Charleston Gazette:

Tuesday, October 19, 2004 


MUCH is at stake for America in this election. Both at home and abroad, there is a sense of crisis few Americans could have imagined four years ago. We believe that dangerous times require leadership that is calm, intelligent, measured and mature. We believe John Kerry is the best candidate to provide that leadership.

Sept. 11, 2001, dealt this nation a terrible blow. It severely damaged everyone's sense of security as terrorists penetrated U.S. borders and murdered thousands. In the weeks that followed, the international community extended its sympathy and expressed solidarity; America was united.

Sadly, that is no longer the case. This country is now embroiled in an ugly urban guerrilla war in a country that did not have a hand in the 9/11 tragedy. The mastermind behind the massacre is still at large. Precipitous action in Iraq, without the cooperation of most traditional U.S. allies, has alienated the United States from the world and dissipated international goodwill. American soldiers are dying at an unacceptable rate and there is no end in sight.

John Kerry is the son of a diplomat and a student of diplomacy. He experienced war and its horrors as a young man and understands the excruciating price a country pays when it sends its children into harm's way. We believe he would have the resolve to use force if necessary to defend America, but would reserve it only for situations where every other avenue had been explored. We continue to believe that Saddam Hussein, although he was a truly evil dictator, posed no immediate threat to the United States; that the weapons inspections were doing their job; and that Saddam's impotent wish to revive his programs was not a sufficient reason to send Americans to die and to abandon the efforts of the United Nations.

We believe John Kerry will have the credibility with the international community to mend traditional alliances and work with them to make sense of the havoc in Iraq. We also believe he has the intellectual resilience to listen to a wide range of opinion on foreign policy and not to exclude the dissenting voices that need to be heard.

On the home front, life has gotten a good deal harder for ordinary Americans. Jobs have disappeared, and many of the new ones created in the past four years are minimum-wage, no-benefit, service jobs. Personal bankruptcies are at record levels. Almost every necessary expense, from utilities to health care to college tuition, has risen dramatically. Many families find it impossible to save. Meanwhile, a huge budget surplus has been transformed in four short years into a deficit of unprecedented size.

A burgeoning recession early in the decade is no excuse. The timing could not have been worse for a huge tax giveaway to the wealthy.

Kerry understands that the American middle class cannot grow and thrive when many families cannot afford basic health care or college education for their children. He understands that investing in these areas is a far more important priority than cutting taxes for people with incomes over $200,000.

We believe that the health-care crisis is by far the most pressing domestic issue. The enormous cost of health insurance is killing both businesses and ordinary citizens. John Kerry recognizes this and has a plan to lower costs and make health insurance accessible to 95 percent of Americans. In the final days of the campaign the administration has attempted to scare voters by claiming that it is a "government-run" plan (it is not), that it will lead to rationing, and that countries with universal health care do not have the same high level of medical care Americans enjoy.

Sadly, the opposite is true. One globally accepted standard for a country's health is its infant mortality rate. The United States is not even in the top 40 countries with the lowest infant mortality rates. This means that in 40 other nations (led by the ones with universal health care) a child has a better chance of surviving to the age of one year than in the United States. Swedish children have almost twice the chance of survival as their American counterparts.

The other measure of health for a nation is life expectancy. Here the United States fares even worse, at 48th place, surpassed by countries like Jordan, Cyprus and Cuba.

Even so, this country spends more on health care than any other nation. In short, Americans pay more and receive less. To call our health-care system the envy of the world is to insult the intelligence of the electorate. Kerry understands how shameful it is that the world's richest nation cannot meet such a basic need for all its citizens.

This election takes place as a number of justices on the Supreme Court near retirement. The current administration's hostility toward women's rights and civil liberties in general gives little confidence that it would choose justice nominees inclined to protect those rights.

The current administration seems to have a domestic policy based on one underfunded education initiative, a rollback of crucial federal regulation and a transfer of wealth from the middle class to those with the highest incomes. It bolsters this program with irrelevant scare tactics designed to convince Americans that a Kerry administration would ban the Bible, promote gay weddings and deprive people of their guns.

We think Kerry's vision, both internationally and at home, is the more mature one. More important, we believe he is the candidate most likely to restore unity to a fiercely divided nation.

Copyright 2004 Charleston Gazette.  Reprinted by permission.  (Susanna Rodell July 26, 2005)