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Thoughts on the President and the Presidential Election, 2004
by Paul E.
August 18, 2004

The following essay presents my view of the key consideration for voting in the fall elections. The words contained herein are my own and not those of any political party or organization. This paper was born out of my observing recent events, national and world, watching Americans facing off along partisan lines, and digging in; leaving me wondering, "is anyone really paying attention to the drift of the ship of state? So often, it has seemed lately, the issues we are choosing to divide us, are not the ones we'll need to face to bring us back together. Because, it appears to me, that what is dividing us, is what we need to change. p.e.

Over the course of the last four years I have watched the performance of our current presidential administration with uncommon interest. The events of 911 pitted our new president and his cabinet against the most horrific set of events this country has ever faced in its entire 200 year history. I felt vindicated by their swift and definite response to the tragedy and the threat. As a lifelong Republican (at the ripe old age of 12, I had the chance to meet John Kennedy and wouldn't shake his hand because I thought that would mean fraternizing with the enemy"), I supported the Bush bid for the White House, concluding, that regardless of Mr. Bush's experience, his "all-star" administration team would allow him to hit the ground running and become an effective and decisive president.

When Mr. Bush took us into Afghanistan I stood with him. Alliances were formed with western and regional governments and UN acquiescence. Results have been shaky to date, but the action was justified.

Then Mr. Bush took us into Iraq. This was a different situation. Although, I was one American who felt the first Gulf War would have been better served had we ended it in Baghdad, I questioned the timing of this "new" war. There did remain many good reasons for ousting Saddam and his henchmen but I wondered if US national security was actually one of them. It seemed possible that our Administration might be taking advantage of the ground swell of anti- terrorism sentiment post 911, to go after Saddam for other reasons.

When Mr. Powell presented the case before the UN it seemed to me that the evidence was weak for WMD in Iraq. Then, as the Administration publicly snubbed the German and French governments for not rolling over in support of this new war, based upon this evidence, I wondered: "What are they doing?"

Here was the White House proposing bringing democracy to Iraq and looking down its nose at two of the world's great democracies. The nature of democracy is that it follows the will of the people, and whether we agree or disagree, we must respect that fact. It was up to the Administration to make their case, to win the support of allies for this war, and they failed. It wasn't the fault of our allies for disagreeing. But, calling all those on the carpet who stood in disagreement with Administration policies seemed to be a consistent thread of this president's management style. Mr. O'Neal, Mr. Clark, Mr. Powell and others were casualties of this mind set - because their views ran counter to a small circle of advisers closest to the President. The attitude out of the oval office seemed: We're the "Big Dawg" and, we are going to show all the other dogs just how big that is. Waging this war in Iraq appeared more a matter of swinging the "big stick" because it was in hand to swing then because it needed to be swung.

The United States is the world's most influential country politically and economically and it has the largest and most powerful military complex. It is all too easy for us to be perceived as a bully. With all our power and influence, we are still a part of a greater family of nations. It is our duty, our obligation as the advantaged nation, to make every effort, to take every diplomatic step, to work with and to show respect for all peoples and their opinions world wide; to seek unity, to work for the positive good in all instances, without bias toward race, religion, or governmental peculiarities. To do less is to do a disservice to ourselve and to the world at large. We are not "ugly Americans" and we must not let our government propagate that image.

By taking us into Iraq, without world support, without concrete evidence, and without consideration for the possible consequences nationally and internationally, this administration, I believe, violated the fundamental principles upon which this country functions to preserve and protect freedom and justice for all.

The subsequent prosecution of the war in Iraq and its aftermath has yielded further evidence that the Bush administration is not functioning with reasonable good judgment on other levels. Where the Pentagon wanted sufficient troops to facilitate security after the war, the administration chose to cut that number nearly in half. Where the reconstruction of Iraq, should have received highest consideration, the administration apparently gave minimal thought to this, in its haste to engage the war.

The result, 18 months later is a real mess; approaching a thousand American dead, four times that many disfigured and disabled. On the Iraqi side civilian casualty figures are probably twenty times higher and, yet, where are they now? People are still dying and there is still, no security for the living. The Iraq economy is in shambles, infrastructure shaky with very limited progress on reconstruction.

So, when will there be peace in Iraq? When will our troops come home? These are questions which have no answers, questions which should have been answered before the Administration started this "optional" war.

In 1998, Mr. Bush's dad, former President F.W.Bush, in his book "A World Transformed," discusses his view of the consequences of removing Saddam from power as an extension of the first Gulf War, and of the potential problems in the aftermath; words which eerily presage the actual unfortunate course of events in this Iraq war. (snopes.com keyword: transformed).

In 1991 with Operation Desert Storm, the United States utilized a set of five tenets for the successful prosecution of that war. It was, because of excellent preliminary planning, one of this countries most successful military engagements. These five tenets, referred to as the "Powell Doctrine" after its chief architect Gen. Colin Powell, spelled out the rules of engagement in such a way that left as little as possible to chance: 1. Define the specific political goal to be achieved. 2. Plan a precise military action with a clear definition of success. 3. Plan a realistic exit strategy. 4. Have global international support (which included all Arab nations) - to help share the burden both during and after the war. 5. Support all of the above with overwhelming military force. (pbs.org keyword: Powell Doctrine)

So why, with this set of proven rules and with his dad's own perspective so clearly defined did Mr. Bush choose to take a different course? Why, with Colin Powell himself on staff did the President follow different advisement? These are questions my which fit my Big Dawg analogy and which, sadly, reveal a presidential inability to lead.

Now, the Administration is back pedaling at full speed, trying to make right the things that it did wrong in Iraq, reverse the irreversible, and without admitting to its stupendous errors. It is trying to make nice with governments snubbed, and dress over its look to the American people for reelection. Anybody can back pedal. Hindsight is always 20-20. But, hindsight is not why we select presidents and not a reason to reelect this one.

Mr. Bush likes to simplify concepts into sound bite-sized bits and right versus wrong creeds, yet there is nothing simple about these times, neither the problems or the solutions. He consistently tells us that he was right on Iraq, that the US is a safer place because of his leadership, when, it is so totally, blatantly obvious that the truth is just the opposite. Through his imperious actions and the arrogance of his advisers, the world's problems have become more complex and more resistant to solution. The ill will which this Administration has fomented among foreign nations, will take years to reverse, particularly so in Muslim countries. Americans are at greater risk abroad today than they were on 911. International respect for US credibility is at an all time low. And, I am willing to bet, if you privately polled each foreign leader, you would be hard pressed to find one, who would wish to see Mr. Bush reelected; and, the healing, the rehabilitation of this country's reputation, stature and influence cannot not start until this Administration has been replaced with a totally new one.

Yes, I voted for George Bush in 2000. I don't regret that decision. It was based on the situation at the time and, to me, it was the clear and correct choice. Now, four years later, everything has changed. This Administration has compromised my trust, made some really terrible decisions, and divided the country. I'll have no problem voting against George Bush this time around. The Iraq incursion is not the only Bush policy that begs serious criticism, but it is, alone and by itself, sufficient indictment of his inept leadership, to send him packing in November.

This fall we will each cast our vote and determine the destiny of this nation. And, Ralph Nader running as the independent, is not an option; he being, in my opinion, a case of one man's doting self interest over the good of the country. A vote for Mr. Nader must be assumed to help Mr. Bush more than Mr. Kerry, effectively making that exercise pointless. This leaves John Kerry.

I've had conservative friends tell me that they don't like John Kerry. When I ask why this is, the answer usually radios either the GOP version of Kerry, or the view of the anti-Kerry vets group. I haven't heard any "original" reasons yet. When I checked the facts on Kerry myself, most of the published case against him melted away. His resume is stellar, arguably far more accomplished than that of the President's. I found no evidence of ethical or moral issues in Mr. Kerry's past, or that he has ever had a drinking problem.

The people of Massachusetts think that he has done a good job for them. His military record is unimpeachable. And, if one still wants to argue about that, the fact that Mr. Kerry volunteered for combat says enough about his willingness to serve. It being irrelevant, in my view, how long he was in the combat zone or the extent of his injuries; the difference between a flesh wound and a fatality being but a few inches.

The attack on Mr. Kerry's voting record is nebulous, i.e. smoke and considering the bills cited, almost ludicrous. In any case, this topic has been handled more than adequately on the website (snopes.com keyword: appropriations).

There are Vietnam vets who feel that Mr. Kerry betrayed them. I served during that period, and looking back on myself then, I was at odds the the antiwar movement too. But, I soon realized, as I trust most vets have, how monumental a failure of US leadership the Vietnam War was and how much grief it brought this nation. The antiwar movement was a valid and necessary counter to policies our government, itself, seemed unable to alter. Mr. Kerry brought credibility to the antiwar movement and with it public awareness. We can chose to disagree, but, in my view; if his efforts shortened the war a single day, he gets my support for having done it.

John Kerry's character is attacked regularly. I've heard him accused of waffling, straddling issues, and trying to be everything to everybody. My question: When has a politician not done these things during a campaign? I do think that he has been, on occasion, overly soft in these contexts, but I can empathize with his dilemma. If he takes too strong a stand on certain issues, he risks alienating the voters who oppose them. In this country we talk about wanting a leader who is firm, but then, when he takes a stand, a lot of us won't vote for him. The country being evenly divided, today, Mr. Kerry has to try to staddle the middle line, whether he likes it or not. Some politicians are better at this than others but it is demonstrative of their political skills or lack thereof and not their leadership skills when they do it.

Mr. Bush, is in a different situation. Due to his religion based following he probably has a good idea how many votes he can count on from a particular position on key issues and may have determined that the voters he alienates are votes he wouldn't have received anyway.

Now, I don't know Mr. Kerry and I am not likely to ever meet him, like most of us in this fair land. But, I do know one thing, John McCain likes him. They are said to be good friends. I respect John McCain for telling it like he sees it on public issues. I don't agree with his position on everything, but I trust his judgment. Mr. McCain, is of course, a Vietnam vet, ex-POW. and a conservative Republican. If he thinks that Mr. Kerry is a good man, calls him a friend, where he doesn't the President, I think that is a very positive endorsement of Kerry's character and integrity.

All things considered, the evidence on Kerry suggests a loyal American who has followed a straight path by doing what he thought was right, at each way point in his life. I can't knock that.

And, remember it isn't Mr. Kerry's administration that has divided this nation, sanctioned the breaking of international law, and trampled the First Amendment by using religion in the public forum to recruit voters. That would be the Bush Administration. These are the really important issues, in my opinion, the ones which are leading this country to no place good. If the Democrats were fielding Alfred E. Neuman for President, I'd have to vote for "Al" in November. As it is, they aren't and that makes my job that much easier.

As President, I would not expect Mr. Kerry to introduce a new solution for Iraq. But, world leaders would give him a fresh chance to administer US policies where they find it hard to give Mr. Bush the time of day, and that could very well lead to personnel and other commitments thus far withheld. And, Mr. Kerry would not, by definition of his time in office, or his track record, as I view it, pursue the aggressively unilateral, and mean spirited policy on world affairs that denotes Mr. Bush's great failures and which have split this nation in half.

Finally, regarding party loyalty...In my humble opinion, this country has gone too far down the wrong road, away from rational politics and bi-party cooperation that benefits the nation. The problems we face today are too big and the solutions too complex to allow partisanship to weaken us. We have to pull together, to make our party leaderships follow us, and not vice versa. We are, predominantly, a two party system, and it takes both parties, liberals and conservatives, pulling as hard as we can to keep this country on the road, let alone close to the centerline. But, it is the pulling "together" that has made this nation great and not the pulling apart that we currently seem bent on nurturing. We are Americans first, Republicans or Democrats after, let us not forget that. We need to be thinking as Americans now, sending a concerted message both to our leaders and to the rest of the world that we are paying attention, and that we are not happy with the present situation. We must demonstrate that when we talk about equality, respect, and tolerance that we actually mean it, and include the whole world in it, and not just the peoples within our own borders. We must set the example of inclusiveness, reaffirming the common cause for world unity against a common enemy; standing together, indivisible under God perhaps, but unified among all religions. This is essential if we truly want peace and harmony in this world, and it is not beyond our reach if we seek this goal with sincerity and unified commitment.

It means, in the end, going to the polls in November and voting in a common block, to demonstrate decisively that we care about our place in the world, that we are of one voice, with our sense of propriety remaining fully intact. And, if in four years Mr. Kerry's service underwhelms us, we get to vote for change all over again, and we should.

Topplebush.com
Posted: August 23, 2004

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