Sunday, October 24, 2004
Enquirer presidential endorsement
George Bush for president
Four years ago George W. Bush was elected by the narrowest of margins. He promised to unite the country with "compassionate conservatism."
Then, as the President is wont to say, "9/11 happened."
The terrorist attack that killed more than 3,000 Americans changed our outlook, changed our sense of security and it most certainly changed our president.
The next four years will require a president who has the fortitude not to waver in the face of terror. George W. Bush and John Kerry are both strong and patriotic men, but we believe the times call for America to be consistent. For that reason we support Bush.
Sept. 11 forced Bush to become a wartime leader. The days immediately after the attack were the finest moments of his presidency. He spoke as the leader of all Americans, expressing the nation's horror, grief and rage at the cowardly attack. The president declared war on terror - and the nation and Congress enlisted in that cause.
We invaded Iraq, convinced that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction and meant to use them against us or give them to others who would. That intelligence was simply wrong. While Saddam's forces were quickly overrun, no such weapons have ever been found. The world is a better place with Saddam deposed, but the long-term cost of doing that is a bill that America will be paying far into the future.
John Kerry agrees that America is committed to achieving stability in Iraq, but says he would recreate the kind of multi-lateral coalition that fought the first Gulf War to do it. How? Kerry suggests that just having a new face in the White House would bring new allies to our side. We disagree. France, Germany and most of the Arab states are not going to support us unless they are guaranteed significant roles in the new Iraq. We did not topple Saddam just so we could divide up the country as spoils of war. Our most important ally in Iraq must be Iraq. France and Germany have said they will not send troops under any circumstances.
We wish the president were willing to acknowledge the mistakes that were made, and to hold accountable those in his administration who made them. But other nations and past administrations all believed Saddam had the weapons and was willing to use them.
The task now is to capitalize on the gains that have been made, restore frayed alliances and stand prepared for the next attack.
At home, the Department of Homeland Security, the now-accepted delays and inspections at the airports and the USA Patriot Act all resulted from 9/11. The latter is an over-compensation that is in need of correction. Kerry has argued persuasively that terrorists are targeting our way of life as well as our lives. We agree with him. Victories over terrorists will be worthless if we give up basic American freedoms to do it. But while the senator calls for more first responders, more port inspectors and more police, he is not very specific on how he will pay for them. He also ignores the major strides that have been made in improving the communication and coordination of our intelligence and security agencies under Bush, assets that deteriorated under the previous Democratic administration.
On economic policy we believe the Bush tax-cut program is the best method of encouraging investment and job growth. Kerry has said he will repeal the Bush tax cut for those making more than $200,000 per year and use that money to fund his new programs. He says that will affect only the rich, people like himself and the president. He's wrong. The over-$200,000 category isn't just "the rich." It's also the bulk of the small and independent business owners in America - a segment of the economy that creates many of the new jobs we need. Nor would repealing this cut raise enough money for all of the programs Kerry has proposed.
Kerry has made much of outsourcing and his claim that the Bush administration provides tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. This so-called tax break has been in place for several Republican and Democratic administrations to protect American companies doing business overseas from having to pay taxes here and abroad. A likely consequence of Kerry's vow to close this "loophole" would be for companies to sell off overseas assets, resulting in the loss of a tremendous number of support jobs here.
The president deserves credit for his "No Child Left Behind" education initiative, which he managed to pass with bipartisan support in Congress. While the plan is not perfect, and can certainly be improved upon, it offers accountability and empowerment. Kerry's program, in contrast, concentrates on providing more money to schools, without insisting on the accountability.
Retirement and health care
The same can be said for the president's approach to the problems of Social Security and health care. His proposals for private investment accounts and health savings plans give a measure of control and responsibility in these areas to the people using them.
Kerry proposes $1,000 reductions in family health care premiums, cheaper prescriptions, and "high-quality" coverage for 95 percent of America, including every child. He has offered little on Social Security except to say the Bush plan would leave retirees vulnerable. But the Bush plan would not break faith with those who now depend on Social Security. Catastrophic health problems and secure retirements are things we all worry about. But Kerry's proposals are nothing but incredibly expensive promises that he offers no realistic way of paying for.
This election may be as close as the last. That means there will be a sharp and painful division in this country. To achieve our goals of security at home and stability abroad, our president must couple the constancy of his first term with the compassion that he has long professed. To be effective, that compassion must be used to encourage compromise. We believe George W. Bush has the strength to meet this challenge and the others that will confront America in the next four years.
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