VOLUME 3, ISSUE 344 | October 28 – November 3, 2004
Perspective/ the presidential election
The Choice is Clear
Pres. George W. Bush’s anti-gay positions and alliances have made it impossible for the queer community to support him.
Bush’s hostility was such that the Log Cabin Republicans, the party’s gay group, refused to endorse him. On gay and lesbian issues, Bush has chosen sides—the anti-LGBT side.
Bush’s recent nod to civil unions on a morning talk show is a variation on earlier statements he made indicating that this is the only “marriage” he will support for same-sex couples. His apparent approval, however, is more akin to a segregationist’s embrace of “separate, but equal,” than an inclusive leader seeing civil unions as a step on the way to full marriage equality.
A reactionary, the president is vulnerable on most issues—be it health care, the environment, civil liberties or foreign policy. In almost every policy area, there are sound, practical reasons to oppose the president. He exhibits extraordinarily bad judgment. The invasion of Iraq has allowed North Korea and Iran to enhance their nuclear capabilities. During wartime, the president cut taxes, an irresponsible approach that has no precedent. By constantly making the wrong choices, Bush has made this election one of the most important of the last 50 years.
We have to go back to 1968, when Vietnam was the overriding issue, to find an election that will so deeply affect the nation. Had Hubert Humphrey and the Democrats beaten Richard Nixon, peace in Vietnam would have come sooner, and thousands of lives would have been saved. The economic well-being of thousands of poor and working class Americans would have improved, at the expense of enriching the already wealthy.
Like Kerry, Humphrey did not unequivocally call for a withdrawal of American troops from foreign soil, but he did tell the nation that American policy in Vietnam was flawed and inevitably ineffective. And that’s where we are today. Kerry has acknowledged that things have gone wrong—the first step towards a revision of policy. George W. Bush takes the opposite position, insisting that we should fight on to victory. Again and again, he promises more of the same.
The president has foreclosed forming policy without the input of right-wing conservatives. John Kerry, on the other hand, has a thirst for hearing conflicting opinions before forging compromise, not unlike many lawmakers who are only able to achieve success by reaching across the partisan aisle.
One of Kerry’s biggest achievements has been placating the fears of those who believed Vietnam still held American prisoners of war. Once the issue of the MIAs—the missing in action—was resolved in the mid-1990s, the United States was able to extend full diplomatic recognition to Vietnam. This was a major achievement that helped the United States with trade and improved our standing in Asia. And it marked a final settlement to the scars left by the Vietnam War. John Kerry has demonstrated consensus-building skills that completely elude George W. Bush.
Kerry’s leadership is demonstrated by his remarks about the reservists fighting in Iraq who have been forced to extend their service, the so-called “backdoor draft.” Prolonged service is at best a severe hardship, and at worst it threatens the civilian livelihood of these soldiers. The reservists have families, mortgages, jobs and businesses; they cannot simply spend years in Iraq. The way we deal with their plight will determine our strategy, the cost of the war, and its corollary—the amount of money available for domestic programs.
One possible solution, the draft, is unpopular with almost everyone, including the Pentagon. Draftees often are uncooperative soldiers. Another solution is appealing but expensive. Active duty troops would earn civilian pay. Reservists wouldn’t have trouble paying their mortgages, and new enlistees will earn the higher salary levels.
I have seen no budget figures for such prospective programs, but I expect by January that there will be several proposals floating around Capitol Hill.
The costs of the Iraq war affect the quality of American lives, from the condition of our public schools to access to affordable health care. The practical benefits of peace in Iraq should be should be part of the current national discussion. And only the Democrats have a large enough group favoring peace to be able to conduct that conversation.
John Kerry has demonstrated his intelligence and physical energy. George W. Bush has demonstrated that his conservative beliefs are more important than the facts, as well as his commitment to spending open-ended amounts on the war, a conflict that the U.S. might not win at all.
Iraq’s future is uncertain, but so is that of the United States, including whether or not cornerstones of America’s compact with its citizens, like the Social Security trust fund, will remain solvent. But we do know the groups that make up the Democratic Party. Their opinions vary, and that gives Kerry the ability to make a fresh decision on war and peace, domestic spending or military spending.
George W. Bush will give us more of the same, while John Kerry will be pressured to come up with fresh ideas and make wise appointments. Surely, this is the best way to prepare for the future.