Concord [NH] Monitor

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

For John Kerry
It will take a new leader to put America back on course.
Monitor editorial

President George Bush has had nearly four years to prove that he is, in his words, "a uniter, not a divider," a leader capable of convincing Americans to bridge their differences and work toward common goals.  He has failed.  America is a far more polarized and far less respected in the world than when he took office.

Voters should hold Bush accountable.  They can do so by electing Sen. John Kerry.

Bush has proven to be neither compassionate nor conservative.  He has divided America from its allies and divided Americans one from another.  Because he cannot bring himself to admit his mistakes, he cannot learn from them.

If re-elected, he has promised to steer the same course.  That means greater fiscal irresponsibility, further alienation from the world community, a growing burden on the middle class and further despoliation of the environment.

Kerry, too, would make mistakes, but he would learn from them, grow and change his policies to fit a changed situation.  In almost every instance, those policies would be the reverse of those followed by Bush.

In his conversations with this paper, Kerry was by far the most thoughtful and best prepared candidate for president.  As president, he would govern not by gut feelings but by informed reason.  The Bush campaign tried to paint Kerry as indecisive and prone to shift positions, but the debates gave the lie to that.  They showed the nation a serious, resolute candidate better versed in the issues than the president himself.

Neither man has a clear plan to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq without allowing that nation to dissolve in civil war.  But Bush's record on almost every count - from his decision to go to war unnecessarily and without significant support from the world community to his abject failure to anticipate the war's aftermath - is proof that his judgment as a commander-in-chief is flawed.

As a combat veteran, Kerry understands the true price of war and the need to wage it only as a last resort.  He has proven, in combat, that he is capable of acting unilaterally when circumstances justify doing so.  But he understands the need, both moral and tactical, to act in concert with as many allies as possible.

Had Bush followed the lead of every other wartime president, he would have asked all Americans to support the troops and their families by making the small sacrifice that comes with a modest increase in taxes to finance the war. Instead, he borrowed the money to fight today's battles from America's children.  That is irresponsible.

The president has not been conservative in his use of America's great power.  He took the nation into a war on false evidence.  He has not shown wisdom in choosing which of his counselors to heed.  Had he listened to the military instead of ideologically driven advisers with no military experience, the soldiers serving bravely in Iraq would have been properly equipped.  And there would have been enough of them to secure the country and prevent Iraq's descent into chaos.

Bush's fiscal policies have not been conservative.  His refusal to veto a single spending bill is unprecedented.  His failure to curb spending and his ill-advised tax cuts produced record deficits.

Kerry understands the danger the nation's enormous deficits represent.  Though he has been attacked as a big spender, he recognizes that the balanced budgets of the late Clinton years made America stronger.  His pay-as-you-go spending policy is fiscally responsible.  The president's budget plans, which rely almost exclusively on the trickle-down effect of tax cuts to stimulate economic growth, are not.

The president has not been conservative in seeking changes to Social Security, the major social safety net for many of the nation's elderly.  He has fought to privatize the system but has no plan to cover the $2 trillion cost of doing so except to add to the burden future generations face.

Kerry opposes privatization of Social Security.  And he has pledged to protect the system.

Bush rightly argues that a president's first responsibility is to keep the nation's people safe.  But the best protection against terrorism comes not from concrete barricades and limited civil liberties but from the intelligence that foils plots and catches terrorists.  Gaining that intelligence requires the cooperation of all nations.  Bush's arrogant treatment of other nations has made that cooperation less likely.

We don't expect Kerry to work wonders.  But his election offers the best hope of healing the divisions at home and returning America to a place of respect in the world.  Bush had his chance and botched it badly.  It's time for a change.

Copyright © 2004 Concord Monitor.  Reprinted by Permission (Mike Pride, Dec. 22, 2004).

Mike Pride noted that the time of this endorsement was affected by when it wanted to run other endorsements, notably in the governor's race.  He said that editorial board sought "to make the case with fence sitters."