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Kerry for president
The senator is a worthy choice to succeed the dangerous, secretive Bush. Plus, the Phoenix’s choices in legislative races.

NOT SINCE Richard Nixon skulked through the White House has this nation been faced with a presidency as dangerous, as secretive, and as malevolent as that of George W. Bush. The Phoenix is proud to endorse John Kerry, a man of strong leadership qualities, sound judgment, and compassionate leanings. Senator Kerry would be a worthy choice regardless of his opponent. But because his opponent is Bush, Kerry’s election is a necessity.

Barely a year and a half after Bush strutted beneath that MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner, the war in Iraq has degenerated into what may prove to be an even worse foreign-policy blunder than Vietnam. The American public, still recovering from the terrorist attacks of 9/11, was only too willing to believe the president when he said that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had provided a safe haven to Al Qaeda. But as we all know now, it just wasn’t true. Bush launched this war on the basis of exaggerated intelligence, dubious claims, and, in a few cases, outright lies. The blood of the more than 1100 American soldiers who have died in Iraq is on his hands, as is that of the thousands more who have been seriously injured and the countless thousands of Iraqi civilians who have been killed. And no matter what Bush would have us believe, the mess he has created has left us in more danger today than before he launched this unjustified, pre-emptive war.

But the bill of particulars against Bush is far longer than that. His unprecedented wartime tax cuts, skewed heavily toward the wealthiest Americans, have helped transform the projected 10-year, $5.6 trillion surplus that he inherited from Bill Clinton into annual deficits of some $400 billion — and growing. On the environment, he has turned his back on concerns ranging from global warming to mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. He has imposed his own religious views on the rest of us by — among other things — refusing to allow stem-cell research to move forward as quickly as it should. He has unleashed his freedom-loathing attorney general, John Ashcroft, to spy on Americans under the guise of keeping us safe from terrorists, and he has moved much of the government out of public view by undermining the Freedom of Information Act and by placing presidential records out of reach. Of course, Bush also is anti-choice, opposes civil rights for lesbians and gay men, supports the death penalty, and is indifferent even to the most common-sense gun-control measures, such as the assault-weapons ban, which he nominally supported but did nothing to keep from expiring. And as Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s recently diagnosed thyroid cancer reminds us, the next president will likely have an opportunity to name several justices to the Supreme Court. If the next president is Bush, he’ll be able to use the court to advance his agenda — including further blurring the separation between church and state, and possibly overturning Roe v. Wade — for generations to come. Let’s not forget that Bush has referred to archconservative justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as his models.

John Kerry has devoted his life to public service. As a senator since 1985, he has taken on such thankless, difficult tasks as investigating the Iran-contra affair and the BCCI international banking scandal. He worked with Senator John McCain, a fellow Vietnam veteran, to put to rest the myth that American POWs were being held against their will in Southeast Asia. That, in turn, paved the way for normalizing relations with Vietnam, helping to put a painful chapter behind us. An unconventional liberal, Kerry has gone against the grain by supporting balanced budgets and welfare reform, by re-examining the way affirmative action functions, and by establishing himself as one of the Senate’s leading experts on terrorism long before 9/11.

As president, Kerry would immediately face the almost impossibly difficult task of dealing with Iraq. There are no simple solutions, and to his credit Kerry has not claimed there are. But by re-establishing relations with the international community and by positioning himself as a trustworthy alternative to the duplicitous Bush, Kerry has a far better chance of at least restoring stability and establishing a timetable for the eventual withdrawal of our troops.

On domestic policy, Kerry will be hamstrung if, as appears likely, Congress remains in Republican hands. But he can begin to stanch Bush’s worst excesses. There will be no more huge tax cuts for the rich. And Kerry’s health-care plan — a truly innovative proposal to extend coverage to millions of children while preserving the role of the private sector (as numerous analysts have pointed out, Bush’s claim that Kerry’s plan would amount to a government takeover is flat-out false) — will at least get a hearing. Perhaps after two years of a Kerry presidency, voters will see fit to reward him with a Democratic Congress so that he can realize even more of his vision.

Given Kerry’s positive qualities and Bush’s horrendous record, it is astounding that this campaign may end in a dead heat. The main reason for this is that the country is deeply divided. But make no mistake: the Republican Attack Machine has taken its toll on Kerry. From the lies of the ironically named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to the Bush-Cheney campaign’s more than $100 million in negative ads, Kerry has been subjected to unprecedented sliming. Sadly, with rare exceptions, the news media have been content to cover the campaign as a day-by-day game of tactics, with an on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand quest for so-called balance that belies reality, rarely pointing out that Kerry’s record and proposals have been distorted beyond recognition.

On Election Day, all we can hope for is that the public will see through the lies and vote for John Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should be defeated once again. And this time, the margin should be large enough that even their friends on the Supreme Court cannot get in the way.

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Issue Date: October 29 - November 4, 2004
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