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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — April 30, 2004

Our View

Re-fighting the wrong war

A generation too late, the Vietnam War has become a central issue for the Kerry and Bush presidential camps, while real problems touching American homes are swept aside.

As they’ve done before to certified war heroes Sen. John McCain and triple combat amputee Sen. Max Cleland, Republicans belittle John Kerry as falling short of heroism and military smarts (a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts aren’t enough?). The public relations machine has been working overtime pouring out meaningless speculation and endless drivel about whether Kerry threw medals or ribbons over a fence to protest the Vietnam War.

Taking umbrage, Kerry understandably counterattacked with stinging questions of President Bush’s 1970s no-show for Air National Guard duty and Vice President Cheney’s five draft deferments.

Then, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, grabbed the headlines when he used time on the Senate floor to call Vice President Dick Cheney the nation’s "lead chickenhawk." He conducted an anatomy lesson and used a mawkish poster to explain that a chicken hawk has the look of a hawk, but the spine of a chicken.

Yet, all of this is sheer irrelevance when trying to measure who’s best equipped to cope with deepening crises in Iraq and an economy triggering joblessness, higher energy costs, a federal deficit out of control and troubling evidence of abuses to civil liberties, and which candidate has plausible solutions.

Sen. McCain, who has a justified resentment of Bush campaign mudslinging in the 2000 campaign, rose on the Senate floor this week to wisely plead for a cease fire of candidate bomb-throwing and more attention to genuine affairs of state.

McCain probably is virtuously unrealistic. The nature of modern politics is to draw blood, create angry sound bites, divide rather than unify. High-minded debate is regarded by backroom campaign strategists as a turnoff with no headline sizzle.

America has embraced policies that’ll change the U.S. lifestyle for generations. The nation has a war on its hands, a debt load and deficit that grows while traditional public services shrink. It faces questions of how much freedom Americans should sacrifice in an age of terrorism and whether volunteer military service is sufficient without a draft to continue war in Iraq for years to come.

Dissecting who did or said what as young men 30 years ago is utterly inane for weighing what the incumbent president and his challenger can do as grown men with today’s crises.


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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.