spades, our troops have successfully caught and imprisoned many other al-Qaida leaders.

But before securing Afghanistan, Bush grew convinced that Iraq posed an imminent threat to America and so directed soldiers and supplies there.

His administration terrified us into believing that we had to quickly wage war with Baghdad to ensure our safety. Vice President Dick Cheney said he had “irrefutable evidence” that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear program. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice wrongly asserted that aluminum tubes found in Iraq could be used only for nuclear weapons. And the president himself said he couldn’t wait for a smoking gun in the form of a “mushroom cloud.”

Again, this editorial board stood solidly with the president in his resolve to take the fight to the terrorists where they live, forever changing American foreign policy with our first-ever “pre-emptive” war.

Once we got to Baghdad, however, we found out that the president was wrong and that the reasons for launching the war were either exaggerated or inaccurate. There were no stockpiles of WMD and no link between Saddam and the terrorists that struck on 9/11.

As it turns out, the neoconservatives in the Bush administration were bamboozled by dubious sources named Curveball and Chalabi, whose integrity and access to real- time information was repeatedly questioned by our own intelligence services.

No Dissension Allowed

But groupthink took hold among the neocons, while those with contrary points of view, like Secretary of State Colin Powell, were sidelined until after key decisions were made. It was almost as though someone who asked tough questions was seen as siding with the terrorists.

When Gen. Eric Shinseki, then Army chief of staff, said that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure a postwar Iraq, his argument was dismissed and the general summarily pushed aside.

But after Baghdad fell, we saw how insufficient troop numbers led to the looting of hospitals, businesses and schools – everything but the Oil Ministry, which our forces secured.

At the time, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said with great hubris that the uprising was “untidy” but not unexpected. And the president himself challenged the enemy to “bring it on.”

Now we learn from Ambassador Paul Bremer, former presidential envoy to Iraq, that “we never had enough troops on the ground” to stop the insurgency. Baath party loyalists went underground only to launch a guerrilla campaign that makes Iraq less safe today than immediately after Baghdad fell.

The insurgents have taken back cities like Fallujah, which we mistakenly ceded to them last April. And they continue to undo the reconstruction of schools, roads, clinics and the electrical grid built by our troops and an array of mostly American contractors. Most problematic, they keep blowing up rebuilt oil pipelines whose revenues were supposed to pay for the reconstruction.

In one of his too-rare press conferences, the president stood strong in promising that Iraq would be sovereign by June 30, even though no one could identify who would get the keys to the country. Bush’s resolve in meeting the deadline for the creation of an interim government was commendable.

Still, despite deliberate steps to rebuild Iraq, we find ourselves today in an open-ended war that has taken the lives of 1,081 American servicemen and women, and wounded or maimed 7,862 more. Financially, the war has cost us $126 billion – money that could have been better spent securing the homeland – and is a major reason for the largest federal deficit in history.

More Fear Ahead

What bothers us is that the president says that even knowing what he knows now, he still would have invaded Iraq because Saddam had the “intent” to make nuclear weapons and was a ruthless dictator who killed his own people. If this nation-building succeeds, the president says, we will have built a friend in the Middle East.

Because of the invasion, one other renegade country – Libya – decided to disarm its nuclear program, a real success for the president.

Still, we are troubled by Bush’s talk about a broad “forward strategy of freedom” to “transform” the Middle East. We believe it unwise to use our military to impose democracy on Arab countries, which would rather determine their own future. We fear this model of forced democracy will only fuel recruiting campaigns for terrorism.

And how about Iran and North Korea, who have considerably more advanced nuclear capabilities than Iraq ever had? Are we going to brashly send our overstretched military to war there too?

An American president should take the country to war only as a last resort, only after exhausting every diplomatic channel and only after asking demanding questions and weighing concrete evidence. On the Iraq war, President Bush failed on all counts.

The Iraq war came about because of a profound failure of intelligence that went unchecked and unquestioned by the president, who shows no sign of having second doubts. He admits to making no mistakes except for a few presidential appointments – presumably disloyal people who dared to speak up.

Bush’s re-election campaign continues to stoke fear. “You better have a president who faces these terrorists down before they hurt us again,” he said in the first debate.

Cheney, who continues to maintain that Iraq was in league with al-Qaida despite evidence to the contrary, went so far as to say that electing Kerry would invite another terrorist strike.

We don’t like Kerry’s talk about a “global test,” but neither should we summarily dismiss the court of world opinion, which, you will remember, was with us less than three short years ago.

And finally, Bush has done little to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, a conflict that continues to ferment hatred in the Arab world.

Bush’s Spending Ways

While his prosecution of the war is the principal reason we cannot endorse the president’s re-election, we are also deeply disappointed by his failure to control federal spending.

It must be said that Bush has been a friend to business, and his promise to simplify the tax code is alluring. He also has dramatically reduced government regulations that slow commerce and cost money. As one example, he rightfully ended the requirement that businesses report any employee complaint of carpal tunnel syndrome.

It should also be noted that his tax cuts spurred a sputtering economy and benefited not only the rich, but the middle class too. He doubled the child credit to $1,000, reduced the marriage penalty and favored elimination of the death tax, all positions we supported.

However, although the numbers from recent months are more promising, the tax cuts did not spur the expected job growth. The nation has lost jobs during the Bush presidency, the first administration since Herbert Hoover’s to oversee a net loss of jobs.

But while the recession, 9/11 and profligate spending by Congress have grown the deficit, two-thirds can be traced back to the president’s tax cuts, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Bush’s mistake was failing to couple tax cuts with reduced spending. Instead of asking some sacrifice from the public, he allowed Congress to keep spending, including a giveaway program of farm subsidies.

Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill. Even Franklin Roosevelt scaled back New Deal programs after Pearl Harbor.

The result: Bush has turned the $150 billion surplus he inherited into a $450 billion deficit.

At one point, Congress tried to impose some fiscal discipline. Lawmakers said they would not pass the Medicare prescription drug benefit if the cost exceeded $400 billion over 10 years.

So what did the administration do? It fudged the numbers.

Thomas Scully, former head of the Medicare agency, threatened to fire chief actuary Richard Foster if he dared to tell lawmakers that the true cost stood between $500 billion and $600 billion.

To make matters worse, the president’s law prohibits Medicare from negotiating the best prices from pharmaceutical companies.

Against this backdrop of spending, Bush announced a mission to Mars and support for a missile shield defense system, a Cold War throwback that would be nice to have but wouldn’t stop the car bombs and speedboats that are today’s terrorists’ weapons of choice.

At the same time, Bush has done nothing to shrink the size of the federal government. He has not cut one agency’s budget. In fact, at the Department of Education, he has actually increased spending by 68 percent.

We support a strong and accountable education system, but we do not support the added layer of federal regulation that Bush has imposed on Florida schools through his No Child Left Behind act.

The president modeled his plan after Florida’s A-Plus Plan, which was doing well enough by itself. Now we have two government programs that send conflicting messages to Florida parents, teachers and students.

Yet, while throwing money at programs of questionable urgency, Bush has failed to adequately fund the Department of Homeland Security. Penny- pinching there means firefighters and police still lack radios that can talk to one another, cargo shipments at airports and seaports are not screened, and hospitals and biohazard labs feel underfunded and underequipped.

Government Behind Closed Doors

At the birth of the 9/11 millennium, President Bush rallied us around a new world order that required some loss of freedoms so that the government could do a better job of protecting us.

He passed the Patriot Act, which, while not perfect, gives law enforcement agencies the much-needed ability to talk with one another.

While we supported the Patriot Act, we are concerned by the president’s relentless attack on open government.

According to the libertarian Reason Foundation, Bush has nearly doubled the number of classified documents, urged agencies to refuse Freedom of Information Act requests and invoked executive privilege wherever possible.

His administration doesn’t want citizens to know when hazardous chemicals are routed through their towns, how the repair of tenuous electric grids is going or who was at the table to form the nation’s energy policy.

Typical of this administration, only industry lobbyists and like-minded people were allowed at the table to craft the energy plan. People who might dissent – consumer groups and conservationists – were not invited.

Within a year of Cheney’s energy task force, the administration had given billions in subsidies to energy firms and begun weakening pollution laws while opening up wilderness areas to exploitation. The administration misled people by calling a plan to weaken pollution controls the Clear Skies initiative. As one example, the new law allows coal- burning power plants to avoid installing pollution-control equipment during renovations.

The Failed Compassionate Conservative

President Bush told us that he was “uniter, not a divider,” but shortly after taking office, his administration took a sharp right turn that has divided this country.

We were glad to see him sign the ban on late-term abortions. While we don’t favor the criminalization of abortion, we want to see the number of abortions reduced. It is not uncommon to place limits on freedoms, such as freedom of speech or freedom of assembly. Limits on abortion can be justified too.

We also agree that religion and tradition define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. However, we believe marriage laws should rightfully be left to the states. We don’t support the president’s decision to engage this country in a fight for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Probably most disappointing, however, is his leadership in Washington.

Besides the White House, Republicans control the House and the Senate and all committee chairs. But rather than reach across the aisle, this president has deepened the divide in Congress, where Republican leaders have uninvited Democrats from conference committees where differences are reconciled. We would not condone such behavior from Democrats and shouldn’t accept it from Republicans.

We had expected something different, given Bush’s tenure in Texas.

People view Bush as a man with strong convictions. And while he’s clearly convinced of the rightness of his ways, that doesn’t mean he’s always right.

This president doesn’t try to hear from people who disagree, choosing instead to keep the counsel of staunch supporters. He disdains news conferences and brags that he doesn’t read the newspapers. He counts on his core group of insiders to tell him what he needs to know.

When asked if he consulted his father, the only other president to have waged war against Iraq, Bush unabashedly said that he spoke to a “higher father.” Presidential decisions about sending men and women to war should be based on fact, not prayer.

Still, the president seems like a nice guy. He is plain-spoken and says what he means. People who’ve met him come away impressed. If he were a drinking man, they say, they would enjoy having a beer with him. But we’re not electing Mr. Congeniality. We’re electing the leader of the free world and should set a higher standard than likability.

On a large scale, Bush has failed to deliver on his promise to be a compassionate conservative.

Kerry Concerns Us Too

We have written today mostly about Bush because he was our choice the last time around and we believed his conservative principles were most closely aligned with ours.

But neither do we see the senator from Massachusetts as someone we can endorse.

We’re not sure what Kerry thinks. He supported the war in Iraq, then opposed adequately funding the troops. His plan to secure the peace in Iraq is to cozy up to European countries that don’t have our interests at heart.

This is the same man who as a senator for 20 years has no significant legislation to his name and voted against all of the major weapons systems that have made America the most powerful country in the world.

Kerry would repeal Bush’s tax cut for Americans who earn more than $200,000, but he doesn’t say how he would create his promised 10 million jobs. And he promises to lower health insurance premiums, though the math looks fuzzy.

He made veracity an issue by putting his noble service in Vietnam front and center in his campaign. He wants to be treated as a hero, but 30 years ago he claimed Americans committed atrocities. He seems shocked that people doubt him and don’t consider him a hero.

Early Voting Starts Tomorrow

When early voting opens in Florida on Monday, you can begin going to the polls to pick the leader you think will best protect us and move our country forward.

The president’s backers argue that his resolve and strength prove him to be the best leader for the next four years. Kerry’s people argue that it’s time for a change.

You’ve heard from the candidates and you’ve heard our analysis.

Now it’s time for you to vote.

Voting is a matter of faith, since no one can predict what either candidate will do. Voting is a personal choice, one of the most personal things we do. We encourage you to look deep within yourself and choose the candidate you think most clearly represents your views.

Of one thing we are certain: America is the greatest country on earth and will survive, no matter the outcome on Nov. 2.

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