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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Opinion Columns

Republicans defend Kerry, rebuke Bush

Commentary by Pat Murphy

It fell to nonconformist Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain to cut through presidential campaign jabber with common sense, even if it meant rebuking his president.

Rubbish, McCain said of suggestions by President Bush and Vice President Cheney that Democratic friend and fellow Vietnam veteran John Kerry is weak on terrorism.

(A few days later, Nebraska’s Sen. Chuck Hagel, another Republican and a Vietnam vet, chimed in to defend Kerry.)

McCain’s defense is in the tradition of his predecessor, the late Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, who cherished Democrat President John Kennedy’s close friendship.

McCain also implored Bush and Kerry to abandon sniping in favor of discussing vital issues.

Sound wisdom, but wishful thinking. Vital issues aren’t easily reduced to stirring sound bites.

Moreover, voters also lack the patience for debating democracy’s problems. They want magic solutions in a few words and the competence of candidates defined by slogans and staged events.

So, voters face months of barbed epithets and catchphrases in the runup to the November election.

By contrast, just five years ago the nation was gripped in a presidential crisis: Bill Clinton had been impeached, was tried and acquitted by the U.S. Senate after the Republican Congress spent a staggering $70 million largely investigating Clinton lies about his sex life.

Today, serious accusations of Bush administration misconduct far more devastating to the country than sex peccadilloes swirl around the sitting president.


  • He estranged the country from a global alliance existing since World War II to launch a preemptive war for now-discredited reasons at costs he originally branded as untrue.

  • The Treasury’s $200 billion surplus has been wiped out and replaced by a $500 billion deficit in three years.

  • Millions of workers have lost jobs. Others have had their pensions wiped out.

  • Rambo-mentality lawyers in the Justice and Defense departments have clapped hundreds of terrorism "suspects" into jails indefinitely without charges and without lawyers.

  • Unparalleled progress in protecting the environment from industrial pollution has been rolled back willy-nilly as quid pro quo repayment for industry political donations.

  • Under threat of being fired, a veteran government actuary was forced to conceal the true $600 billion Medicare reform legislation cost until a misled Congress passed a bill that understated costs by $200 billion.

  • The chief of National Park Service police, Teresa Chambers, faces termination for publicly conceding to reporters she lacks manpower to patrol Washington’s monuments adequately.

  • After being awarded no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars, Vice President Cheney’s former firm of Halliburton and its subsidiaries are accused of overcharging by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Yet Republicans so quick to impeach Bill Clinton show a disgraceful ho-hum mind-set about being misled into war, abuse of civil liberties, irresponsible spending practices, even evidence of a White House culture of practiced deceit.

Those are vital issues Sen. McCain might’ve had in mind.

Understandably, the president and vice president may want to avoid them in favor of sound bites and feel-good TV images.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.