Sunday, October 24, 2004

 

Star-Ledger (NJ): John Kerry for president

New Jersey's biggest paper. This is good for Kerry, although he was always going to win NJ.
John Kerry for president

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, during another presidential debate, challenger Ronald Reagan dared voters to ask themselves: "'Are you better off than you were four years ago?... Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we're as strong as we were four years ago?"

Good questions, then and now. The answers for 2004, overwhelmingly, are no.

No, we're not better off than we were four years ago. In four years, the nation's budget surplus has been erased, and the national debt has soared to a staggering $7.4 trillion.

Nor are we as respected in the world as we once were and should be still. Three years ago, after 9/11, the entire world was in support of the United States, but that good will, too, has evaporated in the face of a foreign policy that could best be described as "'Cowboy Up."

Are we as secure and as strong as we were? No. Revelations of repeated intelligence failures, ones that continued long after 9/11, give us little comfort, even today, that we are well-protected.

George W. Bush has squandered his presidential inheritance: the reservoir of respect America gained in the 20th century, in great measure for its heroism in World Wars I and II and its leadership during the Cold War. At the same time, the Bush administration has rapidly eroded environmental and social welfare reforms achieved in previous administrations of both Republicans and Democrats.

President Bush does not deserve re-election. Sen. John Kerry, with his considerable international experience and sharp analytical mind, offers the country a chance to start afresh at home and abroad.For these and other reasons offered on the following page, The Star-Ledger endorses Kerry for president.

Three years after the recession of 2001, there are still 1 million fewer jobs than there were before it began, even as productivity has grown. Corporate profits are up, but growth is sluggish and oil prices, well, they are nothing if decidedly not sluggish.

George Bush's fiscal record in the view of even the ultra- conservative Club for Growth is "abysmal." John Kerry, at least, offers some sanity in promising to revoke the tax cuts lavished on those who earn more than $200,000.

The Bush record on the environment and science also is disheartening. More than 100 members of the National Academy of Sciences and 48 Nobel laureates have complained of the administration's attempts to distort, manipulate or ignore scientific evidence to influence policies on birth control, global warming, endangered species, stem cell research and on and on.

John Kerry, who 20 years ago was leading campaigns to solve problems such as acid rain, has pledged to end obstacles the Bush administration has created to meaningful stem cell research and has proposed a program to ease America's dependence on Middle East oil, important for the nation's security as well as the environment.

Bush's proposals to privatize Social Security and health insurance are radical departures that could create an America where only some people have access to medical coverage and a sense of financial security in retirement. It remains to be seen whether Kerry's ambitious proposals are viable, but, significantly, they do not abandon the concept that health care and the welfare of the elderly are proper venues for government concern.

What concerns us the most about the possibility of a second Bush administration, however, is the president's reckless, know-nothing approach to foreign policy as exhibited in the disastrous invasion of Iraq and his arrogant disregard for the nation's longtime allies.

It's well-established that the president and his advisers were itching to seek regime change in Iraq long before 9/11. The overriding desire to invade Iraq diluted the nation's efforts in Afghanistan to rout al Qaeda and capture Osama bin Laden.

That all-consuming goal led the Bush administration to accept flawed assessments of Saddam Hussein's threat to the United States and of what would be required to liberate Iraq.

As president, Kerry will have more options available to him than Bush to find a way to make the nation's investment in lives and resources in Iraq worthwhile.

This is true, in part, because Kerry has displayed a willingness to accept the notion that America's efforts to "democratize" Iraq are in grave peril. A president who accepts reality, rather than one who refuses to amend in any way his stubborn ideology, is more likely to find workable solutions.

Most important, John Kerry is more likely to find partners throughout the world than a president who has snubbed "old Europe," has abandoned numerous international efforts supported by earlier administrations and even discarded the Geneva Conventions as not applicable to the United States. It's not likely that nations such as France or Germany will commit troops to Iraq, but they surely would be more willing to consider assisting in the rebuilding of Iraq with George Bush gone.

Yes, there's a transition period when a new president is installed, and it could be dangerous. It is important to remember, however, that John Kerry with his years in the U.S. Senate would bring considerably more experience to the White House on day one than, say, a former governor of Texas.

Four years before Sept. 11, Kerry's book "The New War" described the changed world landscape at the end of the Cold War and, in part, addressed the specter of Islamic terrorism. Kerry would not enter the White House unprepared.

Kerry is knowledgeable about the world and the economy. He has demonstrated an ability to absorb information, focus on solutions and, yes, change his mind if the facts demand that he do so. George Bush has not.

For his political values and his realistic approach to the grave challenges ahead, we strongly endorse John Kerry for president.

Copyright 2004 NJ.com. All Rights Reserved.

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