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John Kerry for president

After literally weeks of hurdles and misteps, I finally received my Virginia voter registration card. And in 46 days, I’ll drive to Claremont Immersion School to punch a straight Republican ticket down ballot, and John Kerry/John Edwards at the top.

This easy decision is the end result of a long and gnarled path. In 2000, I voted Republican for congress, Democratic for senate and governor, and Green for president, in Delaware. Even then I had vague contrarian politics, but knew I didn’t like our current stodgy system. My education eased me rightward, and 9/11 mugged me and turned me into a war hawk. In 2002, I voted Republican for every office but governor, where I cast a Democratic vote – this was in Illinois, where the Republicans had left greasy stains on the state house and needed to be kicked out. Up through most of 2003 I supported George W. Bush for president. If this were Europe and he’d dissolved the government to call elections in, say, January 2004, I’d have voted for him.

But around that time it was becoming clear to anyone who paid attention that Bush was bungling the two most important duties of the executive: security and fiscal solvency. Boring stuff first – Bush had busted the budget. On the assumption that tax cuts would stimulate consumer confidence and help small businesses, Bush and the congress passed cuts in 2001 that did away with the projected budget surplus. This was a good idea for the time. Although the economy was stumbling (job losses had started in September 2000), stimulating growth with tax cuts was sound policy.

September 11th changed many things, but it did not change the Bush administration’s economic ideas. Since then the GOP majority has passed two more tax cuts and proposed extensive revisions to the tax system while at the same time growing government spending. The result has been a fast-rising debt, trade deficits, and an outlook sustained by foreign loans. At a time when Europe and China are offering stable currencies, the value of our currency has wavered. The administration has shown no signs of addressing or correcting this, or indicating it might be a problem, and even the expected and unexpected costs of foriegn adventures have had no impact on their program of tax cuts. We’re told that raising taxes – any taxes – or even failing to make the tax cuts permanent will “kill the recovery,” when the real worry should be what effect long-term deficits will have on our role in a globalizing, competitive economy.

This segues to my other worry. The war on Iraq, as Paul Wolfowitz has admitted, was predicated on three goals. The first was removing the threat of Saddam Hussein, who possessed and sought weapons of mass destruction. The second was creating a democratic bulwark in the Middle East that, unlike the current regime, would not support terrorism. The third was removing Saddam because he was a brutal monster.

Now, the first and second pegs of the reasons for war have been obliterated. The worthwhile humanitarian goal of liberating 20 million Arabs – which I’ve been in favor of my whole life – has been achieved with the corresponding effects of isolating the United States from traditional allies and leaving the future of Iraq uncertain.

If it were October 2002 again, and we were rearguing the war, I would have said: Let’s give the president the authority to conduct some brinksmanship this, but let’s not invade unless we have proof of a threat and the 1991 coalition behind us.

This is the position of John Kerry. The one that Bush campaigners and pundits make fun of for being “nuanced” or “shifting.” I think it would have been the position of a President John McCain or a President George H.W. Bush.

But the Bush administration, for pretty obvious political reasons, refuses to reevaluate its reasoning and change the situation on the ground or among diplomats. The result is a less safe world. This is true statistically, as the State Dep.’s figures showed terrorism increasing from 2002 to 2003. It is true anecdotally, as one of my best friends has been put in danger twice when bombs went off near embassies in the Central Asian country she’s living in.

On the merits of the issues that matter to me, I disagree with George Bush and agree with John Kerry. Moreover, I’ve been disgusted at how discredited partisan ax-grinders have smeared Kerry for his conduct in 1968 and 1971, when he fought in Vietnam and then came back to participate in a controversial anti-war group. They’ve tried to say he’s incapable in 2004 of leading troops – who are currently being terribly mislead – because he loudly opposed a war in 1971 and disgruntled some veterans in the process. To attack Kerry for this is as shortsighted and stupid as to attack Democrats – and people like me – for questioning George Bush’s leadership in the war on terror. It won’t rectify a thing for the veterans of that war, but it will prolong the suffering of the veterans of this one.

I disagree with Kerry and the Democrats on pretty much every other issue of substance. If I could put Kerry in charge of foreign policy and let Bush choose our judges, I would. But transient social and legal issues are not as important as our safety and our continued solvency as a superpower. Those are the issues this year, and that’s why I’m voting for John Kerry.

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