Times West Virginian (Fairmont): timeswv.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2004 

When Americans go to the polls next Tuesday, most will be conscious that they are doing more than choosing who will be president of the United States for the next four years.  Like it or not, as they cast their ballots, they will be deciding America's course for a generation.

From health care to Social Security, from the environment to the economy, and from national security to individual freedoms, we stand at a crossroads.

This awareness accounts for much of the bitterness now dividing the country.  So much is at stake, and the candidates themselves have played shamelessly on the emotions of the public as they've fought for votes.  Neither candidate can be accused of taking the high road on the campaign trail, especially since Labor Day.

But now is the time to set emotions aside, if possible, and look at facts.  Does George W. Bush deserve a second term, or should John F. Kerry be given the opportunity to steer a new course for America?

We believe John Kerry is the better choice.

George Bush started his term in 2000 with great promise.  A personable man who had brought together many political factions as governor of Texas, he seemed just the man to heal the rifts on Washington and get government moving again in the right direction.

When terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, he was the image of strength and resolve and, again, seemed to be the man of the hour.

But George Bush has not fulfilled his promise, and the more things go wrong, the more he stands firm in denying that anything is wrong.

Today, 41 million Americans do not have health insurance and those who do worry that it's only a matter of time until they or their employers can no longer afford it. The Bush prescription drug plan for senior citizens is a joke.  It favors the drug companies and is so confusing that only a handful of those eligible have taken advantage of it.

Time and again, Bush appointees have attempted to weaken environmental safeguards, meant to protect the land and public health; scientific data are used selectively to bolster the ideological positions Bush favors.

Fewer jobs have been created during the Bush administration than in any presidency since Herbert Hoover.  Families' real income is down.  Bush didn't cause the recession, but the $237 billion surplus left for him by Bill Clinton has turned into the largest deficit in American history, $413 billion and growing.  That's a debt waiting to be paid by our children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile, government in the last four years has grown larger and more intrusive.

In the name of protecting America, this administration has mounted an assault on the Fourth Amendment never before seen in our land.  President Bush would continue to chip away at our freedoms and erode states' rights by appointing openly conservative judges to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The "war" on terrorism, which also began with promise in Afghanistan, has in Iraq blown up into a mess that must be laid at the president's door.  It has been clear for some time now that he doesn't listen to dissenting voices among his advisers, and while it is true that Saddam Hussein was an evil man, he was not an imminent threat to world security, as Bush wanted us to believe.  We've now lost our focus in fighting terrorism and the support of most of our traditional allies.

Bush has portrayed John Kerry as a flip-flopper and an appeaser who would bow to world opinion before defending America.  Both of these characterizations are false.  Yes, Kerry voted against the $87 billion appropriations for the Iraq war, for example, but that was because he didn't want to give it to the Bush administration unconditionally -- and he was right.  Yes, he said world opinion is important when it comes to waging war, but Kerry is also a man who laid his life on the line defending his country and he has said unequivocally that he will never put America's security at risk.  

What else does Kerry have to offer?

He has a plan to open up the health insurance system now enjoyed by Congress to small businesses, with tax credits to help them buy.  He has a plan to close corporate tax loopholes that will end rewards to companies for outsourcing.  He has a plan to cut middle-class taxes.  He has a plan to develop alternative fuel sources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  He will put environmental and medical issues back on sound scientific footings.  He will stand up for civil rights and opportunities for all Americans, not the select few.

All promises, yes.  But George Bush made a number of good-sounding promises in 2000, and he hasn't kept them.

Copyright © 2004 Times West Virginian.  Reprinted by permission.  (Hope Stephan July 27, 2005)