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The New Republic Endorses Kerry
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I like The New Republic and read it often, and I'm a little surprised that they're endorsing Kerry for President.

In fact, what is supposed to be an endorsement is actually a laundry list of complaints against Bush. So even TNR has adopted the "Anybody But Bush" mindset.

But what I find most objectionable is that many of their complaints are either untrue or unfounded. For example:

You cannot lead the world without listening to it. You cannot make the Middle East more democratic while making it more anti-American. You cannot make the United States more secure while using security as a partisan weapon. And you cannot demand accountable government abroad while undermining it at home.

And so a president who promised to make America safer by making the Muslim world more free has failed on both counts.

Afghanistan just held their first elections, and Iraq's are scheduled for early next year. What world are they talking about, where Bush has not made the Muslim world more free? Many of the criticisms of the handling of both conflicts and subsequent planning are legitimate, but how do you assert that they were as or more democratic under the Taliban and Saddam Hussein?

On domestic policy, Bush has been Newt Gingrich without the candor. Like Gingrich, he envisions stripping away many of the welfare-state protections that shield economically vulnerable Americans from the vagaries of the free market (while insulating corporations ever more from those same forces). But, rather than explicitly opposing popular government programs, as Gingrich did, Bush has pursued a more duplicitous strategy: He is eviscerating the government's ability to pay for them. His tax cuts, while sold as short-term measures to revive the economy, actually represent long-term assaults on the progressive tax code.

Maybe the progressive tax code needs to be assaulted. Maybe a flat tax would be far more fair and efficient, cutting the need for much of the red tape of the IRS.

I don't have a problem with the tax cuts, per se. I've got a problem with Bush's rampant spending, his "compassionate conservatism" (which is liberal spending in disguise), and his unwillingness to veto a single damned spending bill. This is the most damning aspect of Bush's domestic policy, and yet the editors of TNR skim right over it.

In 2001, Bush presented his policy on stem cells as a pragmatic compromise--in which research on preexisting stem-cell lines would be funded but research on new ones would not. But the supposed compromise was based on a falsehood. Bush vastly exaggerated the number of viable preexisting stem-cell lines, thus pretending he was facilitating the medical research most Americans support while actually crippling it in obeisance to his conservative Christian base.

I think I've amply demostrated in previous posts that this is utter bullshit.

By contrast, John Kerry has a record of fiscal honesty and responsibility that continues the tradition of Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin. Unlike most Democrats, he supported the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction plan. Unlike most Republicans, he supported Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction package. And, unlike President Bush, he supports the "pay as you go" rules that, in the 1990s, helped produce a budget surplus.

Ah! Halfway through an endorsement of Kerry, they actually mention his policies! Actually, I agree with them. I think ironically that Kerry would be more fiscally responsible than Bush has been (who couldn't be?). And this is a solid reason for supporting Kerry.

On foreign policy, Kerry's record is less impressive. His vote against the 1991 Gulf war suggested a tendency to see all American military action through the distorting prism of Vietnam. And his behavior in the current Iraq debate has not been exemplary.

No kidding.

Building "firehouses in Baghdad"--a notion Kerry has repeatedly mocked--is not only something we owe the Iraqi people, it stems from the fundamentally liberal premise that social development can help defeat fanaticism. Abandoning that principle under pressure from Howard Dean is the most disturbing thing Kerry has done in this campaign.

Well, that's the thing. I've tried to open a discussion about the liberalism of international reform and aid, but it's never really taken hold. Kerry's rhetoric seems to indicate that he doesn't see the value in reforming the Middle East. His speeches seem to indicate that we need to slap some duct tape on Iraq and get the hell out. His attitude is one of a janitor cleaning up somebody else's mess, rather than talking about the democratization of Iraq as a long-term strategy. This is not encouraging.

They note that Kerry has proposed doubling U.S. Special Forces and has outlined an approach to focusing on al Qaeda as a network, rather than threatening states in which they primarily operate. This sounds promising, but how would it work in reality? It might work well in friendly states, or semi-friendly states, such as Pakistan and Jordan. But if we have Green Berets running around in Iran or Syria, isn't that going to tick off those governments, and essentially lead to state conflict?

Anyway, although the editors raise some good points, overall their "endorsement" is mostly a critique of Bush, and in several areas their analysis is simply wrong. I don't like either candidate's domestic agendas, though if anything, I'd lean toward Kerry's. But foreign policy is the more important issue at this time, and from not only Afghanistan and Iraq, but dealing with the Chinese spy plane crisis, his multilateral approach to North Korea, his refusal to deal with Yasser Arafat and try to bolster a more moderate Palestinian leader...his foreign policy is very strong. Our strongest allies, Britain, Australia, Japan, etc., still stand by us, and I'm not incredibly concerned about the displeasure of the French and the Germans. So foreign policy tilts me back toward Bush, and I still plan on voting for him in a couple of weeks.

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