George W. Bush for president
One by one, Americans typically settle on a presidential candidate after
weighing his, and his rival's, views on the mosaic of issues that each
of us finds important.
Some years, though, force vectors we didn't anticipate turn some of our
usual priorities--our pet causes, our own economic interest--into
narcissistic luxuries. As Election Day nears, the new force vectors
drive our decision-making.
This is one of those years--distinct in ways best framed by Sen. John
McCain, perhaps this country's most broadly respected politician. Seven
weeks ago, McCain looked with chilling calm into TV cameras and told
Americans, with our rich diversity of clashing worldviews, what is at
stake for every one of us in the first presidential election since Sept.
11 of 2001:
"So it is, whether we wished it or not, that we have come to the test of
our generation, to our rendezvous with destiny. ... All of us, despite
the differences that enliven our politics, are united in the one big
idea that freedom is our birthright and its defense is always our first
responsibility. All other responsibilities come second." If we waver,
McCain said, "we will fail the one mission no American generation has
ever failed--to provide to our children a stronger, better country than
the one we were blessed to inherit."
This year, each of us has the privilege of choosing between two
major-party candidates whose integrity, intentions and abilities are
One of those candidates, Sen. John Kerry, embraces an ongoing struggle
against murderous terrorists, although with limited U.S. entanglements
overseas. The other candidate, President George W. Bush, talks more
freely about what is at risk for this country: the cold-eyed possibility
that fresh attacks no better coordinated than those of Sept. 11--but
with far deadlier weapons--could ravage American metropolises. Bush,
then, embraces a bolder struggle not only with those who sow terror, but
also with rogue governments that harbor, finance or arm them.
This was a radical strategy when the president articulated it in 2001,
even as dust carrying the DNA of innocents wafted up from ground zero.
And it is the unambiguous strategy that, as this page repeatedly has
contended, is most likely to deliver the more secure future that John
McCain wishes for our children.
A President Kerry certainly would punish those who want us dead. As he
pledged, with cautiously calibrated words, in accepting his party's
nomination: "Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response."
Bush, by contrast, insists on taking the fight to terrorists, depriving
them of oxygen by encouraging free and democratic governments in tough
neighborhoods. As he stated in his National Security Strategy in 2002:
"The United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we
have in the past. ... We cannot let our enemies strike first."
Bush's sense of a president's duty to defend America is wider in scope
than Kerry's, more ambitious in its tactics, more prone, frankly, to
yield both casualties and lasting results. This is the stark difference
on which American voters should choose a president.
There is much the current president could have done differently over the
last four years. There are lessons he needs to have learned. And there
are reasons--apart from the global perils likely to dominate the next
presidency--to recommend either of these two good candidates.
But for his resoluteness on the defining challenge of our age--a
resoluteness John Kerry has not been able to demonstrate--the Chicago
Tribune urges the re-election of George W. Bush as president of the
Bush, his critics say, displays an arrogance that turns friends into
foes. Spurned at the United Nations by "Old Europe"--France, Germany,
Russia--he was too long in admitting he wanted their help in a war. He
needs to acknowledge that his country's future interests are best served
by fixing frayed friendships. And if re-elected, he needs to accomplish
But that is not the whole story. Consider:
Bush has nurtured newer alliances with many nations such as Poland,
Romania and Ukraine (combined population, close to 110 million) that
want more than to be America's friends: Having seized their liberty from
tyrants, they are determined now to be on the right side of history.
Kerry is an internationalist, a man of conspicuous intellect. He is a
keen student of world affairs and their impact at home.
But that is not the whole story. Consider:
On the most crucial issue of our time, Kerry has serially dodged for
political advantage. Through much of the 2004 election cycle, he used
his status as a war hero as an excuse not to have a coherent position on
America's national security. Even now, when Kerry grasps a microphone,
it can be difficult to fathom who is speaking--the war hero, or the
Kerry displays great faith in diplomacy as the way to solve virtually
all problems. Diplomatic solutions should always be the goal. Yet that
principle would be more compelling if the world had a better record of
confronting true crises, whether proffered by the nuclear-crazed
ayatollahs of Iran, the dark eccentrics of North Korea, the genocidal
murderers of villagers in Sudan--or the Butcher of Baghdad.
In each of these cases, Bush has pursued multilateral strategies. In
Iraq, when the UN refused to enforce its 17th stern resolution--the more
we learn about the UN's corrupt Oil-for-Food program, the more it's
clear the fix was in--Bush acted. He thus reminded many of the world's
governments why they dislike conservative and stubborn U.S. presidents
(see Reagan, Ronald).
Bush has scored a great success in Afghanistan--not only by ousting the
Taliban regime and nurturing a new democracy, but also by ignoring the
chronic doubters who said a war there would be a quagmire. He and his
administration provoked Libya to surrender its weapons program, turned
Pakistan into an ally against terrorists (something Bill Clinton's
diplomats couldn't do) and helped shut down A.Q. Khan, the world's most
menacing rogue nuclear proliferator.
Many of these cross-currents in Bush's and Kerry's worldviews collide in
Bush arguably invaded with too few allies and not enough troops. He will
go to his tomb defending his reliance on intelligence from agencies
around the globe that turned out to be wrong. And he has refused to
admit any errors.
Kerry, though, has lost his way. The now-professed anti-war candidate
says he still would vote to authorize the war he didn't vote to finance.
He used the presidential debates to telegraph a policy of withdrawal.
His Iraq plan essentially is Bush's plan. All of which perplexes many.
Worse, it plainly perplexes Kerry. ("I do believe Saddam Hussein was a
threat," he said Oct. 8, adding that Bush was preoccupied with Iraq,
"where there wasn't a threat.") What's not debatable is that Kerry did
nothing to oppose White House policy on Iraq until he trailed the dovish
Howard Dean in the race for his party's nomination. Also haunting Kerry:
his Senate vote against the Persian Gulf war--driven by faith that, yes,
more diplomacy could end Saddam Hussein's rape of Kuwait.
On domestic issues, the choice is also clear. In critical areas such as
public education and health care, Bush's emphasis is on greater
competition. His No Child Left Behind Act has flaws, but its
requirements have created a new climate of expectation and
accountability. On both of these important fronts, but especially with
his expensive health-care plan, Kerry primarily sees a need to raise and
spend more money.
The failure of either candidate to offer spending and taxation proposals
that remotely approach balancing the federal budget is an embarrassment
to both. The non-partisan Concord Coalition calculates the 10-year
impact of Bush's proposals as a negative $1.33 trillion; the impact of
Kerry's is a nearly identical $1.27 trillion. Kerry correctly cites the
disturbingly expensive legacy of Bush's tax cuts--while, in the same
breath, promising new tax cuts of his own.
This is a genre of American fiction that Bush, if he is re-elected,
cannot perpetuate. To Bush's credit, his tax policies have had the
aggregate effect of pushing Americans toward more savings and
investment--the capital with which the world's strongest economy
generates jobs. But he has not shown the necessary discipline on
discretionary spending. Two particularly egregious examples: Medicare
prescription drug coverage and an enormously expensive farm subsidy
bill, both signed by Bush.
This country's paramount issue, though, remains the threat to its
John Kerry has been a discerning critic of where Bush has erred. But
Kerry's message--a more restrained assault on global threats, earnest
comfort with the international community's noble inaction--suggests what
many voters sense: After 20 years in the Senate, the moral certitude
Kerry once displayed has evaporated. There is no landmark Kennedy-Kerry
Education Act, no Kerry-Frist Health Bill. Today's Kerry is more about
plans and process than solutions. He is better suited to analysis than
to action. He has not delivered a compelling blueprint for change.
For three years, Bush has kept Americans, and their government,
focused--effectively--on this nation's security. The experience, dating
from Sept. 11, 2001, has readied him for the next four years, a period
that could prove as pivotal in this nation's history as were the four
years of World War II.
That demonstrated ability, and that crucible of experience, argue for
the re-election of President George W. Bush. He has the steadfastness,
and the strength, to execute the one mission no American generation has
Source: The Chicago Tribune
October 17, 2004