The Durango (CO) Herald

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Kerry for president

Vote to fix the mess Bush has made

    In his four years as president, George W. Bush has turned this country on its head.  With a desire to find in faulty intelligence evidence that was not there, he has the United States bogged down in Iraq in a brutal religious, cultural and regional conflict that now offers little hope for a successful outcome.

    It is a mess emblematic of his entire presidency. In foreign, fiscal and domestic policy he has created problems that will bedevil the nation for years.

    The reconstruction of Afghanistan, where the mix of U.S. and Northern Alliance military was largely successful against the Taliban, has been sorely neglected.  In Iraq, American ground forces are stretched thinly in tentative warfare vacillating between urban combat in unfriendly neighborhoods and deference to local warlords. In almost tribal conflict, America's superb military is hamstrung.  Too much is being asked of reservists, with their important specialties, while nothing is asked of taxpayers.  Because of its questionable and unilateral actions, the United States is viewed as arrogant and a bully by its former friends.

    At home, Bush's tax reduction policies have clearly favored the wealthy, as though wealth, or the desire for it, makes the individual.  Corporate tax cuts -- $136 billion more were approved at the end of the week -- are benefiting a disparate mix of businesses that appear to have nothing in common but effective lobbyists (but nothing for the makers of flu vaccine, which could make that uncertain but critical business worthwhile a year from now.)

    The stronger economy that Bush says will eventually arise from tax reductions and reduce the deficit looks to be far in the future while the negative numbers increase.  Meanwhile, he continues to argue for more and permanent tax cuts.  No wonder members of his own party are apoplectic at his fiscal irresponsibility.

    Nothing, under this president's leadership, has been done to deal with rising health-care costs or the looming bankruptcy of Social Security.  One extremely promising scientific field, stem cell research, is only a small fraction of what it could be if the president's individual interpretation of God's will had not dictated broad prohibitions.
   We continue to use oil and gas at prodigious rates -- energy that costs more, ironically, because of the uncertainty and instability that the U.S. presence in the Middle East has brought.  With reasonable requirements or incentives American engineers could easily improve automobile fuel mileage and conservation could be celebrated, not ignored.

    Important to Colorado and the rest of the West, the president has not hesitated to look to public lands for the energy we are using so wastefully, seemingly uncaring about the permanent scarring of roadless and wild territory that can never be replaced.  The invasion into unspoiled areas rightly has even Republican sportsmen indignant.

    Legislation that gives law-enforcement authorities powers to act secretly threatens the rights that make this country what it is.  Yet, three years after the terrible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been successfully prosecuted.  Several individuals, originally charged, have been released.  Only American John Walker Lindh, captured fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, is serving a prison sentence as a result of a plea bargain.  That Lindh's case was resolved so quickly, with Lindh having counsel, infuriates other nationalities whose fellow citizens are being held indefinitely without lawyers or word.

    Only the stiff jail sentences being announced for the military men and women who cruelly assaulted prisoners in Abu Ghraib have a chance to partially correct the impression that this country argues for equal justice internationally while instead favoring its own.

    Is a vote based heavily on an incumbent's deep shortcomings valid?  Yes.  An incumbent's record reflects real initiatives in response to real issues.

    John Kerry is poised to do much better.

    Kerry is well-educated, as is the president, but unlike the president did not turn his back on it.  There was family money, but he embraced public service positions to serve Massachusetts as a prosecutor and senator.  With his connections he could have avoided military service, but he became an officer and volunteered for duty in Vietnam.  When he was discharged he worked -- with some unfortunate exaggerations -- to bring that tragic and unnecessary war to an end.

    His congressional efforts included resolving the false hopes of so many family members for military men missing in Vietnam.  His war record also made it possible for him to help smooth the way to re-establishing diplomatic relations with that country.

    Kerry has a strong start on seeing how the world differs, and how the planet is growing smaller.  He has visited relatives in Europe, traveled internationally and married a foreign-born woman who speaks five languages.

    For those who ask why Kerry was not involved in significant legislation in Congress, we suggest it was partly because Massachusetts' senior senator, Ted Kennedy, had the bright limelight.

    Kerry will tax the wealthy, and tax fairly, because bills have to be paid.  Strangely, this Democrat, more than the sitting Republican president, understands that requirement.

    While talk will only go so far, we believe that Kerry's election will provide a greatly needed opportunity to restore what the Declaration of Independence calls "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" and to reaffirm alliances and friendships with the foreign powers Bush has so alienated.  It could be a fresh start.

    The pendulum of the presidency must swing back in the other direction.  It is time to return this country to the leading world role it has held, and  make it possible for its citizenry to flourish with a vigorous and properly deployed defense, domestic policy focused on the nation's real needs, and preserving an environment fit for posterity.

    Our next president should be John Kerry.

Copyright © 2004 The Durango HeraldReprinted by permission.  (Bill Roberts 01/04/05)