Many Americans hoped some magical candidate would appear with better answers to ending the insurgent uprising in Iraq, curbing terror worldwide and offering promising plans for domestic issues such as health care, the national deficit and a flawed tax system.
But that hasn't happened. Instead, we are left with: George W. Bush, who offers partial solutions and determination but has a serious credibility problem with many Americans; John Kerry, who offers too few solutions, but a lot of confusion and a Swift boatload of criticism, much of it misplaced; and no-name (plus Nader) third-party candidates who cannot win.
The Columbian tepidly supported George W. Bush in 2000. We are even more tepid in supporting his re-election. But this presidential race, for us, comes down to leadership and the candidates' overarching principles on policy issues, since neither has a solid enough track record to go by.
While both the Bush and Kerry campaigns have waged a war of half-truths and misstatements, Bush's resolve to finish the job in Iraq and protect the nation fromincoming threats is proven. And he has been successful protecting the homeland since the attacks of Sept. 11. He did not ignore or decide only to talk about terrorist attacks on Americans. He pursued justice in Afghanistan, has not relented in the search for Osama bin Laden and has made borders more secure.
War in Iraq, somewhat but not at all directly related to terrorism, has become a total blunder. Still, it was inevitable to attack for numerous reasons something Kerry will not concede, even after authorizing the use of force. Iraq was indeed a threat, even without stockpiles of WMDs. Saddam Hussein was a threat to his own people, and he planned to be a threat to other nations, as soon as the world community looked away. And while the Bush team acted in part based on flawed intelligence, we do not believe its aim was to deceive.
Bush's leadership, even with his many mistakes, is more appealing than Kerry's lack of leadership. Having Sen. John Edwards as his running mate doesn't help Kerry on foreign policy, either. The nation is facing dire foreign policy decisions for which neither man is at all equipped to handle.
As for the candidates' overriding principles on second-tier issues, Bush has the advantage. Again, only because Kerry is so weak.
Bush has encouraged reckless federal overspending even in discretionary areas, especially education. Bush and the Congress have been as bad as a college student with a new credit card. And the current administration's views on the environment have given us the opportunity to write scathing editorials on a regular basis. Remember the plan to count hatchery fish as if they were full-fledged salmon? More than fishy.
While Kerry might do better for the environment, there are few issues on which he is clearly preferable to Bush. Kerry promises the type of big government and an entitlement mentality that frightens us. His program proposals cannot coexist with security needs, bring down the deficit or be paid for by raising taxes on a small percentage of citizens. His class warfare backfires in ideology and on paper.
For these reasons and more, Bush should be re-elected. We can't hold out for a magical candidate.
The Editorial Board comprises Publisher Scott Campbell, the Editor, Editorial Page Editor John Laird, Editorial Writers Elizabeth Hovde and Gregg Herrington, the Editor Emeritus and the CFO.