I've spoken more about politics with my Dad in the last 4 months than I probably have in my entire life. Interestingly, we both feel very much the same about where our system is broken, and how, and about how the "human nature factor," as I call it, prevents the implementation of any purely idealistic solution, whatever the socialists or free-marketeers might tell you. Our proposed solutions to this are pretty widely divergent, unfortunately.
I think this is the item which picks at me most, and which I didn't see as clearly when I began these articles. The fact is, presented with the same exact evidence, people will come to many different conclusions, based upon who they are and their individual beliefs. These articles were meant to provide more of that "same information," so that we all were on the same page about our upcoming presidential election. In the end, as I've said, folks will make their choice based upon personal perception. But that perception can be colored by, if not changed by, the information -- the evidence -- at hand. I do believe, especially for those whose minds are not set, consuming the stories and articles and surveys I've recommended can make a difference in swaying votes away from George W. Bush, and toward John Kerry. That is, presented with the "facts," such as we are able to determine them, voters who are not ideologically tied to one party or another will lean toward Kerry.
Another point of interest I've discovered in this process is how differently politics is portrayed in the news, depending upon where you reside in this country. Information with which I've been bombarded these past months in Southern California seems to be barely a blip on the news in North Dakota. At the same time, shades of issues which seldom make our nightly news here have been getting large play there. In addition, surrounded by like-minded friends in a fairly liberal part of the country (we shouldn't take that for granted, however -- currently, Kerry is ahead of Bush by a disturbingly narrow margin in California), I tend to take some of my political assertions for granted. In the last Conservative Dad article, I referenced Bush's "inability to admit error." My assumption was, based upon the readily available information about the economy, Iraq, etc., and Bush's own admission at a press conference a few months ago and going on since then that he "would do everything exactly the same" and that he "couldn't think of any errors" (loosely quoted), that everyone recognized this trait in the administration. My Dad's simple and telling response: "Here I must say I do not *know* the errors that have been made, nor by whom they may have been made."
Fair enough. So, this second-to-last (as we are rapidly nearing November 2) Conservative Dad will take a slightly different format from previous installments. In this, I'll highlight the handful of broad, major failings I see in this administration, illustrated by various external articles (some new, some already hi-lighted). Basically, this is a rundown, on a macro scale, of why I think you should not vote to re-elect George Bush (sit back -- this will be a long one). Next week I'll focus on why you should vote for John Kerry.
The War in Iraq:
Going into Iraq was a poor choice by our president. While our congress voted to grant him the power to use military force if necessary (a vote with which I disagreed), I believe that the president mislead our elected officials regarding his desire to find a peaceful solution, and to work in concert, if possible, with our traditional allies. In addition, the president and his administration, unhappy with the pre-war conclusions of our usual intelligence and military planning group, created a new group in the DOJ specifically charged with finding reasons to invade Iraq, and whose "intelligence" painted the rosiest of pictures about that potential invasion, and what we'd need to "win" a war there. Ignoring then the less sunny intelligence and estimates of our military commanders and other experts, the administration drew up a plan for war in Iraq which relied upon broad, unrealistic, idealistic suppositions: that the war would be a cakewalk, that the Iraqi people would welcome the invasion, that there would be little or no post-war insurgence, that we could do it "on the cheap" with few soldiers on the ground for only a very short period, and that we'd have a friendly, deomcratically-elected government installed within a year or so of the invasion. All this, whether or not we were supported by the international community at large. It was a bad idea from the start, and I (and millions of others) said so -- we were dismissed as crazies. Of course the invasion itself went well -- we are the most powerful military force in the world, with soldiers whose skills are unparalleled and hardware the envy of all other nations. Still, we did not secure important locations, or prevent looting and chaos. And, since the invasion, the Bush administration has continually painted a picture of Iraq far rosier than those on the ground are telling, has shrouded the homecoming of our fallen soldiers in secrecy (not to mention the fact that Bush has not attended a single soldier's funeral), has kept the numbers of wounded secret (or difficult to extract), has not even bothered to officially count the Iraqi dead (civilian or military), and has generally failed to "win the peace" -- in fact, creating conditions which draw-in foreign fighters from across the borders, and create increasing hordes of local insurgents.
This is all important for three fundamental reasons:
While George W. Bush did not inherit a recession, as he claims (most economists point to March of 2001 as the beginning of the recession), he did inherit an economy down dramatically from its late-90's high point. However, his policies of reckless tax-cuts (aimed at entirely the wrong sector) and increased corporate welfare have exacerbated the problem, making way for our current so-called "jobless recovery." His continued disregard for the unemployed, the working poor and the struggling middle-class has created the largest income gap between the rich and the poor in our nation's modern history. Instead of addressing economic issues head-on, he pushes for permanent tax cuts, and touts underfunded education programs, despite the fact that even our college graduates are having increasing trouble finding jobs which pay above the wildly out-of-sync-with-cost-of-living minimum wage.
While all manner of "social issues" are at stake in this election, three large issues loom here, and all can be tied to a single point: Bush makes policy based entirely upon his religious views, regardless of the wider implications, or the prohibition of such actions under the First Amendment. Whether the issue is Stem Cell Research, Abortion, or Gay Marriage, the fundamental argument against these issues, the argument upon which this administration stands, is a religious one: the religion practiced by George W. Bush tells him these things are wrong and therefore they must be made illegal. Never mind our freedom to choose our own religious beliefs, which may contradict his. Never mind the lives which could be improved or even saved by any of these. His God tells him they are wrong, and we must all be subject to the perceived laws of his God, whatever we personally believe. Public policy should not be completely dictated by personal religious fervor. Of course religion will factor into a President's personal conviction, and the fundamental teachings of his religion will color how he leads. But his beliefs should not be forced onto the population at large. Our Constitution specifically prohibits religious rule, and rightly so.
Simply put, Bush is no friend of the environment. He has systematically undone most of the environmental protections the Clinton administration won, whether by cutting funding, slashing enforcement, or simply cutting the programs outright. His "healthy forests" plan is a mockery of the Forest Service's recommendation for undergrowth and small-tree thinning, and his "Clear Skies" plan is a fundamental step backward from our existing Clean Air Act. His close personal relationship with the Fossil Fuel industry (Coal and Oil, especially) perpetuates a dangerous trend toward pollution rather than away from it, and causes him and his to ignore Global Warming entirely. His lip-service to a "hydrogen highway" (an imaginative but thoroughly impractical plan which, even if properly funded and effective, provides a possible solution that is 20 - 30 or more years away) totally ignores the pressing environmental (and economical) issues faced right now by our dependence on oil as our primary source of energy. To put it bluntly, Bush is tied too tightly to big corporate energy and chemical interests to give a crap about the environment.
*A note. All of these articles are availible to read for free. Salon.com articles require you sit through a 15 second advertsiement in order to receive a "Day Pass" to Salon content. Other sites may do the same. It's painless, I assure you, and worth it.