"Time for a change", says Charlotte Observer
My hometown paper, the Charlotte Observer, joins the N&O in endorsing the 44th President of the United States, John F. Kerry. The whole of it is contained below. This is for two reasons. One, it pretty much sums up the case against Bush. Two, the Observer requires a registration, which is kind of a pain in the ass. Read on, though.
When a president is seeking re-election, the contest is inevitably a referendum on his service.
There is much to like about George W. Bush. After 9-11, he provided strong leadership, rallying and reassuring the nation in a splendid speech, then invading Afghanistan to strike at al-Qaida and topple the Taliban. The recent elections there are evidence of fragile but encouraging progress.
He pushed public schools to be more accountable through his No Child Left Behind program -- an effort pioneered in some states, including North Carolina. He slashed taxes and helped create a prescription drug benefit for Medicare. He assembled a Cabinet that looks like America, with blacks, Hispanics and women in key roles.
President Bush is not afraid to make hard decisions, whatever the political cost. He is a man of solid, enduring values who approaches his job with prayer, cherishes his family and loves his nation. Those qualities will earn him many votes.
Why, then, do we think change is needed?One further quality is indispensable for the chief executive: judgment. We think George W. Bush has made the wrong choices on too many matters important to our country. We will focus on three: Iraq, the tax cuts and the deficit.
Iraq: We do not fault the president for leading America into war. Sometimes nations must act in uncertain situations because failure to do so could be disastrous. If President Bush had reason to believe the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction -- almost everyone agreed they did -- and he believed those weapons might wind up in the hands of anti-American terrorists, he had to act.
The Observer's editorial board supported his belief that Iraq must be dealt with -- by force, if necessary -- but not the way he chose to do it. While one part of the Bush administration sought support from the U.N. and major allies, another scorned the U.N. and scoffed at some allies' concerns. Better diplomacy might have produced a surer judgment about Iraq's weaponry, a broader coalition and a better post-invasion effort. If U.N. inspectors had been given more time in Iraq, what they learned might have prevented our reliance on intelligence reports that in every major way were wrong -- not only about the presence of weapons of mass destruction, but also about what might happen after we removed Saddam.
The Bush administration planned well for the battle but not for what came next. Our forces were ill-prepared to oversee the transition of power. Hesitation and confusion at the top permitted bloodshed and chaos on the streets. Miscalculations about how and where to crack down allowed the rise of the resistance that's responsible for the beheadings, bombings and street-by-street combat that costs dearly in lives and money and keeps Iraq's future in doubt. The scandal at Abu Ghraib, our inept post-war effort and our reliance on unreliable intelligence have shaken world confidence in America's competence.
Tax cuts: President Bush is not to blame for the recession or for job losses. No president is. But he could have done more to help the jobless, particularly with health care and additional benefits. And he might have used his tax cuts to do more for the Americans who need help most.
The president's tax cuts, combined with increased federal spending, did help the economic recovery. But the Americans benefiting most from the tax cuts over time will be the very wealthiest. At an $800-a-plate dinner in New York in 2000, candidate Bush remarked, "What an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base." He smiled as he said it, but he has served them well. Had he chosen to, he could have used some temporary as well as permanent tax cuts, put more money in the hands of the struggling middle class and spurred job growth by funding badly needed infrastructure improvements in cities and states.
The deficit: Under President Bush, Washington embarked on what the American Conservative Union called "a national spending spree of historic proportions." By cutting taxes while letting federal spending soar, Congress was guilty of gross fiscal irresponsibility. Democrats as well as Republicans made it happen, and President Bush went along. Ronald Reagan vetoed 22 spending bills during his first three years in office. President Bush is on track to become the first full-term chief executive in 175 years to not veto a single bill.
In a report published in January, the conservative Heritage Foundation said:
"Federal spending's drag on the economy is now over $20,000 per household -- its highest level since World War II -- and growing. Mandatory spending reached 11 percent of GDP for the first time ever. The recent Medicare drug bill represents a huge long-term burden on the fiscal health of this country. It was a massive entitlement expansion passed with no financing program to pay for it and is estimated by CBO to cost well over $2 trillion over a 20-year period. The final check for this program will come due just when Social Security and Medicare run out of money.
"Spending has increased twice as fast under President Bush as it did under President Clinton. From 2001 to 2003 total spending grew by 16 percent. Certainly the terror attacks of 9-11 placed additional demands on spending for homeland security, a strong defense, and rebuilding New York. However, this accounts for less than half of the new spending that has occurred since 9-11. What was so sorely lacking during this time was self-discipline required to balance fiscal priorities."
Recent polls find more than 50 percent of Americans think our nation is headed in the wrong direction. We agree that on many scientific policies, the environment, poverty, international relations, judicial appointments and civil rights, America needs a new course.
We're concerned, too, about how the Bush White House works. Some say it is a rigid, secretive place where on some vital issues dissenting opinions are not welcome and criticism is not heard. To some, it may be reassuring that a president can survey the past three-plus years and see no mistake worth mentioning. To us, it's alarming.
Why Sen. Kerry?
Why do we think John Kerry would do better?
We believe Sen. Kerry, like President Bush, would have gone after al-Qaida in Afghanistan and removed the Taliban government that gave them sanctuary. The course President Bush is now following in Iraq is difficult but necessary, and we think Sen. Kerry would follow it.
Sen. Kerry might have used a more deliberative approach to Iraq that could have found there was no immediate danger and thus offered options for dealing with the threat. Pre-emptive war is always an option, but rarely should be the first one. Promoting democracy abroad is the right goal; conquest isn't often the best way to do it.
The president is right, too, in saying we must combat terrorists where they are. Military force is an important part of that effort. So is working with other nations to disrupt communications, training and financing and make sure terrorists find no havens. We believe Sen. Kerry understands that.
The president calls Sen. Kerry a waffler. Some of that is nonsense, a slick misinterpretation of the astonishing number of votes a legislator takes over the years on motions and amendments and proposals that mean little when taken out of context. But some of it reflects an evolution in John Kerry's thinking as changes in circumstances lead to changes in response. To change your mind easily and often is a sign of frivolousness; to never change it is a sign of brain death. Too much certainty can be a dangerous thing.
Sen. Kerry, like President Bush, plans some ambitious initiatives during the next four years. Unlike President Bush, he promises to launch only those programs that can be funded without increasing the deficit. He promises no tax increases for households with incomes less than $200,000. Will he be fiscally responsible? We're not sure. We are sure President Bush hasn't been. Few in Washington have much credibility in that area.
Uncertainty accompanies every change. But Sen. Kerry is an intelligent man of proven courage and calm judgment who, unlike President Bush, would be dealing with a Congress controlled by the opposition, which tends to moderate actions by both parties. With deepest respect for President Bush's accomplishments, we think it's time for a change.