Thursday, March 4, 2004

Kerry-Bush campaign: Bring it on


Now that Super Tuesday is behind us and a John Kerry-George Bush match-up booked for November, eight months should be plenty of time for voters to sort out which of these men, with starkly different philosophies of governing, can best lead the nation at this contentious time in history.

Their definition of a successful campaign would be ending up in the Oval Office. Ours is different. It starts with getting answers from the Massachusetts senator and the president on what they plan to do in the next four years.

Can the next president set a deadline for U.S. troops to exit Iraq? What should be done about intelligence failures leading to the Iraq war? Have we needlessly alienated allies? Have huge budget deficits shifted too much public debt to our children and grandchildren? Would changes in tax and trade policies generate more jobs? Should tax cuts be made permanent, or eliminated for the rich? What is needed to keep Social Security solvent? Can the nation afford universal health coverage? Is a constitutional amendment against gay marriage needed? Has the Homeland Security Department made us safer?

Bush dared terrorists with his challenge, "Bring it on," and Kerry has flung that line back to dare Bush to debate national security. That could be voters' line as well. Bring on the debates.

Both men refused federal campaign dollars so as not to be bound by federal limits. Bush already has raised more than $100 million and aims for $175 million. Super Tuesday also started Kerry's fund-raising race against Bush. It could be the costliest race ever, and also one of the most divisive. Many Democrats, still smarting from Bush-Cheney's chad-thin victory in 2000, passionately want "anybody but Bush." The nation's unified spirit after 9-11 already seems a distant memory. A better definition of a successful 2004 campaign may be if Kerry and Bush at the end leave the country more unified than at the start.

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