Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Let’s Get Back to Work

I will admit that I have enjoyed the fireworks surrounding the SBVT and watching them go through the torture of having their stories ripped to shreds as veteran after veteran emerges (some, like Jim Russell, literally coming out of the woods of Colorado) to corroborate Kerry’s story of what happened over thirty-five years ago on a river in Vietnam. I’ve derived an almost visceral joy in watching John O’Neill break out into flop-sweat under that ridiculous toupee as he’s had to endure the withering fire from the likes of Tom Oliphant and John Podesta. And I heaved a tentative sigh of relief as the mainstream press finally began to do their job of uncovering the lies and the links to the scruffy critters behind the ads, and I wondered what would happen if they devoted as much energy to looking into the records of what happened in Alabama in the summer of 1972.

But in spite of all this, I don’t want this election to be about that. There are so many other things we could be talking about and winning over not just the mercurial Undecideds but anybody who is conscious with a conscience. Just look at what we have to run against. We have a record of four years of a presidency that is analogous to a teen-aged boy stuffing a sock in his pants to make himself look like he’s got something more than what nature intended. We have a Justice Department that hunts down librarians and a Department of Homeland Security that launches terror alerts based on shades of news from the Clinton Administration. We have an administration that views science as something one step away from alchemy and where “the jury is still out” on the theory of evolution. And leading them all is a man who lacks the courage to stand up for himself and defend his record – a difficult task to be sure – but instead finds a crop of snivelling bullies to go out and do the hard work for him. George W. Bush hasn’t demonstrated the first level of moral or physical stamina at anything he’s ever attempted in his life, and when he inevitably fails, he leaves it to others to clean up the mess and make the appropriate excuses.

Poll after poll has shown that the American people are slowly coming to the realization that they have been royally had. They are itching to get rid of the Bush administration if they could be convinced that the alternative is better, and so that only way for Bush to win is to show not that he’s worthy of being re-hired but that his replacement would be worse. That’s why the campaign from the Bush side has said nothing at all about what they will do if they are re-elected – only about what they think will happen if they’re not. Fortunately, history has proven that tactic to be a loser – think of Jimmy Carter trying to scare us about Ronald Reagan in 1980.

John Kerry has to bring the debate back to the issues that matter today, not what happened in 1969. The war today is in Iraq, not Vietnam. The circumstances are similar – a war based on a lie and paid for with the blood of young men for a cause that is as nebulous as it was then, but it has to be discussed not only in terms of logistics and defense but in how we perceive ourselves as the only remaining superpower. This election has to be about how we teach our children and how we take care of the sick, not just how we divide up the wealth among the wealthy and rely on their better nature to spread it around.

As much fun as it is to watch the conservatives squirm and use the same serpentine logic to defend their man as they accused the Clintons of using during the depths of the Dark Time, we need to get back to the here and now and the future of this country. For John Kerry and the Democrats to lose this election – especially to a man who has proven a complete lack of moral courage, maturity, and the simple ability to see things in the third person – would not be a tragedy of mythic proportions; this country has survived worse. But it would be a dark predictor of what we will become, and the return to the right way will be all the harder.