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The Tentacle


November 1, 2004

Four More Years of the Same, or a Change?

Tony Soltero

Well, the 2004 election is staring right at us. All sources have this election as a dead heat. Anybody who claims to know who's going to win is just blowing hot air.

It is hard to dispute, though, that the majority of Americans share the feeling that something has gone terribly wrong in our country. And the majority of Americans are dissatisfied with President Bush's performance in the White House. He consistently hovers in the mid-forties in his personal-approval poll numbers.

Despite this, a not insignificant number of American voters, despite their problems with President Bush, are having trouble bringing themselves to cast their ballot (or punch their touch-screen) for Senator John Kerry. Their concerns, while they're not to be taken lightly, are mostly unfounded. Let's look at the most common sentiments expressed by fence-sitters.

"I disagree with President Bush on most domestic matters, but I still think he'll keep us safer than Senator Kerry would."

The myth that President Bush is "tougher on terrorism" stubbornly lingers despite the overwhelming evidence otherwise. As Richard Clarke (who has worked under five presidents on counterterrorism matters) and others have pointed out, the Bush administration all but ignored credible threats and warnings about terrorist strikes on U.S. soil before September 11th.

When the Clinton transition team attempted to brief the incoming Bush team on terrorism in January 2001, they were rudely dismissed.

When we did get attacked, the administration allowed the mastermind, Osama bin Laden, to slip away in Tora Bora - it decided instead to divert its focus to Saddam Hussein and Iraq, despite its dubious association with 9/11.

And now we find out that 380 tons of munitions in Iraq, which had been safely protected and accounted for before the war, have mysteriously disappeared - and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has no credible or coherent explanation why. Who knows what hands these munitions have fallen into? Feel safer now?

On top of that, our ports remain largely unsecured, our allies have all but abandoned us, and the anthrax mailer remains at large. This is not an inspiring record against terrorism. Not to mention that President Bush plunged us into Iraq with no plan to secure the peace, and no strategy to stabilize the country and keep its restive elements at bay.

Senator Kerry would improve upon this simply because he recognizes that there's a problem here, which is a vast improvement over our current President, who has yet to admit to any mistakes made in office. America deserves a rational, measured foreign policy, based on reality and not on neoconservative fantasies.

The Bush administration attempts to justify itself by pushing and exploiting a culture of fear, a constant hum that "We Must Be Afraid Because the Terrorists Are Coming." That's all it's got. The entire Bush campaign, when not bashing Senator Kerry, has been about making political hay out of the 9/11 attacks. America deserves better.

"We shouldn't change commanders-in-chief in the middle of a war."

Why not? It's not like we haven't done it before. In 1952, as the Korean War raged, American voters installed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House, ending two decades of Democratic rule. While Harry Truman voluntarily did not seek re-election, the voters were perfectly comfortable with placing a different party - with different approaches and philosophies - into the commander-in-chief slot. The war ended a year later.

In 1968, Americans tiring of the Vietnam conflict drove Lyndon B. Johnson to abandon his re-election bid. And, of course, we constantly switched presidents throughout the duration of the Cold War. Whether this worked out for the best is subject to debate, but the idea that there's no precedent for this kind of transition is false.

And what's more, since Mr. Bush's Iraq approach has been such a catastrophic failure, does it make any sense to give him a chance to compound it?

"Bush has screwed up Iraq so badly that I can't trust Kerry to fix it."

Illogical as it may seem, this argument has been expressed in more than a few circles. That doesn't mean it makes any sense. Would a patient keep going back to a doctor with a history of malpractice?

Would a motorist entrust his car to a garage that has botched a series of repairs? Would you eat again in a restaurant in which you contracted food poisoning? This argument is akin to a drowning man choosing to sink into the water because he's afraid of where the outstretched hand being offered might lead him.

"I have to support the troops."

Well, yes, we all should absolutely support those who are risking their lives in the front lines of Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. That's a reason to vote for Senator Kerry, not for President Bush.

The Bush administration has chronically under-funded the Veterans Administration - the people who are, after all, our former troops. Will the veterans of the future - the troops in Iraq today - have to deal with higher health co-payments and reduced benefits? That's what's happened under President Bush.

The incumbent has also kept combat pay dismally low, while diverting taxpayer money to Halliburton contracts. It has sought to prevent deployed National Guardsmen from buying into the military's health insurance plans. The Bush administration is certainly not shy about cynically using images of the troops as stage props in its rhetoric - but its actions have fallen far short of its words.

John Kerry, a combat veteran (unlike President Bush), has a far greater understanding of the needs and experiences of our troops, and is far more likely to act to help them. And most importantly, Senator Kerry will not put our troops in harm's way under false pretenses.

"Senator Kerry's a flip-flopper. President Bush is resolute."

Lemmings are "resolute", too. It's certainly "resolute" to let one's house burn down because one has made a previous decision to ignore one's smoke alarm. There's no mistaking President Bush's stubbornness - he was going into Iraq come hell or high water, no matter the warnings from much of the military brass.

But one does have to give President Bush credit for showing occasional signs of flexibility - he was first against the creation of a 9/11 commission; then he was for it. He was for a patients' bill of rights; then he was against it.

John Kerry is mature enough to recognize that when the facts on the ground change, so should one's response. If the bridge is out, you find another way across the river. That's the definition of pragmatism, a quality Senator Kerry possesses and President Bush lacks.

"Mr. Kerry's Senate record is undistinguished."

John Kerry was a major player in the bringing the Iran-Contra scandal to light during the Reagan years. More recently, he was a key figure in the exposure of the BCCI scandal. The BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) was a once-respected worldwide financial institution that was covertly involved in massive money-laundering operations and terrorist-related transactions.

In the wake of his Iran-Contra work, Senator Kerry spearheaded an investigation of the bank through the New York district attorney. The bank was eventually shut down when its terrorist connections became public. How many lives were saved due to Senator Kerry's yeoman investigative work? His Senate accomplishments more than hold up to scrutiny, and are far more significant than President Bush's actions as Texas governor.

Still on the fence? Ask yourself the following

Do you want four more years of exploding federal budget deficits, possibly resulting in a major currency crisis?

Do you want to continue to see more American jobs outsourced?

Do you want to see health care costs continue to spiral out of control?

Do you enjoy paying $2 a gallon for gas?

Do you want four more years of "cakewalks" (as Secretary Rumsfeld put it in 2003) like the Iraq war?

Do you want four more years of your Medicare and Social Security money being diverted to finance more dubious overseas adventures?

Do you want a draft?

Do you want two or three more reactionary judges on the Supreme Court?

Do you want your civil liberties and freedoms to continue to wither away?

Do you want to be more vulnerable to terrorism?

If your answer to those questions is "yes," then by all means punch the box for Bush/Cheney.

But if you care about the future of our great nation, vote for Kerry/Edwards.

It's time to start cleaning up the mess.



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