Monday, September 06, 2004

Why I Support Senator Kerry

My last several political posts have amounted to rhetorical cheapshots - intended to entertain or inflame, but not really to persuade. In my defense, I suspect that most visitors to this site come here with their beliefs set, and are seeking confirmation, amusing perspectives, or spirited debate. But, on the off chance that one of the rare "undecideds" happens by, and also to make certain that I can honestly articulate a rational position, here are some of the major issues of the day, and why I believe that Senator Kerry would be a better president than President Bush has been.

Iraq: To me, this is the central fact of the Bush administration. The Bush administration came to power with the goal of toppling Saddam Hussein. Many of the Bush team, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, wrote a letter to President Clinton in January of 1998 urging him to remove Hussein's regime from power. When the US Supreme Court gave Bush the presidency, his team set out to accomplish that goal.

Almost a thousand American soldiers and many thousands of Iraqi citizens have died for this goal. We have added billions of dollars to the debt our children and grandchildren will have to pay. Our national prestige has been squandered and our moral beacon has been dimmed.

I wouldn't mind the cost, though, if I thought that the prize justified the price. Here, I cannot believe that. Yes, Hussein was a terrible despot, and someday, the Iraqi people as a whole may be better off without him. So far, I am not sure that they are better off, living under occupation with a sham government over them, but they may someday get to a better place. I hope that happens.

That possibility, though, did not and does not justify the war. Bush campaigned on his unwillingness to "nation build", and yet his advisers entered the White House with plans to do exactly that. We were misled into a costly war. I believe that the Bush administration manipulated weak intelligence to gain American support for a war they wanted to wage. To paraphrase Senator Kerry, we rushed into battle because we wanted to, not because we needed to.

Now that we are in a costly quagmire, some apologists for the Bush regime want to focus solely on the future. I completely understand why - the question of what to do now is far murkier than the issue of how we were misled into war. Kerry does have plans to help make our occupation more multi-national, and to help America recapture some of its international stature, but, even if I believed that Kerry would spend the next four years doing precisely what Bush would do, I would still call upon our nation to send Bush from the Oval Office in disgrace for what he has done.

Tax Policy and the Economy:
I am not a competent economist, so I cannot say with certainty that the economy would be significantly better today if Gore had won the Supreme Court's vote. I cannot say with certainty that we would not have lost the thousands of jobs that have been lost under Bush; I cannot say with certainty that the millions who have lost their health insurance under Bush would still be insured; I cannot say with certainty that the millions more living in poverty would be better off without Bush in office. I canot say these things with certainty, but I believe them in my heart.

I can say with certainty that Bush's tax plan was an act of aggression by the wealthy against the poor and middle class. Bush was handed a massive surplus, and he decided to turn that economic ship around so that he could hand out tax breaks to the super-wealthy. The vast majority of the tax savings went to the wealthiest people in the nation, while the vast majority of Americans were bought off with a $300 check. He repealed the estate tax on estates over $1,000,000, favoring dead millionaires over the living midde class! Our children, though, get an inheritance in the form of a massive deficit.

John Kerry has a better plan. He supports strengthening the middle class, as opposed to the ultra-wealthy. He supports a raise in the minimum wage, placing dollars in the hands of those who will spend them on food and clothing rather than foreign luxury cars. He would cut the deficit and enforce our trade agreements.

Whether or not Bush deserves all the blame for the current state of the economy, he clearly deserves some of it. The Bush regime has clearly mismanaged our economy, and consistently favored the ultra-wealthy over the middle class. We cannot afford Bush for the next four years, and future generations cannot afford him for the next several decades, while they pay off the Bush deficit.

Civil Liberties: During the national panic following September 11, the Bush regime came up with the Patriot Act, which allows for unbelievable amounts of government snooping on average citizens. Bush has given us John Ashcroft. The Bush administration has nominated right-wing zealots to the bench. The right to choose is in greater danger than it ever has been, and the Bush administration has consistently sought to restrict access to emergency contraception. The line between church and state is getting blurred by Bush's "faith-based initiatives." The Bush administration has frequently sought to gag social service organizations that challenge the party line on such matters as health care for poor children and HIV prevention. Bush and Ashcroft have seized the frightening power to declare that any one of us an enemy combatant, and lock us away in a prison without access to lawyers or the courts.

In an era when far too many Americans are willing to trade freedom for security, the Bush/Ashcroft regime has been an eager trading partner. Not only can John Ashcroft find out what books I've read, he can prevent me from knowing that he knows. Anybody who has read any history knows that law enforcement will push their new-found power to its maximum, and use it to stifle dissent. These are truly frightening days in which we live, but we must remember that the threat comes from Ashcroft as well as bin Laden.

Kerry has long been recognized as an environmentalist, and deservedly so. Bush, on the other hand, is unwilling to protect our environment if it means upsetting industry lobbyists. Bush rolled back the Clean Air Act, and signed a tax break to encourage the use of SUVs. The record on this one is so clear and detailed that I won't even bother to set it out in detail - suffice it to say that if you support clean air, clean water, and wilderness areas, you must vote for Kerry.

Conclusion: I have tried to hit the high points and focus on real issues, with real distinctions between the candidates. Of course, there are many other, more slippery or subjective issues that drive my views. For example, I sincerely believe that Bush will reinstate the draft if given another term, and that belief is a strong motivator for me, but he denies it. Bush has, in my view, been a disaster for this country, and it is important that we elect John Kerry to get our country back on the right track.


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