Editorial explains the last four years and why Kerry is the better choice
Four years ago, this country was forced to choose between a monotonous but qualified vice president and a charismatic but inexperienced governor from Texas. Charisma won, but four years later, we find ourselves rebuilding two countries, $450 billion in debt and a country sharply divided. The Bush administration's environmental, economic and education record is weak, but even more troubling issues are the mismanagement of Iraq and the exploitation of petty but riveting positions on gay marriage and stem cell research. Although John Kerry has been thoroughly pounded for his supposed liabilities, including his anti-war demonstrations and his tendency to "flip-flop,” he presents a more specific plan for this country. Therefore, Silver Chips Online throws its support behind John Kerry and John Edwards for control of the White House come January.
Through a platform of education reform and tax cuts and carrying a reputation of working across party lines, George W. Bush became president, despite losing the popular vote, following a contested Florida recount debacle. Immediately following 9-11, Bush lifted the country and brought people together with his resolute leadership. The leadership he displayed combined with the outcry of international support put the president in a powerful position. He told us that we needed to remove the Taliban. The world agreed.
History may show the removal of the Taliban and the continuing rebuilding of Afghanistan to be Bush's greatest accomplishment. The Taliban was a group hell-bent on not only suppressing but also destroying all other forms of religion within its borders. Their role in supporting al Qaeda was also unacceptable. The Taliban still has a small presence in Afghanistan, but aside from the occasional attempted assassination, the group has been rendered ineffective. Bush's decisiveness was critical in the quick removal of such a malicious leadership core.
Then we heard what is now known as the Bush Doctrine, a policy of preemption against countries that pose a threat with their capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Iran, Iraq and North Korea were listed as starting points, forming what he called the "axis of evil.” We would like to point out that mathematically, a "plane of evil” seems more appropriate. Slowly, we saw Iraq being mentioned more often then the others. It started with Rumsfeld, then Powell, then Bush.
It is not fair to blame solely President Bush for the current state of Iraq. However, his administration is guilty of hyping up the evidence leading to the invasion. Powell practically guaranteed to the U.N. that Iraq had WMDs. Rumsfeld held a bevy of press conferences in which he threw out scary one-liners. President Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice scared the public by saying that Bush didn't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. Some were skeptical, but others felt that if the situation was as dire as the administration presented, then maybe there were justifications to go to war. Had we found WMDs in Iraq, Bush would be ahead in this election by a large majority. Regardless, we have a mess in Iraq on many fronts. More than 1,100 U.S. troops are now dead, many thousands more terribly wounded, and countless Iraqi civilians have paid the ultimate price. Especially disturbing is the fact that violence is only increasing in scope and horror as beheadings have become the norm in recent months and Iraqi troops are being massacred by insurgents at an alarming rate. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been poured in, yet we hear about troops who refuse to fight because of a lack of equipment. Now, we are learning about several hundred tons of explosives that are missing. Elections are supposed to happen soon, but there is uncertainty about virtually every aspect of it. Also, one fundamental question remains. What would the administration do if the Iraqi people voted in a religious theocracy like Iran's? Would such a choice be acceptable for us, or would we then force democracy upon them? These are difficult questions for anyone to answer, but it is unlikely that the administration has planned out this scenario. The reconstruction efforts in Iraq have been mismanaged. The administration's actions preceding the war, and the subsequent mishandling of the situation will lose millions of American votes for President Bush.
Bush's environmental record over the last four years is atrocious, with a systematic series of regressive actions that cater to big businesses. He rolled back on many of the clauses in the monumental Clean Air Act, including increasing allowable limits on mercury, setting back deadlines for industries to meet smog regulations and providing loopholes for companies, while ignoring the issue of global warming altogether. He has given nine million acres of public land to logging businesses. Bush showed no hurry to research alternative sources of fuel, despite the Energy Department predicting that, in 2025, the U.S. will increase dependence on foreign oil to 68 percent, up from 55 percent. After meeting with leaders of energy corporations, the Bush administration developed a National Energy Policy, which, among other things, opposes research into clean energy sources such as energy efficiency and renewable energy from solar and wind. To sum up Bush's environmental record, he has cut funding for renewable energy programs by $190 million, and Bush's 2003 budget decreased funding by $35.8 million alone. Only one year later, funding was cut by $137 million. Bush's environmental policy would have been significantly better had he done absolutely nothing.
The Bush record on the economy is mixed. Over the last 14 months, 1.9 million new jobs have been created, but Bush stands to be the first president since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss of jobs during his term. Energy prices have skyrocketed, as well. In general, after an initial stagger, the economy has recovered to same levels of the immediate post-Clinton economy. Unemployment has risen 1.2 percent, inflation has sunk 0.4 percent and the labor force has decreased 1.3 percent. Homeownership rose to 1.5 percent under Bush's administration as well. However, one statistic that is staggering and cause for great concern is the $413 billion in deficits that our president has run up after inheriting a $127 billion surplus. Bush has promised to pay down half the debt in his next term but has not made any effort to explain where the money would come from. Considering his affinity for tax cuts combined with all his other domestic programs, Bush's spending has been reminiscent of a that of spoiled child. A responsible president would have scaled back the tax cuts in order to create space for the war in Iraq.
Education was considered Bush's strength entering his term because of his Texas education record. His No Child Left Behind Act is one of the most significant education reforms in recent memory. However well intentioned the plan may have been, the legislation's premise has ineffective components. Through the idea that failing schools will be punished as a motivational factor, in reality, it is unlikely that cutting funding to failing schools will do anything but exacerbate the situation. The fact that this piece of legislation is under funded by $33 billion is inexcusable when there is room for $90 billion in tax cuts. At Blair, the impact of No Child Left Behind has not been beneficial. All students miss 15 hours of classroom time over a one-week period. Although juniors and seniors, many of whom do not have any exams to take, enjoy a little more sleep, advanced classes fall behind schedule. Also, the content of the exams does not strictly parallel the course content, according to one NSL teacher, who told us that his special alternative reading class (SPARC) kids, many of whom have recently immigrated to the U.S., complain about questions they cannot answer because of vocabulary they are not familiar with that has nothing to do with the curriculum. Our overcrowded school has now been labeled as a failure and stands to lose funding. We fail to see how this loss of money will improve our school.
One of the most disturbing components of Bush's campaign has been the abuse of the gay rights and stem cell issues just to score quick political points with the Republican base. A constitutional amendment to gay marriage is unrealistic with the current Senate split, but Bush knows that the issue fires up some of his constituents. Interestingly enough, Bush recently clarified his position in an interview with ABC, saying that he wouldn't block attempts for legal civil unions if states decide to allow them. He also conceded that his position on the issue runs counter to many conservatives. On the issue, Bush is sending conflicting messages. Bush's position on stem cell research appears to be ideologically driven, as he prevents federal funding for using existing living embryos. These cell lines are considered to be more likely to cure some diseases than using already killed embryos. Only a fiercely conservative president could turn an issue of scientific research into political fodder. Fertility clinics generate thousands of extra embryos that will never be implanted into a womb and have no chance of becoming fetuses. But under Bush's laws, research on such cells is practically forbidden at major research labs because of the federal funding ban.
The Bush administration, through genius advisor Karl Rove, has managed to transform the presidency into one of quick sound bites and simplistic reasoning. When Sen. Kerry tried to explain that his position in Iraq is complicated and how he could have voted for the war but not for the $87 billion in funding (with the blank check for Halliburton), he was met with statements from Bush like, "There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops.” When a vice president drops an F-bomb on a senator and refuses to apologize, instead choosing to reinforce his intentions, something is wrong. Aside from Colin Powell, who might leave office if Bush is re-elected, the core members of the administration, including Rumsfeld and Cheney, seem to push their own agenda regardless of the consequences.
Although some find Bush's convictions and strength appealing, we would describe him as stubborn and narrow-minded. Bush is routinely interrupted while on the stump with cries of "four more years.” If this country continues on the same path, we must ask, four more years of what? Two more wars (North Korea and Iran, maybe) and another half a billion in debt? No thanks.
And now to Kerry.
Senator John F. Kerry shouldn't have a hard time defeating President Bush. But because of damaging attacks on his Vietnam service, among other points, he finds himself deadlocked with the incumbent. A powerful Republican attack has taken away his military advantage, and his voting record has been labeled as "undistinguished” by Bush and Cheney. But unlike Bush, Kerry has offered a starting point for what he would do as president. By rolling back tax cuts for the top 1 percent, he would be able start paying down the debt. He has also promised to seek out more allies to help with Iraq. By halting the practice of exclusive no-bid contracts to Halliburton and the likes, Kerry may have more success in garnishing foreign support. Kerry also has a health plan for helping the millions of Americans that are uninsured, something Bush has not done. At the very least, Kerry's presidency, when paired with a likely Republican house, could restore fiscal responsibility.
Kerry has a very liberal voting record in his 20 years in the Senate, but we don't consider that to hinder him from becoming President, given who he's running against. During the debates, George Bush could not list any shortcomings of his administration, choosing instead to sidestep the question. His absence of a response signifies his attitudes towards his term. Although he ignored the problems of deficit spending and social security, appeased drug companies with a phony prescription plan and ignored Iran and North Korea as they continue to actually develop weapons of mass destruction, he promises more of the same for his second term. To us, that is unacceptable.
With the recent news of Chief Justice Rehnquist's cancer, chances are that at least two of the numerous aging Supreme Court justices will step down. Bush has a history of appointing extreme conservative judges, and his appointees could even go as far as to reverse Roe v. Wade. Now more than ever, is voter turnout is critical to the election of John Kerry. On average, Kerry tends to lead among registered voters when compared to likely voters. Those of us on the editorial board who can vote will cast their vote for John Kerry, and we implore all of you who can to do the same.