Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Best One So Far

I’ve read a lot of the editorial endorsements that have come out in the last few weeks. I’ve read them on both sides, but the best one I’ve read so far in its reasoning and logic is the one in the Des Moines Register published today. Here it is in its entirety.

About half of Americans have lost confidence in President Bush, yet many hang back from embracing the alternative. That’s unfortunate, because Senator John F. Kerry is a wise and decent man who has the makings of a fine president.

Still, there’s little wonder that voters have doubts. Most of what they think they know about the senator comes from a masterful job of “defining the opposition” carried out by the Bush campaign and its surrogates before most people got a chance to know the real Kerry.

So Americans were introduced to Kerry the flip-flopper. Kerry the softie on defense. Kerry the wild-eyed liberal. Kerry the appeaser who will let terrorists attack America.

It’s sad that an incumbent president chose to employ so much of his vast campaign resources to tear down his challenger, and not to cite his own accomplishments or to move the nation ahead. But perhaps that’s precisely the difficulty the president faces.

His presidency has been one of bold leadership undermined by a failure to achieve meaningful results. The resolute leader Americans rallied behind after Sept. 11, 2001, sidetracked the country into a mess in Iraq. The fiscally responsible, compassionate conservative Americans thought they elected, the man we hoped would improve schools, lower the cost of health care and find more jobs, has failed to do so and instead run up an unprecedented national debt.

The president, whose swagger in adversity and plain-folks straight talk can be so appealing, has failed to see the reality of the problems or outline a road map for progress for the next four years.

National polls show the president’s disapproval numbers hoving near 50 percent.

Now it is time to take the next logical step and recognize John Kerry as someone who could do better. It’s time to see Kerry as the person he is, not as the caricature created in the president’s campaign ads.

Kerry won the presidential debates because the man Americans saw on live television differed from the caricature. Americans saw a thoughtful, experienced, exceptionally well-informed candidate who cares deeply about his country and its people.

They didn’t see Mr. Perfect. Kerry tends toward wordiness and overexplanation. His positions on some issues – such as being nearly indistinguishable from Bush on Iraq – are unsatisfactory. His New England reserve comes off as aloofness. It takes time to gain an appreciation of him.

A search for the real John Kerry should focus on his 22 years in elective office – unblemished service as Massachusetts lieutenant governor and U.S. senator. The strongest indication of his success is that the people of Massachusetts – the cradle of American liberty – chose four times to elect him to the Senate.

Yes, Kerry is liberal. But what’s to fear from a liberal president? That he would run big deficits? That he would increase federal spending? That he would expand the power of the federal government over individuals’ lives? Nothing Kerry could do could top what President Bush has already done in those realms.

Kerry is not the stereotypical liberal in any case. According to the “Almanac of American Politics,” Kerry is “more respectful of economic free markets” and more inclined to an expansionist foreign policy than other liberal Democrats. He has been a champion of small business. He was an early supporter of the conservative Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction act.

An overview of Kerry’s 20 years in the Senate shows a conscientious lawmaker, popular with the home-state voters. Kerry’s legislative interests have run to investigating government wrongdoing, strengthening law enforcement, securing health care for children and preventing nuclear proliferation. He has a strong record on the environment.

Most interesting – and relevant to Nov. 2 – Kerry has a reputation for being able to work across party lines. He worked well with Republican Gov. William Weld for the common good of Massachusetts. He worked with Republican Senators John McCain and Bob Smith on POW/MIA issues.

That’s a key quality, especially in an angrily polarized America. Of President Bush’s shortcomings, the most disappointing is the betrayal of his promise to be a uniter. America should be united at times like these – and was for a shining moment after 9/11. But the president let that slip away, deepening divisions by adopting a my-way-or-the-highway cocksureness on both domestic and foreign affairs.

It can be assumed that the next president, be it Bush or Kerry, will do everything in his power to make America safe from terrorism. That’s job No. 1, and the American people will stand for no less. But on the broad range of other issues, Kerry has more to offer. He is in touch with the middle class. He is better informed on health care and has sound ideas for creating jobs. He understands that protecting the environment need not be a drag on the economy but can be a great boon as new energy technologies are developed.

By nature, he is more of a uniter than Bush.

It won’t be easy. The partisans on neither side will go silent on Inauguration Day. If Kerry wins, those who have been attacking him will do their best to undermine his presidency. The same will be true on the other side if Bush is re-elected.

But Kerry, we believe, has a better chance of overcoming that anger. It is the nature of the man to listen and to respect others. He does not tend toward vindictiveness or in-your-face triumphalism. There is a dignity about him. We have watched him from early in the Iowa caucus campaign through a grueling general-election campaign in a battleground state. We have seen Kerry grow and develop in presidential qualities to the point we’re confident in recommending him as a person of common sense and decency – a leader who has what it takes to bring Americans back together.

Well said.

Thanks for the heads-up by Leah at Corrente.