Monday, October 25, 2004

Whoop, whoop: St. Petersburg Times Endorses John Kerry

Never let it be said that I don't hear the comments posted to this blog. Now that I have a bit of time (sorely lacking last week, what with traveling to Denver for our fall clergy retreat, and coming home with either "altitude sickness" or a touch of the flu, knocking me out for another day and a half), I've gone to read the editorial ("John Kerry is Better") in the St. Petersburg Times that "Audiatur" originally made reference to as he spammed the first (of several) comments on this blog. I was "invited" (I'm trying to be polite here) to respond to what was said by the (anonymous) writer of the editorial. Oh, by noting that the editorial write is anonymous, I'm not inferring anything -- this is typical for such newspaper editorials. Please accept, in advance, my apology for what is gong to be a very long blog.

Audiatur took exception to my initial dismissal of the SPT editorial as a "screed"; yet, having read it again, my opinion is unchanged. I find it to be a long, monotonous harangue. Audiatur said,
This, verily, surprised me a great deal. I thought that you will – point by point – annihilate the arguments of the editorial and prove that all of them are false and distorting the truth.

Well, let's take a look at the editorial. It begins with some degree of praise for President Bush's handling of events immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and pursuing the al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan. They quickly chide him for having departed from his pledge to pursue a "humble foreign policy" -- although I would think that most people would allow a president some latitude for foreign policy promises made in an environment that had not, at that time, been shaped by terrorist suicide bombers flying hijacked domestic airliners into skyscrapers and government buildings. The Times editorial also takes the President to task for not having done more to
build a united front in the war against terrorism and by seeking a broad consensus for dealing with important social and economic issues at home. Instead, he squandered that support by pressing divisive and arrogant policies, including a pre-emptive war in Iraq.

Anyone who finds any evidence in any blog I've written here, comments I've left somewhere else, or in any sermon or letter I've written, that indicates my support for the war in Iraq wins a prize; and I'll go in for testing for a loss of mental ability. Indeed, I think I've gone the other way, even hinting broadly that the war in Iraq, and the whole "war on terror" mindset is a pointer to such bleak scenarios as are described in George Orwell's 1984. So I'm not a Bush supporter with regard to Iraq. However, I think it is fair to say that I did not doubt the assertions made by many in our government that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons in his arsenal, and that he would not hesitate to use these weapons if he felt it were to his advantage -- and this would include his making these available to terrorists (not necessarily al-Qaeda) to use against his enemies, including the United States. After all, he had not hesitated to use such weapons in his war with Iran, and had even used them against his own subjects, the Kurds, when they sought greater autonomy. To this day, one of the great puzzles is why Iraq did not use such weapons against the coalition forces in the first Gulf War, when Hussein's forces were driven out of Kuwait. But now I'm wandering away from the editorial and its arguments...

Here, in summary form, are the reasons why the Times thinks it is time for a change away from a second Bush administration:

  • "Regressive" tax cuts that "widen the gulf between the rich and the poor."

  • President Bush "frittered away" the "record surpluses" he had received on coming into office.

  • President Bush has presided over a "net loss of jobs."

  • He has broken his promise to make health care more accessible and affordable.

  • He has blocked steps to control drug costs, such as by allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada.

  • He has allowed a "rollback" of key environmental laws.

  • President Bush is making a "cynical push" for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
  • (Audiatur: Do you expect me to refute this?)

  • Another round of arguments about Iraq. (Let's don't go there again...)

Someone will have to explain to me how the tax cuts have been "regressive." I understood that the tax cuts were across-the-board percentage reductions. If that's the case, that's hardly regressive. Granted, those who have a larger income will receive a larger amount of money by the same percentage reduction -- that's basic mathematics. But, given that the income tax is structured to take a larger percentage from the top-most earners, I don't see the tax cuts as having been unfair to anyone. So, the Times doesn't get any points from me on that issue.

As for "frittering away" of surpluses, and the "net loss" of jobs, well, those who can remember will recall that the economy began to "cool off" in the months before the Bush administration even came into office in January, 2001. The boom of the 1990's that produced much of the employment, and the surplus for the federal treasury, was coming to an end as the Clinton administration was ending its control and handing over the reins. When you add the incredibly negative impacts to the national economy that followed the attacks of September 11th later in that same year, and the massive cost necessary to pursue the "War against Terror" (even before Iraq), well, only the most economically naive persons -- Democrats? -- would think that things would stay "rosy." Although the Times editorial doesn't come out and say this, I seem to recall, perhaps from the debates, a claim of a net loss of some 800,000 jobs over the last four years. I also seem to recall an estimate that the immediate impacts of September 11th included a net loss of 1 million jobs. If that was correct, then we're now 200,000 jobs to the good. If so, score one for the Bush administration, and a loss of a point for the spin-meisters at the Times.

I don't know about the Bush promise to make health care more acessible and affordable. I think the prescription drug program added to Medicare is a big mistake that will come back to bite us all in the years to come; but I don't hear anything from candidate Kerry that makes the situation any better.

Are there any major drug manufacturers located in Canada? (I don't mean any disrespect by asking this; I truly don't think there are any, but concede that I may very well be ignorant on this point.) I've always understood that the vast majority of the pharmaceuticals available in Canada came from manufacturers in the US and the UK; and that it is government-imposed cost controls that hold down the prices there, making these drugs seem more affordable than here. There is also the question of the quality of such drugs. Otherwise, why limit the importation to drugs from Canada? Why not Mexico? Or Thailand?

And where does the Times get off by labelling the President's support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage as "cynical?" Hey, you don't agree with him, fine -- it's a free country. You don't have to agree; or vote to ban such marriages. Regular readers of this blog know what I think about the subject of same-sex "marriages," and the ultimate futility of trying to block these by means of governmental action and legislation. This doesn't mean I want to see the government make such unions "legal"; just that I think it will happen, and probably sooner than later. But the President is trying to do the right thing here, I think -- and he has my support. I can't give my support to a candidate who says, "Well, privately, I believe {x}, but publically I must vote {y}," where {x} and {y} are diametrically opposed. Tell the people -- no, tell the VOTERS -- what you believe, and why: and then take your lumps, if they disagree with you. When you go into office, whether in Washington, the state capital, or city hall, you're going to represent ME, among others -- and so I want to know what you think, and what you believe. This whole, "I believe one thing, but will, on behalf of my constituents, vote something else entirely," just says to me that you're a whore, for sale to whomever offers you the most for your vote. This applies to any politician who adopts that approach, in my book -- but hey, candidate Kerry: if the shoe fits, wear it.

The editorial also makes a few arguments for Sen. Kerry. These are, in summary,
  • He has reached across the aisle to "normalize relations" with Viet Nam; and in support of a balanced budget and welfare reform.

  • He has a "detailed, sensible plan" to make health care coverage more accessible and affordable.

  • He pledges to defer any programs that would prevent reducing the deficit by half.

  • His plans are "mainstream." (Whatever that means...)

When was normalizing relations with Vietnam a burning issue in this country? Who is surprised that a man who testified before the U.S. Senate about American "war crimes" in Vietnam during the time that American prisoners were being tortured by their Vietnamese captors for refusing to do so would later, as a U.S. Senator, work to "normalize" relations with that country? Why is this something we should applaud? Why is this something we should reward with the highest office in this land? As for the balanced budget and welfare reform, my recall is that these actions developed in the mid-1990's, after the mid-term elections under Pres. Clinton produced a Republican-controlled Congress for the first time in some forty years. You have to be an incredibly committed politician to stand in opposition to efforts, such as restraining out-of-control Congressional spending, and making changes to an abuse-prone welfare system, that have the high degree of public support that the Republican-initiated efforts generated. Was this "reaching across the aisle?" Or was it "climbing aboard the train before it left the station?"

The "detailed, sensible plan" for health care is anything but -- at least, not in what is put before us as voters. It is lacking in details; and promises that the federal government will, among other things, pick up 75% of catastrophic health care costs. Great. How will that be paid for? You know the answer: more taxes. Hey, you can read the plan for yourself: "Affordable Health Care for All."

Do you believe any politician who promises, on the one hand, more jobs, better pay, better health care, improved national defense -- and, on the other hand, hey, any of these programs I've promised will be deferred if we can't also reduce the deficit by half? If you do, please say hello to Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and others of that ilk. The rest of us know that the secret code behind such a plan is "TAX INCREASES."

Are you tired? I'm tired. We're all tired. Even the big-time bloggers are getting weary, and are ready for it all to be over. As far as I'm concerned, unless something really egregious happens, this is "it" for this election cycle. There are plenty of other matters waiting for my comments - even if only in my own mind.

So, vote -- or don't vote. I've said it before; one more time won't hurt. I will not vote for Kerry; I don't want to vote for Bush; I wish one or the other was likely to win by a landslide, so I could just ignore the whole thing. I will also repeat this:
If you are going to cast your vote for Kerry, be sure you know why you're doing what you're doing -- and maybe pray before you vote, and seek the will of God to guide you. If you are going to cast your vote for Bush, be sure you know why you're doing what you're doing -- and maybe pray before you vote, and seek the will of God to guide you. If you are going to cast your vote for someone else, be sure you know why you're doing what you're doing -- and maybe pray before you vote, and seek the will of God to guide you. I don't know which candidate is the one favored by God; I do know that each of us will be held accountable for our actions, our choices, indeed, for every idle word spoken, on the great and terrible Day of the Lord -- and let that guide your actions -- and your vote -- as well.
(Happy now, Audiatur?)

May the Lord have mercy on us all.