Why John Kerry should be President
He supports Kerry
Slate is running a piece where their writers explain who they're voting for, including Mickey Kaus and Christopher Hitchens, both of whom are voting for Kerry.
Their economics writer attacks Edwards as a xenophobe, Jack Shaffer always votes libertarian, proving some people never leave college, and one guy is voting for Bush because he thinks Arabs actually like Bush.
You know, I've never explained why I'm voting for Kerry. It's clear that I don't think much of Bush, but I've never really laid out my particular case for Kerry.
It doesn't matter if Bush is worse than Harrison or Buchanan or Coolidge, because we live in the here and now. However, his very presence in the White House was gained by little more than political trickery. And it has felt like trickery from the first, riot filled day of his presidency. George Bush has ruled, not led, as if democracy was his servant, not his master. Bush has failed the American people in so many ways, so many fundamental ways that it is truly frightening.
He has taken the worst of the GOP and made it national policy. His ideas of leadership come more from royalty than democracy. Wearing a uniform, invoking God, what did he strive to be, a 21st Century Prince Hal? Bush takes Nixon's imperial presidency and turns it into something even Nixon would have recoiled from.
Dick Cheney sit at his right hand, a corrupt minister for war, taking his cut while killing the king's men for his goals. And the king sits there, smiling and nodding like an idiot. But Bush is not an idiot. Never has been. Weak, craven, cowardly, sure. But never an idiot.
Bush is intelligent, above average actually. But his intellect is not his problem. It is his innate laziness and contempt for logic and contemplation which shines through. Toss on an alcohol addiction and a dysfunctional family where lying was standard operating procedure, and you have one sick puppy. Even if he never took a drink, his temperament and deep anger would shine through.
John Kerry, as he so clearly proved in the first debate, is the kind of man we should have as president. George Bush is not and never has been a serious man. His anger at his father and his mother's explosive temper, along with a lack of any sort of self-criticism or examination preclude that. Kerry is not the guy to pat you on the back and leer at a pretty girl, that was our last Democratic president. Kerry is the serious guy who you can count on when things get tight. He's going to stand by you without checking. With Bill Clinton, he always had an eye out for himself, even when he was swearing undying loyalty to you. Kerry's word may not come easy, but when he gives it, he means it.
Bush is a coward, who hides behind others when things fail.
Clinton was at his best when things went well. He could make things go well by force of will. Kerry is best when things go bad. When all hell is breaking loose, he's the calm guy in the middle, making sense of things and solving them. When real trouble comes, John Kerry and John Edwards are people you want by your side. They don't run from long odds.
George Bush has tried to project his weaknesses on Kerry like a man who has always lived in fear. He has always been afraid. He can push it back for a while, but that fear is always with him. It is with him now. It is his constant friend. We saw that in his first debate, which embarrassed me as an American. That he was our president. He couldn't answer a simple question on his feet and was angered that anyone dare ask him one. It was as if we were his subjects and owed him deference.
When Kerry, who had been baiting him all year, finally got him face to face, the stature gap was tremendous. Bush looked like the grasping challenger and Kerry looked like the president. He wasn't any of Bush's lies, not weak, not unsure. Kerry, very simply, looked like a leader. It is a sign of how bad our press has become that no one told John O'Neill's Vietnam story, one where he was shunted off to less dangerous duty because of his John Wayne attitude. John Wayne is an insult in the military, denoting a man who takes mindless risks for personal glory. Yet no one ever bothered to ask about O'Neill's less than stellar military record.
What was surprising is that dirty trick blew up on Bush and may have been his single worst tactical mistake, and in a year where Zell Miller delivered his Beer Hall Putsch speech before the convention and then went wiggy afterwards, that's a pretty tight contest. What happened was simple: it told people exactly how brave Kerry was and how many enemies he was willing to make to do what was right. But even more importantly, it allowed the media to define Bush as what he was, a liar.
How bad was their game plan?
In the last week of the campaign, they realized that they needed to reach out beyond their base. My God, Kerry ran around Red counties all summer long. He reached out to Republicans for months. Even in the debates, he was reaching past his base right into the GOP. And Bush didn't see it. He was too busy sending coded messages to his base.
The simple fact is that when Bush ran, he promised to be compassionate and thoughtful. Instead he has been cruel and reckless. He has visited untold misery upon the innocent and unjust cruelty upon the guilty.
John Kerry is a liberal, but one with common sense. He doesn't imagine an American empire or a Middle East conquered for Likud. He talks like an adult to adults, whereas Bush is quoted as saying he thinks the American people are children. Kerry sees social injustice and doesn't try to wash it away with cheap words. He believes in the promise of America, one where people are treated fairly and humanely.
He is not a captive to the worst forms of ideology, shaping policy for his own personal beliefs and aims.
George Bush does not believe in democracy in the small scale. He lives sheltered and isolated from the world. He cannot even tolerate dissenters at his rallies, a fundamental American right. The mother of a serviceman killed in Iraq was arrested at a Laura Bush rally. The shame of that still stings. It was so wrong, and so evil that words should fail us.
Sacrifice to Bush is what other people do, it is what John Kerry lives with every day.
It's not just a matter of politics or policy. It is a matter of character. Prince Hal became King Henry V in his 20's. Bush is still Prince Hal in his 50's. He's not the drunken wastrel he was until he was 40, but he never left the arrogance behind. He has never paid for anything he's ever done. In any way, shape or form. When it came to ante up, daddy jumped in and saved the day. Not just once, which we are all entitled to, but from Andover to Florida. At every turn, someone saved Bush.
In contrast, Kerry sought out difficult things. He sought combat in the Navy, he sought out the anti-war movement, he became a prosecutor. When things got tough, the best came out in John Kerry. Even in that Senate career Bush liked to deride, despite being a drunken bum from the age of 18-40. When BCCI was at the height of their influence peddling, it was Kerry who took on old ward heeler Clark Clifford and exposed their links to terrorists and drug dealers. While the Bush family was cashing in, Kerry was asking questions.
We are in serious times. Our exit from Iraq will be painful and our sacrifice in Afghanistan is far from over. John Kerry lives, with us, in the real world. He has no grand ideology about the New American Empire. Just a desire for a safe, secure America. Something George Bush cannot provide us. John Kerry has the personal courage and moral clarity to serve this country and George Bush clearly does not.
We can no longer have a moral cipher as President. A man who countenances torture and lies. Who can admit no error and punish no one. A man who sends his National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defense to campaign for him while we are at war. This is not how a president should act. It is not the president we should have.
John Kerry is a good man and decent politician. It is my hope that he will be a good president. Because we will need one.
posted by Steve @ 11:59:00 PM