Philadelphia Daily News

Wednesday June 16, 2004


LAST WEEK, the nation looked to the past with the death of President Ronald Reagan.

This week, the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John F. Kerry, suspended out of respect to the deceased 40th president, start fresh.

In that spirit, this newspaper, the first in the nation, endorses John Kerry for president. Unlike the current White House occupant, Kerry can lead America to a brighter, better future. He has shown the personal courage, compassion, intellect and skill to lead this country in a time of war abroad and economic troubles at home. He is a serious man for a serious time.

Why make this endorsement now, when the election is months away?

Because this race promises to be close and Pennsylvania is one of 18 swing states that can go to either candidate. For Kerry supporters to prevail they must do more than just vote, they must bring a ringer into this contest: the more than a million people in the region who did not vote in the last presidential election. We believe these non-voters - who will have to be mobilized over the next few months - are the key to victory.

On the next page, we outline a strategy to make sure Pennsylvania lands in the Kerry win column. We will further make the case for Kerry in future editorials.

For now, let's concentrate on the current president and why he must be defeated.


George W. Bush received - and deserved - praise for his leadership during the dark days immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But since then, the Bush administration has been marked by failure - failure to shepherd the country through a tough economic downturn, failure to keep the nation focused on the true enemies to our security.

He has failed in even the one challenge he set out for himself at the beginning of his administration - to bring the country together. His has been one of the most ideologically driven and divisive administrations in recent times.

Instead of moving forward, the country has been on the wrong track. These last four years have been wasted.

Bush wasted the opportunity to lead an international movement against al Qaeda, the real terrorist threat. Instead he has led us, with false intelligence, into a senseless war. In less than two weeks, the United States will hand over control of Iraq to the Iraqis. But our troops will remain - and will have to remain for years to come.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, there was a sense of national unity. Bush wasted the moment by deciding to appease the most strident in his conservative base, opposing gay marriages, gagging abortion information and giving comfort to the more irresponsible voices in the National Rifle Association.

Bush was left with a trillion-dollar surplus at the end of the Clinton administration. The president took the money and wasted it with tax cuts for the wealthiest. As the deficits rose to record levels, the "tax cuts fix everything" ideology prevented his administration from changing what clearly is the wrong course.

While the last three months have seen an increase in new jobs, there still is a net downturn for the Bush years. Many of the new jobs pay less. Health- care costs are skyrocketing, the number of uninsured is rising. People are struggling and, in a second Bush administration, would struggle even more.

The Office of Management and Budget has warned federal agencies of big cuts to veterans benefits, Head Start and - yes - homeland security.

Conveniently for Bush's campaign, those cuts will occur after Americans vote Nov. 2.


Given the challenges, whom should we trust to lead the nation for the next four years? The man whose incompetence helped create some of the problems?

No. We have a much better choice in Sen. John Kerry.

John Kerry's long life in the national spotlight has been defined by steadfast support for the principled and intelligent use of American power in the world. His proposals - not to mention the administration that he will create - promise new hope for America.

Like Bush, Kerry was born to wealth and privilege. Like Bush, he went to prep schools and then to Yale. But in little else since then has Kerry been like Bush, who acts as if his presidency is a birthright left over by his father.

Kerry acknowledges that his privileges left him with a responsibility to serve and an ambition to lead. And he has - from combat in the Navy, then as the cleancut (and therefore highly effective) leader of the Vietnam veterans' anti-war movement, as a prosecutor in Boston, and in four terms in the U.S. Senate.

He is not the indecisive waffler the Bush team would have you believe. Instead, he is offering a concrete, pragmatic direction for the nation.

On the issue of high unemployment he is proposing changing the tax laws that give U.S. companies incentives to outsource jobs to India and China.

Kerry promises to roll back the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 to help cut the federal deficit and help pay for his health-care program, which seeks to expand coverage. He will withdraw the special privileges given to polluting industries and the oil companies as we work toward freeing ourselves from dependence on oil from the Middle East.

On homeland security, Kerry understands that if we are attacked again, the first to respond will be firefighters and emergency medical teams, which have been largely ignored by the Bush administration. Kerry is proposing recruiting an additional 100,000 firefighters. Bill Clinton did the same with police during his term. Afterward, crime went down across the country. Coincidence? Hardly.

On Iraq, there's little evidence that Bush can enlist the international help necessary to bring more of our troops home. There's reason to believe that Kerry, who understands the human cost of war, will.

Kerry's personal style is, to put it mildly, reserved in public. But outside of the public eye, Kerry shows an engaging and energetic Yankee spirit as he rides a motorcycle, skis and snowboards, plays hockey and flies his own plane.

Because he respects the intelligence of the American people, he rarely talks in sound bites.

He understands that sound bites aren't solutions. Kerry's positions, while sometimes complicated, are grounded in reality, not in doctrines developed in think tanks.

He has surrounded himself with advisers, many from the Clinton administration, who have real-world experience on the economy, national security and on fighting terror. They know how to win wars. They did it in Bosnia and Kosovo, wars where we actually had an exit strategy.

Kerry, who fought in the swamps of Vietnam, can lead us out of the quagmire of the Bush administration - but for that to happen, he will need your help.


Past presidential election strategies focused on the "undecided" or "swing" voters. This election, we're pushing a different strategy: We're focusing on the people poll-takers call "unlikely" voters.

According to polls, actual swing voters - people who could vote for either President Bush or Kerry - have dwindled to an overrated few.

But there are 18 "swing" states that are the keys to victory for John Kerry. These are the states that Bush or Al Gore won by 6 percent or less of the vote, states where the number of likely voters for Bush or Kerry are evenly matched. These are the battleground states.

Several important states, like New Jersey, are firmly in Kerry's corner. Pennsylvania, with its 21 electoral votes, is one of the most critical and hotly contested.

Four years ago in Pennsylvania, Gore got 2.4 million votes, Bush got 2.2 million and Ralph Nader 103,392.

But 4 million people didn't vote for any of them.

The goal is to find among those 4 million non-voters new Kerry supporters and get them to register by Oct. 4 and then vote on Nov. 2. In this goal, the Philadelphia region is crucial.

While the rest of the state tilts heavily Republican, Philadelphia has a rich vein of Democratic votes, which has not always been mined. It's because of Philadelphia voters that Clinton and Gore have won the state in the past.

For sure, workers for President Bush are busy registering voters and working hard on turnout in other parts of the state.

The contest is engaged.

Copyright © 2004 Philadelphia Daily News.  Reprinted by permission.  (Frank Burgos June 22, 2004)

"The editorial board, made up of six members and an editorial page editor, along with the editor and publisher of the newspaper, help decide presidential endorsements. The endorsement was discussed over several meetings."
Joe Natoli, Publisher    Zack Stalberg, Editor    Frank Burgos, Editorial Page Editor    Michael Schefer, Deputy Edit. Page Editor
Carol Towarnicky   Sandy Shea   Al Hunter   Elmer Smith, editorial writers     Signe Wilkinson, editorial cartoonist

...Knight-Ridder.  Circulation - Daily about 150,000.  No Sunday edition.