Thursday, July 01, 2004

is George Bush the Antichrist?

As always, the Air Marshal provokes mega-cogitation. A recent IM discussion makes me want to review my position on a few matters re: Bush and Kerry, and how I'd vote.

Apparently, it wasn't entirely clear from my blogging history that I'm not planning to vote for either Bush or Kerry. I say so explicitly here and here. My position's evolved, but it hasn't evolved much. Early on, I was willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt*, but now I can't.

[*"benefit of the doubt" = if someone put a gun to my head and told me I absolutely had to vote for one or the other... i.e., not a willing choice]

The Air Marshal's position is, if I understand correctly, that neither candidate is good, but Bush has proven to be bad, as in bad for America. Therefore it's imperative to boot his ass out. I sympathize: the current "good news" about the economy translates, I think, more as "better than the previous news," not as bona fide good news. The sitting president is a profligate spender; Clinton was more fiscally conservative than Bush; Andrew Sullivan's blog is a long litany on this point. What's more, we don't seem to have a clear exit strategy in Iraq, and now it sounds like the Army's mobilizing thousands more reserve troops.

Bush is also a social conservative, and I won't rehash the ins and outs of that here. Suffice it to say that, while I don't consider myself politically liberal or conservative, I'm no religious conservative by any means (please visit my sidebar and learn the horrifying truth as you read essay after essay on religious pluralism). Plus-- Good Lord!-- I'm pro-gay marriage. This means Bush and I don't see eye to eye about a lot of important issues.

At the same time, I'm for smaller government, though it seems Bush is for bigger government. I'm also in favor of continuing our project in Iraq, despite the mess, despite the problems. Why? Because abandoning the project will create the chaos we fear.

But the Air Marshal also sniffs the air and sees that I have it in for Kerry. Yeah, he's right. I don't like Kerry at all. A few points in our exchange:

BigHo: Kerry whores his military record.
AM: It's naive to think that others don't.

At this point I have to hit the pause button and question why it's naive to despise this practice. I never said I was unaware that others don't do this, and this blog is one huge ode to political cynicism, so I reject the charge of naiveté.

The Air Marshal makes the excellent point that Cheney and Bush don't exactly have the glittering medals that John Kerry has (or had, or threw away, or didn't throw away, or whatever). I agree; Kerry probably makes the Bush camp nervous in this regard (though I should point to people like John Moore at Useful Fools who are deconstructing Kerry's service record).

I'd also be willing to grant that Kerry might bring the economy back in line, though I'd have to read up on his plans for the economy (some info here at his official site, but it's vague). I'm sure that, even at his worst, Kerry's leadership would be somewhat better for the economy. However, we do have to keep in mind that presidents don't have the massive influence over the economy we attribute to them. I personally wonder, sometimes, about Clinton's economic hayride: he did have to work with a Republican Congress, after all, and some of the big gurus of the day were GOPers like Alan Greenspan (whose mojo appears to have dwindled under Bush).

I also suspect that Kerry will be more in line with where I stand on social issues, where I tend to skew leftward.

Where I think Kerry will fail miserably, however, is in the international front. Maybe the picture looks bad in America, but I have to tell you that I still like the way Bush's insanity or stupidity makes North Korea nervous. There will be none of that under Kerry. Kerry will bend over for North Korea at the first opportunity. He will do whatever it takes to make America once again look like a "rational dialogue partner." Even though the current six-way talks amount to little more than wheel-spinning, they're a better format than simple two-way dialogue with NK. If Kerry consents to the old two-way (and he will), we play right into NK's hands.

But maybe NK issues are too parochial for you (even though NK is claiming to be a direct threat to the US... this doesn't warrant your immediate concern?). If we switch to the question of how the US under Kerry will relate to the EU and the UN, I have grave doubts that Kerry will have the country's best interests at heart. First on his agenda will be a rebuilding of the diplomatic bridges burned between us and France and Germany-- bridges I feel should remain burned, at least for a few years more. Although I don't for a moment buy the right-wing line that France should be thought of as the enemy, it's true that France has been flailing about in search of its lost glory. This has produced some very questionable behavior on France's part. You'll recall that France was lobbying to end the ban on arms sales to China, and elements of its fleet have done maneuvers with China's. France also repudiated muted Taiwanese claims of independence (admittedly, the US under Bush hasn't been much better about Taiwan). This is the France with which Kerry would like to rebuild bridges. I think a more low-key, cautious relationship with Old Europe is called for, with plenty of up-front suspicion. We won't have that under Kerry, and it'll cost us after he's gone.

All of this also relates to Iraq and terrorism. Do you think Kerry won't pay heed to American special interests as the Iraq rebuilding continues? That would be naive: recall that fellow Democrat Howard Dean hammered Kerry for being in the pocket of special interests. And consider how Iraq connects to France and the UN, both of which have hands dirtier than our own when it comes to a shared past with Iraq. Under Kerry, I see, at best, half-hearted efforts to pursue any charges against France and the UN (prediction: quiet disappearance of UNGate under Kerry). All of those problems will be buried in the name of superficial, backstabbing "friendship." Lastly, regarding terrorism: I'm unclear on whether Kerry thinks we're at war.

The Air Marshal, who's politically independent, doesn't see Kerry the way most Dems do, as a knight in shining armor (I suspect that shrewder Dems are quietly awaiting the apotheosis of Hillary in 2008*). He sees Kerry as a better choice than Bush, which I don't. Is Bush corrupt? Oh, I'm sure! But since we're talking about naiveté, it'd be quite naive to think that Kerry's administration will be corruption-free (I'm sure the Air Marshal doesn't think this, but I'm trying to put corruption in the same perspective as questions of whoring one's military record). My own cynicism guides me here. Does Kerry have any positives? I'd point you to Richard's recent post on Kerry for a few good ones, many of which chip away at the caricatured image we have of the man. I'm sure Kerry's no Hitler, and no Satan.

[*from Drudge: Will Hillary be Kerry's pick? I wonder, sometimes, whether Drudge thinks he can influence events with these posts.]

By the same token, Bush isn't Hitler or Satan. Bush has done a lot of unsung good in Africa, for example, more than previous administrations-- something he never seems to brag about, even though he should (do take the time to read this file; with the intense focus on All Iraq All the Damn Time, it's hard to realize that other stuff is happening in the world). Although people are pointing to Bush's seven documented minutes of helplessness (cf. Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11") right after the WTC was hit, I think he comported himself as a leader in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. He's also repeatedly warned us that the project facing us in the Middle East will last a long time; I agree with him that we can't allow our determination to flag.

In the end, though, my basic orientation is as I described it in my essay on voting. I want to vote proactively, not merely against someone. This "lesser of two evils" approach to voting is deeply unsatisfying. If you're resigned to this approach, then I suppose you're doomed to vote for the smaller lump of crap. But this approach assumes that it's impossible to find someone whom we'd actually, actively like to see in office. For me, there is such a person, and that person is neither Bush nor Kerry.

For a humorous satire of Republican attitudes about Kerry and the lib-Dems, see this hilarious Fafblog entry, and learn about how liberal hatred is directly connected to Hitler's ass. While you're there, bust a gut reading this post on the decline of British sea power. I was rolling.

[NB: the above links are through the Unipeak proxy. If you'd rather surf naked, visit Fafblog at]

Quick Hitler quiz-- is it Adolf or Adolph??


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