Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Reasons to vote for Bush

Competence. The Clinton years were one stumble after another. His only major piece of legislation, health care, died. Files vanished only to show up in secure quarters. Bimbos kept giving new stories about their affair after another. Even in his final hours, Clinton filtched some White House furniture and pardoned friends of donors.

None of this happened with Bush. With the exception of Iraq, he had rough spots but no real stumbles. Some people have attributed this to the Vice-President but Bush is more than Cheney's sock puppet.

A frequent criticism of Bush is that his administration is too unilateral. This is false. Look at his approach to Korea, Iran, and Libya. If anything, he has been too multilateral.

He is also frequently criticized for being too ideological but that is not reflected in the budget. If anything, he is too much of a centrist. A real Reagan Republican would have been cutting the budget instead of letting it grow. Bush's centrist beliefs leave him too soft-hearted to make any needed cuts.

This and his reluctance to fire anyone are his main failings as a President. At least a few heads should have rolled by now for something.

Bush's pre-9/11 response to bin Laden was a good one. Instead of following Clinton's ineffective attempts to assassinate bin Laden, Bush asked for an entirely new approach. 9/11 happened before he got it but even Richard Clark admitted that the policies he was pushing would not have averted 9/11.

The War on Terror. Afghanistan was Russia's Viet Nam. The same thing was supposed to have happened to us. It didn't because Bush insisted on new ideas. There are tradeoffs. We conquered Afghanistan in a few weeks because we used limited ground troops and depended on local allies. This might have helped bin Laden escape. On the other hand, if we had gone in with overwhelming force, we might still be fighting. The Russians showed us what sort of invasion doesn't work.

As for Iraq, I firmly believe that war with Saddam was inevitable. According to the Kay report, Saddam had some weapons programs but they had been ineffective because of the sanctions. If we had not invaded, pressure from France, Germany, and Russia would have lifted the sanctions. Saddam would have re-armed and attacked one of his neighbors and we would have been drawn into the conflict again. The difference being that there would have been WMDs and possibly nukes.

Also, their past history shows that bin Laden might well have moved to Iraq and set up shop if the sanctions had been lifted. Bin Laden was dangerous enough in the hills of Afghanistan. The prospect of him headquartered in a country with active WMD programs is what spurred the invasion of Iraq in the first place.

Are we safer for this? Probably. Al Qaida went from a large, wealthy organization with central planning to small, loosely connected cells. This type of organization can set off a car bomb but now hijack multiple planes and ram them into buildings.

Clarity. You know where you and the rest of the world stand with Bush. This ticks off a lot of people but it really is important in a leader. At the same time, Bush is not inflexible. His policy on embryonic stem cell research represents a compromise between his own belief that life begins at conception and the life-saving promise of new research. His policies for the reconstruction of Iraq have been modified and are pretty close to Kerry's original proposal.

Honesty. Reporters have been trying but no one has caught the Bush administration telling an outright lie. Iraq may not have been producing WMDs but there was every reason to think that they were. Such luminaries as Senators Clinton, Kennedy, and Kerry all assured the country that Saddam was producing WMDs. The 9/11 Commission said that there was reason to believe that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium.

Personality. If I was invited to Bush's ranch, we'd probably get along. we wouldn't have a lot in common - he is into sports and they bore me. Still, he comes across as a regular guy. He had some problems in his past and he overcame them. He is trying to do what he thinks is best for the country.

Reasons to vote against Kerry

Personality. It has been a running joke for months - Kerry makes Al Gore look animated. Every time he makes personal appearances he goes down in the polls.

Even more than George Bush, Jerry was born rich and privledged (although not as rich as the people he was with). He does not seem to have made any deep friendships in high school or college and he still seems uncomfortable around people. You suspect that a dinner with him would be uncomfortable but you know that it will never happen - you just aren't the right type of people.

Honesty. In his acceptance speech, Kerry told the country how important it is to have a President who does not lie to the American people. Ten years earlier, Kerry stood on the Senate floor and lied about his experiences in Cambodia in order to give himself the moral high ground in a debate.

Leadership. Kerry commanded a swift boat because he had a college degree. He didn't like it and got out after serving 1/3 of his tour of duty. He has not been a particularly memorable senator either. He did not introduce any major legislation and he skipped most of the meetings on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The only time he showed any real leadership was 33 years ago when he organized anti-war demonstrations. The Kerry campaign is now down-playing that period in his life.

Kerry has been talking about being president since the 1960s. It seems like he has passed up a lot of chances to demonstrate leadership.

Nuance. Kerry is too nuanced. The most famous quote is "Actually I voted for that bill before I voted against it." This describes his entire life. He is a war hero turned protester turned war hero again. He made a big show of throwing away his medals except they were someone else's medals. He kept his and displayed them proudly later in his career.

This is reflected little things, also. The huge SUV parked in his driveway isn't his, it's the "family's". He has called for energy independence but he has a boat that burns two gallons per mile.

His supporters say that he is nuanced and sees multiple shades of gray for everything. While this might be a fine attribute in a senator, it makes for a poor commander and chief.

Reagan was not very nuanced. At his death he was remembered by both sides as being a great president whose moral clarity won the war on communism.

Kerry's ambivalence is unlikely to win the war on terrorism. We lost Viet Nam because he and other anti-war protesters made it clear to the Viet Cong. That all they had to do was to keep fighting and we would eventually give up and pull out. Kerry's election will send the same message to Islamic militants - that America doesn't have the heart for a protracted conflict.

Let's be honest about Kerry's platform. It is barely formed. He talks about a middle-class tax cut and an upper-class tax hike plus fiscal responsibility. None of this will happen. Even if Kerry wins, the Republicans will still control one or both houses of Congress. Kerry does not have the leadership skills to pass legislation through a hostile Congress and there is no momentum to his platform.

Some conservatives like this prospect. With the President and Congress at each other's throats, no new spending is likely to pass. They are hoping for Bush's defeat just to bottle up Washington. For the rest of us, the Kerry administration is likely to be a repeat of the Carter administration. Do we really want four more years of malaise?

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