Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 25, 2004
POLITICS: Why I’m Voting for Bush
Above all, we are at war. This will be the first Presidential election since the September 11, 2001 attacks, which nearly killed the primary author of this site and which claimed the lives of almost 3,000 innocent Americans whose only offense was going to work or getting on a plane in a free country. It is essential that we never forget that day and that we affirm our commitment to seeing the War on Terror through. President Bush is the best candidate to do so and offers the best plan to lead this country for the next four years.
I am not a blind supporter of the President. Were there a George Washington or Winston Churchill running against Bush, I’d be quite happy to vote to replace him. In fact, in 2000, I supported John McCain and that year, as John Kerry might say, I voted against Bush before I voted for him. But, over the last four years, I believe Bush has been an excellent wartime leader and that there is simply no credible alternative offered in this election.
John Kerry is not a wartime consiglieri. In fact, in my view, he is a terrible, terrible candidate. Kerry is utterly irresolute, indecisive, elitist, pompous, condescending and, above all, an advocate for misguided policies which would ultimately imperil America.
The September 11th attacks were the defining moment of the 21st century thus far. It has profoundly changed our world and refocused the lives of many young Americans, including my own. Yet, John Kerry has repeatedly made statements about terrorism being a nuisance, about fighting a more sensitive war on terror, about subjecting American national security decisions to a “global test” and about how 9/11 did not significantly change him (see here). Taken individually, such statements can perhaps be defended. Collectively, they are the portrait of a September 10, 2001 mindset, an approach which is utterly irresponsible for a post-9/11 commander-in-chief.
Worse still are Kerry’s actions and track record. Kerry’s recent tough talk is belied by his two decades of dovish voting in the United States Senate. Kerry received his title as America’s most liberal Senator the old-fashioned way: he earned it.
Kerry was consistently wrong during the Cold War, advocating passivity at every turn (see here). Kerry voted against the 1991 Gulf War, the ultimate multilateral engagement backed by the largest coalition in history, staking out a position to the left of the French in that time of crisis (see here). Regardless of what you think of America’s policy since that time towards Iraq, ask yourself if it has been preferable to a 13-year occupation of Kuwait and its oil supply by a Saddam Hussein armed with nuclear weapons, as would likely have been the case had Kerry’s course been followed. Most recently, Kerry voted for the Iraq War, apparently on the belief that we should’ve tried to “bluff” Saddam Hussein into surrendering. (Although, it is hard to tell, since his shifting positions on the issue are so incomprehensible). Then, in an effort to outflank Howard Dean as the more irresponsible candidate during the Democratic primaries, he voted against funding to support our troops and reconstruct Iraq.
Kerry has a blind faith in multilateralism and global opinion which is as naïve as it is dangerous. Anyone who thinks the French and Germans are going to ride in to fight, in Kerry’s words, the “wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time” is daydreaming. Even if they did, it would do little to change the situation on the ground. America should do all it can to cultivate its alliances and we have many, from NATO to Great Britain to Australia to Canada to Japan to South Korea to Israel to Eastern Europe. But we should never forget that, as September 11 teaches, America is at its most popular in the world as when large numbers of innocent Americans have just been slaughtered. I, for one, much prefer the temporary unpopularity that inevitably comes with taking decisive action to head off gathering threats.
I have no doubt about the patriotism of John Kerry and most of the Democratic party, but we must ask more of our leaders than simply that they do not wish ill of our country. They must be prepared to take determined action to defend it. The Democrats have moved to the left of where they were even under President Clinton and are staking out an overly passive position on national security in an extremely dangerous age. It wasn’t always this way; in the middle of the twentieth century a strong triumvirate of Democratic presidents, FDR, Truman and Kennedy, while far from perfect, advocated and carried out vigilant policies to “bear any burden” to combat fascism and communism. Just a few days ago came news of the death of Paul Nitze, a conservative Democrat who served presidents from FDR to Reagan and who was a leading advocate of aggressive containment of the Soviet threat. Some Democrats today, like Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh or Zell Miller, still embody such strong views on national security, but the mainstream of the party, currently led by John Kerry, increasingly does not.
Finally, I’d like to say that I’ve always admired Kerry’s military service in Vietnam. As for his behavior protesting the war and testifying before Congress in 1971, I’ll leave that to those who lived through or fought that war to decide. Personally, my main concern, in 2004, in the midst of a fight to the death with uncompromising enemies, is that I don’t want a President who consistently summons the ghosts of Vietnam before and during every military operation from Grenada to Libya to Panama to Kuwait to Afghanistan to Iraq. We need leadership that is informed by history, not imprisoned by it.
So, that’s why, among many other reasons, I’m not voting for Kerry. Why am I voting for Bush?
Since September 11, 2001, President Bush has led America in toppling the regimes of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, two of the most brutally repressive, terrorist-supporting dictatorships in recent history. Free and fair elections were held in Afghanistan for the first time its long, unfortunate history and are similarly scheduled for January for the long-suffering people of Iraq. Large portions of al Qaeda’s membership has been killed or captured, its sanctuaries have been removed and its leadership remains on the run. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, while probably not already dead, will inevitably be killed or captured by the dragnet that continues to hunt them. The wait is frustrating, but it will happen.
Yet, much more work needs to be done. Beyond 9/11, al Qaeda and its ilk have committed terrorist atrocities in Bali and Beslan, in Madrid and Istanbul, in Jersusalem and across Iraq. There have been attempts to blow up planes with shoe bombs and plots to contaminate cities with radioactive dispersal devices. We are facing enemies who slit the throats of defenseless stewardesses, who saw off the heads of bound contractors and who are willing to strap explosives to themselves to blow up women and children. Only decisive military action, coordinated law enforcement cooperation, steadfast leadership and a commitment to expanding the sphere of representative, accountable governments will ensure the gradual destruction of the al Qaeda network and its allies. And only with a willingness to go on offense, even when it is unpopular, will we ultimately triumph. Passive defensive measures and after-the-fact reprisals are not enough. President Bush gets this. John Kerry simply does not.
The Iraq War was a swift and smashing military triumph, but its aftermath has been bloody, confusing and imperfectly planned. Still, we were right to fight the war and we were right to topple Saddam Hussein when we did. See here, here, here and here for my take on why. World War II analogies can be overused, but the United States made some mammoth mistakes in that war – including strategy, tactics and intelligence from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines to Arnhem to the Battle of the Bulge – but that does not mean we were wrong to fight it and that does not mean that throwing FDR out of office in 1944 would’ve been a wise course. Wars can be both difficult and worth fighting; the Iraq front of the War on Terror qualifies.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have shown the ability to make incredibly difficult real-time decisions, from giving orders to shoot down hijacked commercial airliners to invading Afghanistan to leading an international coalition to enforce a decade’s worth of violated UN resolutions to ultimately deciding to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. Bush has not wavered. When he commits to something, both his supporters and his critics know all too well that he will not lightly change course, regardless of unpopularity. That is a necessary component of wartime leadership.
When Bush says we will keep our commitments to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, I trust him. As an attorney myself, I feel that I have every right to say that what America needs in this war is the decisive leadership offered by Bush/Cheney and not the legalistic nuance offered by Kerry/Edwards. Further, I feel that Bush’s hardline position towards Iraq increases the likelihood for making progress with the intransigent regimes of Iran and North Korea, as it did with Libya. Deterrence only works where it is credible and I fear that Kerry, who routinely badmouths America’s allies, simply would not be viewed as credible by America’s enemies.
On the domestic front, I support Bush’s positions on reforming health care, promoting tort reform, offering tax relief and appointing responsible federal judges. On social security, Kerry offers more of the same, while Bush’s move towards individualized accounts offers the best hope for people of my age to actually get something out of an outdated, broken entitlement program in which younger Americans are currently paying into a system from which they have no hope of recovering anything later in life. I also support Bush’s position on school choice and voucher programs, issues which Bush should promote more strenuously.
My biggest criticism of President Bush is McCain’s fair assessment that this administration, along with Congress, has been spending like a bunch of drunken sailors. The problem is that, if you listen hard to Kerry, it becomes clear that he thinks they haven’t been drunk enough. John Kerry is promising even more massively costly programs, which will inevitably lead him to raise taxes. The Republicans absolutely and unequivocally need to do a better job living up to their rhetoric as the party of fiscal responsibility, but I see little evidence that a President Kerry - with his hugely costly spending plans, including his proposed “Department of Wellness” - would be any better.
Also, Bush’s lax immigration policies, placing political and diplomatic concerns over law enforcement and security concerns, are also misguided, especially since they run counter to the interests of the War on Terror. In terms of civil liberties, Bush’s defense of the PATRIOT Act is admirable, since the legislation is so critical, but I do not support the Administration’s position in attempting to classify American citizens like Jose Padilla and Yasser Hamdi, no matter how heinous the charges against them, as enemy combatants. Those are the two most prominent, yet very isolated, examples where I feel the Administration has gone too far in fighting the war and, in those limited circumstances, I’m glad to see the courts stepping in.
Overall, however, I believe that President Bush has done an excellent job and that the brand of decisive leadership he offers is what America needs in prosecuting the War on Terror. Further, I believe that, led by Bush, the Republican Party remains the best vehicle across the political spectrum for promoting and protecting economic liberty, free trade, personal responsibility, traditional values, religious freedom, intellectual diversity and, above all, national security. In that belief, I agree with these sentiments.
I also personally like President Bush, who is self-deprecating, unpretentious and plain-speaking, and particularly admire Mrs. Bush, who is an epitome of class. I find Kerry’s self-important windbaggery intolerable and am decidedly unimpressed with both the loud-mouthed Ms. Heinz and the slick-talking Mr. Edwards. But, in the end, while personalities have some impact, this election is serious business and I suspect the issues have shaped my perceptions of the candidates’ personalities, not vice versa. There is a war on, after all.
Perhaps in less perilous times, America could afford the luxury of the feckless, indecisive shifting and tired ideas of someone like John Kerry, but, especially in times of terrorism and war, America needs the steadfast and committed leadership of someone like President Bush.
That is why Mr. Bush will receive my vote on November 2.