Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Bush presents an election quandary

By Michael Saphier

Michael Saphier is a retired attorney who resides in the Wood River Valley with his wife Ruthann and his dog Beckett.

George W. Bush and his cronies have done more damage in a shorter period of time than any other administration in American history. They arrogantly, ignorantly, needlessly and recklessly encouraged and fostered worldwide anti-American hatred, global terrorism, greater instability in the Middle East, the restriction of civil liberties at home, domestic economic uncertainty and dramatic divisions among the citizens of our country. Bush started a war in Iraq that has cost over 900 American and thousands of innocent Iraqi lives on the false premises that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to the security of the United States and that Iraq was inextricably linked to Sept. 11, Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Now he has the gall to run for re-election on the grounds that we need him to lead us in the war against the escalating terror that he fueled with the ill-advised and unjustified bombing, inva-sion and occupation of Iraq. Bush never admits to making a mistake and believes that the best defense is a strong offense. He repeatedly tells us, for example, that America did the right thing when it unilaterally invaded Iraq even though the reasons he gives now for that momentous decision are far different than those that he gave when he commenced what he then called a preemptive attack on Iraq.

Why, then, do the polls show that the presidential race is too close to call? Shouldn?t Bush be way behind? Why can?t Kerry exploit Bush?s extraordinary vulnerability? Perhaps the answer lies in the public?s inability to connect to Kerry because of its perception that Kerry is devoid of personal charm, warmth and charisma. Or maybe it?s Kerry?s stiff, starchy and patrician bearing, his aura of intellectual superiority and his membership in this country?s super wealthy power elite that combine to distance him from mainstream Americans. Or perhaps it is Kerry?s undistinguished record in the U.S. Senate where he failed to leave a footprint in over 19 years of performing what he turned into a part-time job. But most likely, it is Kerry?s tendencies to "flip-flop," take posi-tions on both sides of important issues and tell his audiences what he thinks they want to hear that leaves us wondering if he possesses the character, credibil-ity and vision to be the leader of this nation and the free world. How many times have we heard him dodge simple and direct questions so that we have no clue where he stands on important issues. He has not told us, for instance, whether he would have voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq if he had known that Saddam Hussein did not have either weapons of mass destruction or links to Al Qaeda, Sept. 11 and/or Osama bin Laden. Nor has he ever admitted that his vote in favor of giving Bush authority to go to war with Iraq was a huge mistake.

Assume for a moment that you and I, as well as millions of fellow Americans, are thoroughly disgusted with the choice of voting for either George W. Bush or John Kerry. Assume that we conclude that choosing the lesser of two evils is a centimeter away from no choice at all. Further assume that we agree that voting for Ralph Nader is the equivalent of either throwing your vote away or voting for George W. Bush. Then, one might ask, why bother to vote in this election?

The answer is that exercising the right to vote is still the most important act that a citizen of this country can do. While Hollywood would never cast either Bush or Kerry as a heroic champion of the democratic freedoms and humanitarian values that we hold dear, this election is still unique because (1) we have the opportunity and the need to throw Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and Ashcroft out of office so that we can prevent them from doing any further damage to our nation and the world, (2) a new administration may have a better chance of getting desperately needed help in stabilizing Iraq from our former allies and the United Nations, (3) we simply cannot afford to allow Bush to stack the U.S. Supreme Court as well as the Federal appellate and District Court benches with extreme right wing idealogues, and (4) we can hope that Kerry will grow into the job, as Bush has not, after he is elected president.

When given the choice of voting for either "bad" (Kerry) or "worse" (Bush), I conclude that we should vote for "bad" and hope for the best.

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