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John Simkin

Kerry/Edwards v Bush/Cheney

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I am currently teaching Thoreau in our Western Civlization and Culture class. It seems timely to quote from his "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience":

"All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers and backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail."

I only missed one Presidential election since I became 21. However, I am seriously considering whether or not this is one to skip. As Derek pointed out - voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. I would really like to vote FOR something, rather than AGAINST someone - but as Thoreau says, it's pretty much a game - and maybe it's a game I should refuse to play. Maybe I could give my vote to an Iraqi...

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I only missed one Presidential election since I became 21.  However, I am seriously considering whether or not this is one to skip.  As Derek pointed out - voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.  I would really like to vote FOR something, rather than AGAINST someone - but as Thoreau says, it's pretty much a game - and maybe it's a game I should refuse to play.  Maybe I could give my vote to an Iraqi...

I am surprised to hear you say this. I can understand why you are unwilling to vote for George Bush (probably the worst president in American history). However, what have you got against John Kerry and Ralph Nader? Surely, any failure to vote will only help Bush. If you don’t want your vote, can I have it?

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I am surprised to hear you say this. I can understand why you are unwilling to vote for George Bush (probably the worst president in American history). However, what have you got against John Kerry and Ralph Nader? Surely, any failure to vote will only help Bush. If you don’t want your vote, can I have it?

I"m not sure why you're surprised, given the quote I provide from Thoreau. Since you asked, here's what I have against John Kerry: he's focused on the wrong things. In his desire to get elected, he's RESPONDING to what he perceives to be desires from the electorate. He presents himself as a warrior, because he thinks that's what the public wants. That doesn't seem to work, so he tries something else. Where's the leadership? Where's the vision? I also have no confidence that he has any conception of the mess in Iraq. He says he'll begin withdrawing troops within 6 months of his taking office. Is that in fact what is needed? Has he really examined our options? Or is he just saying this because he thinks that's what people want to hear?

If I do vote, it may well be for Nader. I've always respected Nader's stand on environmental issues, and I think those issues are the most critical ones we face in the long term. I also would like to see a disruption of the "two-party" system here. However, I believe Thoreau was correct about voting.

Sorry, John, you can't have my vote. I offered it to an Iraqi first.

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In most situations people tend to vote for people they want to become president or prime minister. However, in some cases, people need to use their vote to remove someone from power. Bush has been a disastrous leader of the United States. Things will only get worse if he is re-elected. For example, it is believed that he will order an all-out attack on areas under the control of the resistance in Iraq in February. I believe that people all over the world are looking for the American voters to get rid of Bush. This can only be done by voting for Kerry.

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The Republicans have nurtured their natural supporters while also reaching out. Hence Bush's advocacy of an amendment to the constitution forbidding same-sex marriage. This was never going to be passed, but it reassured the Christian Right that he was one of them. The Democrats, though, often seem strangely negligent of their core voters. Kerry has been almost silent during the campaign on abortion rights, for instance, and it is Bush, not he, who is currently enjoying a surge in female support.

But the problem, crucially, is Kerry himself. He is intelligent, experienced, thoughtful, brave and very rich - but (thus far) an unconvincing candidate. When caught off guard on camera, Bush's eyes can look vacant or perplexed, but his body is usually at ease. In the same position, Kerry often appears contorted and worried, as well he might. And because he lacks physical ease and charisma, and his voice does not soar, even his most searching speeches have only a limited impact. As the historian Richard Hofstadter observed, there is a long, disreputable tradition of anti-intellectualism in American politics, and Bush's studiously plain, sometimes stumbling language resonates with this very successfully. Kerry's speaking style, by contrast, is clever enough to alienate, without being so powerful as to compel attention anyway.

This matters because historically it has always been difficult for challengers to defeat US presidents who have completed a full term and who are seeking another. On the very few occasions that the challenger has won, the incumbent has usually been visibly a failure in some way while the challenger has been manifestly first class and formidable. Thus Woodrow Wilson was able to make short work of the hapless Taft in 1912; Franklin D Roosevelt demolished Hoover in 1932, before going on to win the presidency a record three times more; and a youthful Bill Clinton trounced George Bush Sr in 1992 by making him look stiff and old by comparison. In 2004, however, the incumbent president is not yet so damaged, nor is his opponent yet so remarkable as to make a political upset of this sort appear very likely.

But it could happen if Kerry and the Democrats came up with an alternative political narrative. In the US - and elsewhere - successful parties need a storyline that voters can relate to, an intelligible plot of some sort, especially now that so many older, formal ideologies have lost force. For proof of this, one has only to look at Margaret Thatcher's career and ideas. She won successive elections in large part because she and her advisers contrived, quite consciously, a more effective British story than her opponents. True, it was a highly selective and deeply divisive story. But it cohered, and for a decade or more it worked.

President Bush, however, does have a story, though a rudimentary one. It goes like this: America is the greatest, most exceptional nation in history; beacon and leader of the free world. But it is threatened from without by terrorists, insurgents, the French and cheap exports, while higher taxes and too much questioning of traditional values would corrode it from within. But he will keep Americans safe and strong. And he will keep them free. This is the storyline Democrats need to challenge and replace, while being careful to preserve their patriotic credentials.

The task is hard but not impossible. To a degree that Europeans do not always understand, very many Americans, and not just Democrats, are troubled at present. For all their fierce nationalism, many dislike appearing as an invading empire. For all their traditional isolationism, many are appalled by the level of anti-Americanism that now exists around the world. For all their natural, post 9/11 fears, many believe that the Patriot Act has eroded too many American liberties, and provoked too much pessimism and paranoia. Millions in the States dislike Bush intensely, and many millions more would be open to persuasion by a plausible challenger. But the Democrats need to be seen to be offering a different, more generous, more hopeful and more open political narrative. The materials are there. It is just time that's short.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1313410,00.html

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Ok John - you'll be happy. I've become convinced that I need to vote for Kerry/Edwards. The two debates so far (not counting the one tonight, of course) have turned my head - and I just watched "Farenhiet 9/11". Propaganda, of course, but effective and true in the essentials of class warfare and aggression as the option of FIRST resort. I'm calling a friend to get a "Kerry/Edwards" sign to stick in my front yard in the midst of Republican Woodford County.

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Ok John - you'll be happy.  I've become convinced that I need to vote for Kerry/Edwards.  The two debates so far (not counting the one tonight, of course) have turned my head - and I just watched "Farenhiet 9/11".  Propaganda, of course, but effective and true in the essentials of class warfare and aggression as the option of FIRST resort.  I'm calling a friend to get a "Kerry/Edwards" sign to stick in my front yard in the midst of Republican Woodford County.

Great news. I suspect that with the closeness of the election, other Nader supporters will decide to vote for Kerry instead.

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Here it comes again, that sinking feeling. Four years ago I traveled across the US, following the presidential campaign, and came away alarmed that Al Gore was not doing enough to win an election that should have been his. Now I have that same queasy feeling - except this time it's not only about the simple matter of who will win and who will lose on November 2. Now it's a deep concern about what is happening to the United States itself.

Start with the contest. Of course, after the 2000 melodrama, only an idiot would dare predict the outcome of this election. The polls are a statistical breath apart - though the latest all nudge in President Bush's direction - and the electoral college system means any number of twists are possible. Holding the states that should be reliably his, coupled with even a small uptick in Democratic turnout in the single state of Ohio, could still win the presidency for John Kerry.

But the intangible, unscientific indicators - of mood, of atmosphere - leave me anxious. The events I saw on Monday are a good example. The morning was spent in Marlton, a small town in the rural south of New Jersey. The community center there was packed for a Bush rally, filled with the usual cast of characters - the local pols, the dedicated volunteers, the women in stars-and-stripes sweaters. I was expecting enthusiasm from this loyal Republican audience. What I saw was fervor.

The ear-splitting applause began before the candidate was in the room, stirred by the thunderous sound of Marine One - the presidential chopper - overhead. Once Bush entered, it was uncontained. He was received as a hero, his every sentence greeted with a rapturous ovation.

His theme was "A Safer America"; his argument, that only he could protect the US. His opponent was weak, proposing a "strategy of retreat". He would "take the fight to the enemy". His opponent "had chosen the easy path of protest and defeatism", he stood firm and resolute: "We will not let up in this fight."

Every statement, delivered and punched home by Bush, brought a new wave of euphoria. "You'll keep us safe!" shouted one man. "Amen!" said another, before finally the room erupted in a chorus: "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!"

The very sight of Bush in New Jersey was a mark of confidence: the state, which has not voted Republican since 1988, should be firmly in the Kerry column. But that self-belief was entirely in keeping with the mood of the crowd. Asked if Bush was going to win the election, none hesitated: absolutely.

Later that day, Kerry's running mate was performing in the next-door state of Pennsylvania. That the energy would be of lower voltage here was obvious; John Edwards is not at the top of the ticket. The contrast was striking, all the same. Edwards is a smooth, effective performer, but the room was hardly electrified. People wandered in and out; the applause was strong but not fervent. Asked if they thought they would win on November 2, these Democratic loyalists ummed and erred: they hoped so but were not certain.

You can hardly blame them. America's center of gravity has moved rightward, creating a set of shibboleths that cannot be challenged. If liberals established a few forbidden zones in the last 20 years under the rubric of so-called political correctness - making it off-limits to demean women, gays and ethnic minorities - then the right has now erected some barriers of its own.

First among these taboos is the military. No politician can utter a word that seems to question the armed services: so Kerry does not mention the Abu Ghraib scandal. Next is 9/11, which has been all but sanctified in American discourse. Because of that event, the US has re-imagined itself as a victim nation: witness the yellow-ribbon bumper stickers, usually bearing the slogan "Support America". (Ribbons were previously reserved for the suffering: red for Aids, pink for breast cancer.)

As a result, any action taken in the name of 9/11 cannot be questioned. Oppose the Patriot Act, with its restrictions on civil liberties, and you are a friend of the terrorists - and, if you are a Democratic congressional candidate, Republicans will air TV ads against you placing your face alongside that of Osama bin Laden.

Show concern for international opinion, and you are some kind of traitor. Kerry spoke French to a Haitian audience in Florida on Monday, the first time he had done so in public for many months: even to appear to have links with the outside world is a negative in today's politics, which has become all about America first.

All this is partly caused by, and certainly reinforces, that gut feeling of certainty that animates today's American right. Bill Clinton used to joke that when Democrats are in the White House, they think they are renting it. Republicans believe they own the place.

The proof came during the Clinton years, culminating in the impeachment process: Republicans fundamentally did not accept the legitimacy of a Democratic president. Something similar was on display in Florida in 2000: the Republicans were determined and disciplined, convinced power should belong to them. That's what I saw in that hall in Marlton and why I am anxious about these next 13 days: when it comes to the dogfight of winning this close contest, I suspect the Republicans will simply be more ruthless about seizing the prize. But this political sense of entitlement has an extra edge, one embodied by the president himself. For his inner certainty is about more than partisan affiliation. It is a question of faith.

George Bush is a born-again Christian, one of the 42% of Americans who describe themselves that way. Other presidents were religious, but Bush seems to have created something new - what even some of his allies call "the faith-based presidency".

A striking profile in Sunday's New York Times magazine interviewed a clutch of Republican insiders who had discovered that belief is the organizing principle of the Bush White House. Advisers, even cabinet members, are simply meant to believe in the wisdom of the president, whatever countervailing evidence there may be. Bush's former environment secretary, Christine Todd Whitman, is quoted: "In meetings, I'd ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!" Senators are told not to worry about the complexities of Iraq; the president's "instincts", his "gut" tells him he's doing the right thing.

"This instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do," Bruce Bartlett, a Republican and former official in Bush's father's administration, tells the magazine. At a recent campaign event, one voter told Bush he truly believed God was now in the White House: the president did not argue.

Most revealing of all is the phrase used by a Bush aide to dismiss the inquiries of the New York Times writer. The journalist is told he lives in "the reality-based community". People like him worry about observable facts, while the Bush camp lives in a different universe, a realm where belief shapes reality.

Look hard enough and you can see this mindset in the current Bush campaign. The Bush-Cheney billboards with the single slogan: One Nation Under God. The unwavering certainty of the supporters in Marlton. Bush's inability to name a single mistake of his presidency. There can be no doubt; they are doing the Lord's work.

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1020-22.htm

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The unmaking of the president 2004 began on September 11 2001. By September 10, George Bush's poll numbers had reached 50%, the lowest of any president at that early point in his tenure. Having lost the popular majority in the 2000 election and being delivered the presidency by a five-to-four Supreme Court decision, Bush operated as though he had triumphed with a full-throated mandate.

From the start, Bush ran a government based on secrecy, handed over the departments and agencies to more than 100 industry executives and lobbyists appointed to key positions, and exhibited belligerence towards anyone who raised a question about his right-wing imperatives. His bullying prompted Republican Senator James Jeffords of Vermont to cross the aisle, throwing control of the Senate to the Democrats. In only months, Bush's incompetence and arrogance had induced paralysis. He had already run his course.

After September 11, as his poll numbers soared, Bush wrapped his radical agenda in the cloak of commander-in-chief. Now he would attempt to implement Karl Rove's ambition of a one-party state and the neo-conservatives' plan for an American imperium. Bush believed he had permanent political capital to forge a factional partisan political realignment. Afghanistan, almost unanimously supported in the country, solidified his popularity and certainty.

The conservative wish-list came off the shelf. Civil liberties were curtailed in the Patriot Act, extremists were nominated as federal judges, environmental protections ravaged, and resources shifted from Afghanistan to prepare for Bush's ultimate objective - Iraq.

The mid-term elections of 2002 ratified Bush's hyper-radicalism. In the face of the "war president", the congressional Democratic leadership demonstrated political ineptitude, division and confusion, and the Republicans tarred them as unpatriotic. Bush's belief in his inevitability became more intoxicating.

After the Iraq "cakewalk", Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in uniform, proclaiming: "Mission accomplished." At home, he encountered no checks and balances from Congress. The fourth estate conducted press conferences as though suffering aphasia.

The testimony of Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism chief, that the Bush administration had been indifferent to terrorism, shattered the atmosphere of silent obedience. His truth-telling encouraged the revolt of professionals throughout the national security bureaucracies - the CIA and other intelligence services, the military, and the State Department. Then the rationales for the war crumbled when no WMD were found and the "cakewalk" turned into a bloody quagmire.

Suddenly, the Democrats came to life, providing a forum and focus for outrage against Bush's policies. At first, the movement gathered around Howard Dean, but with his stumbles he was not the man for the mission. Bush had counted on the Democrats once again picking an earnest but easily defeated candidate, but they turned instead to John Kerry.

From March and through the early summer, Bush's campaign spent more than $100m in negative commercials trying to disqualify Kerry. Yet Kerry remained even, and with the Democratic convention pulled slightly ahead.

In a typical Bush operation, he outsourced the smears to a group that filled the airwaves with lies about Kerry's genuine record of war heroism in Vietnam. The media, mostly cable TV, acted as conduit for Bush's falsehoods, and Kerry was tarnished. At the Republican convention, speaker after speaker stressed the Democrats' effeminacy - "girly men" - and hailed Bush as all-wise commander-in-chief. Once again, Bush believed he was impregnable.

All he had to do was finesse the debates. But he was humiliated in all three. Kerry, however, possessed clarity, intelligence and maturity. Bush's response was a new ad, featuring wolves about to leap through the TV screen. But the projection of fear only exposed his vulnerability.

The "war president" has fallen victim to his own hubris. As Thucydides wrote: "To conceive extravagant pretensions from success in war is to forget how hollow is the confidence by which you are elated. For if many ill-conceived plans have succeeded through the still greater fatuity of an oppo nent, many more, apparently well laid, have on the contrary ended in disgrace."

Meanwhile, the people's own mobilisation has produced new voter registrations in the millions, and hundreds of thousands of activists have spread in the last week throughout the battleground states. The Republicans desperately cast out ploys to suppress these voters, many of them African-American. In the end, the American people refuse to be frightened into becoming an unrecognisable nation that disdains, as the Declaration of Independence said, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1337485,00.html

Edited by Sidney Blumenthal

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The unmaking of the president 2004 began on September 11 2001. By September 10, George Bush's poll numbers had reached 50%, the lowest of any president....

From the start, Bush ran a government based on secrecy, handed over the departments and agencies to more than 100 industry executives and lobbyists appointed to key positions, and exhibited belligerence towards anyone who raised a question.....Bush wrapped his radical agenda in the cloak of commander-in-chief. ...implement Karl Rove's ambition of a one-party state and the neo-conservatives' plan for an American imperium.

The conservative wish-list came off the shelf. Civil liberties were curtailed in the Patriot Act, extremists were nominated as federal judges, environmental protections ravaged..........

The mid-term elections of 2002 ratified Bush's hyper-radicalism....

The testimony of Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism chief, that the Bush administration had been indifferent to terrorism, shattered the atmosphere of silent obedience. His truth-telling encouraged the revolt of professionals throughout the national security bureaucracies - the CIA and other intelligence services, the military, and the State Department. Then the rationales for the war crumbled when no WMD were found.......

Suddenly, the Democrats came to life, ...Howard Dean, but with his stumbles........instead to John Kerry.

From March and through the early summer, Bush's campaign spent more than $100m sh operation, he outsourced the smears .......

All he had to do was finesse the debates. But he was humiliated in all three.

The "war president" has fallen victim to his own hubris. As Thucydides wrote: "To conceive extravagant pretensions from success in war is to forget how hollow is the confidence by which you are elated. For if many ill-conceived plans have succeeded through the still greater fatuity of an oppo nent, many more, apparently well laid, have on the contrary ended in disgrace."

The Republicans desperately cast out ploys to suppress these voters, many of them African-American. In the end, the American people refuse to be frightened into becoming an unrecognisable nation that disdains, as the Declaration of Independence said, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1337485,00.html

Sidney Blumenthal is accurate as far as he goes,

and I highlight main points which I agree with.

The neoconservative agenda was to reverse the strategic results 1979, the

Fall of the Shah. I link the aggressive Iraq pre-emptive war effort to the Carter administration's notorious "loss" of the Shah of Iran as air/ground ally to the Radical Students of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

Without the great Soviet counterweight on the north border, the strategic Iran-like ground base can be regained.

Mr. Helms would be pleased.

Jimmy Carter's "loss" of the Shah sets the stage for

Cheney and Rumsfeld view

of the strategic ground game in the middle east - they saw a status quo ante visavis the 1978 Carter administrations relationship to the Shah -

in Iraq as a goal for Bush II.

The Shah in the early 1970's had cooperated with Libya Muammar Khadafi and Iraq's Saddam Hussein (protege's of Nasser) in the oil price hike.

Jack Anderson (FIASCO 1976) shows the Nixon administration weak and poorly united in addressing the commodity price re-arrangements which Carter and Ford inherited, the inflation which destroyed them both.

The Middle East with allies only on Israeli and Saudi bases was too 'weak' and a return to the Pre-1978 situation was the burning desire of neoconservatives, and after the cold war ended, the Iran Iraq area became a less globally volatile place, (ie no nuclear or US/USSR war would now follow).

Iraq with its notorious bogeyman Saddam Hussein became a pretext for the strategic return of Iran 1978 style US Middle East presence.

Reversing of all things Carter, fear of conservation, cabinet turnover or environmental law on the domestic level is overshadowed by the neoconservatives willingness to commence and initiate aggressive war to turn the clock back to the good old days of the shah of iran as our western US air/ground ally in the Middle East.......

Shanet Clark

Edited by Shanet Clark

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