Making choices

What sort of person will America elect?

Making choices

By Quentin Langley

Dateline 29 October 2004

The next US President will face daily decisions that will impact America and the world. He will not get all of them right. But if the world is to be a safer and more prosperous place than it is today he needs to get the big issues right.

By looking at the records of the two main candidates we can form a view as to which is most likely to get those big issues right.

The economy: the whole world, not just America, benefits when America gets its economic policy decisions right. A slump in America, such as the one President Bush inherited in 2001, can damage the world economy. On this issue Bush has been mostly right. He has been equivocal in his support for free trade, but has at least campaigned consistently and successfully for tax cuts.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign is more confused. John Kerry has, mostly, supported free trade, until this year. John Edwards is a passionate advocate of exactly the same protectionist measures which turned the 1929 stockmarket crash into a decade long worldwide depression. But where both are agreed is on the need to raise taxes and always vote against tax cuts. They say it is only for the wealthy. But John Kerry knows better than anyone that the higher taxes go, the more the wealthy will be able to avoid them. His billionaire wife pays just 12.4% in tax, not much more than half as much as the average American.

World affairs: John Kerry has been wrong about every foreign policy issue he has ever faced. Wrong to testify that American soldiers were committing war crimes in Vietnam, when he knew American prisoners of war were being tortured for denying those war crimes. Wrong about the cold war, preferring to appease communism rather than confront it. Wrong about the first Gulf War – he talks today about a “global test”, but the first Gulf War was one of only three ever authorised by the UN, and Kerry still voted against it in the Senate. He has been wrong about Iraq. He was wrong about the $87 billion for the troops. Even he must know that at least one of his policies on that issue must have been wrong.

President Bush, on the other hand, has been mostly right. George Bush came to politics rather late. Before that he had a life. And most of the major foreign policy issues of the past few decades had already been solved, either when his father was President, or under Ronald Reagan. But he inherited a world which was far from safe and when America was attacked he knew he had to act. Firing missiles into Afghanistan or Iraq – as the Clinton administration had done – was a policy that had already failed, so he set about changing the governments of those countries for the better.

The conclusion has to be that President Bush has a record of achievement and Senator Kerry has a record which, where it is not inconsistent and vacillating, has been wrong. Despite twenty years in the Senate, Kerry shows little understanding of American government. He has promised that as President he will introduce legislation to solve America’s healthcare crisis. But he has been a Senator for 20 years. If he knows how to solve the problem, why hasn’t he introduced legislation already? The answer is a disconcerting one. While everyone has heard of the McCain-Feingold legislation on campaign finance, no-one has heard of the Kerry Act. In two decades, much of it with his party controlling Congress, John Kerry has put his name on no major law.

Because even when the Democrats ran Congress he could not persuade the Senate to agree with his ideas. Even his own party regards John Kerry as a left-wing extremist. If he cannot lead in his own party, he will never lead America, let alone the world.

Copyright © Quentin Langley 29 October 2004

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