August 30, 2004

Outrageous Implications at the Convention

I admit I am predisposed to look critically at everything said at this week's Republican National Convention. And I know I need to be politically correct or risk being shouted down as an unpatriotic, unfeeling flipflopper. But two things struck me most about this made-for-TV farce: First, the utter reliance on an event that happened three years ago, and second, the implication that Republicans have a monopoly on patriotism, charity, and courage.

It was no secret that the entire convention would center on 9/11/2001. For a moment, focus on the 2001 part of that rather than the 9/11 part of that. Bush wants us all to think about the 9/11 part for obvious reasons. And he wants us NOT to think about 2002, 2003, and 2004 for other obvious reasons. Such as job losses, children being left behind, nearly 1000 American soldiers killed in Iraq, sluggish economy, utter loss of respect for America around the world, Abu Ghraib, etc., etc., etc. Republicans complain about Kerry skipping the 20-year Senate period of his biography; why should we not complain about Bush skipping his 3-year stint as President (which, lest we forget, has a lengthy job description, only one bullet of which is "Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces).

The other part galls me more. The Bush campaign has taken an American tragedy, 9/11, and turned it into a Republican tragedy. By parading relatives of the 9/11 victims across the stage, the Republican party has implied--no, all but stated--that all the good that came after 9/11 (the charitable contributions of billions of dollars, the people who worked day and night at Ground Zero, the men and women who volunteered to join the armed services or who were put into the fight as National Guard, the people who hurt and suffered and morned and rebuilt) was due specifically to George Bush and the Republican Party.

In September of 2001, ALL Americans rallied around New York, the victims of 9/11, and the government in Washington. Democrats in particular set aside their policy differences with the president (which were many) and offered support. Democrats across the land gave money, volunteered time and labor, put "United We Stand" stickers and American flags on their cars and in their windows. Democrats as well as Republicans shared in the tragedy and its aftermath, and the rebuilding that has begun from that.

For George Bush to hijack that shared experience and claim it as his own, a Republican experience, where the families of the victims are thanking the audience at the Republican convention for their support and assistance and goodwill, is simply sickening. I feel deeply for the families of the victims, American and foreign, of that dreadful event. I have tried to explain that event to my children.

9/11 was an event shared by everyone, a truly American experience. The blatant prostitution of such a sacred occurrence for a few desperate points in a political poll is truly disgusting.

August 26, 2004

Flip-Flopping Record

Along with all the Olympic and World records falling this week must be another one, for political flip-flopping. Bush/Cheney had a great week in that regard.

First was the flip-flop on Israeli settlements. Bush's "Road Map" for peace in the Middle East called for an end to Israeli settlement expansion. But now Bush supports Sharon's extensions of those settlements, which is proceeding at a nice clip.

Then came Cheney's flip-flop-flip on the gay marriage issue. Four years ago he was inclusive of gays in the Republican party. Then he backed Bush's proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Now he's flipped again to say he personally opposes the amendment but supports Bush.

The Bush administration had two flops in the past two hours alone. First was when he caved to pressure from John McCain on the Swift Boat ad and said he planned meaningless (or worse, dangerous) legal action against ALL 527 organizations. Then came the report from his own people saying that greenhouse emissions are to blame for global warming, after for years claiming that if global warming existed at all, it certainly could not possibly be because of all the oil people burn.

Who is the real flip-flopper in this campaign? George Bush, that's who.

Freedom for Everyone

Dick Cheney the other day said he believed in freedom for everyone, and that the legal aspects of marriage should be determined by the states. Those are the two most clear and correct things I've heard from a Bush administration official since Bush' inauguration. Unfortunately, his personal views apparently hold no sway in the Republican party because the next day a draft of the Republican platform was released, and one of the key planks is to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution while at the same time limiting states' abilities to determine the legal aspects of marriage.

Cheney's response? His loyalty to the president is more important than his views on what is morally correct (and also his loyalty to his own daughter). I can't decide whether this is admirable or terrible.

On the one hand, you can't expect everyone to agree with every policy decision made by their leader, so you would not expect him to switch sides over a single issue. On the other, this is a lightning-rod issue that Bush and other Republicans have pushed to the forefront of our public discussion, one in which the goal is to single out a specific group of Americans and discriminate against them in the very fabric of our society.

But Cheney's personal decisions aside, his statement illuminates a paradox I have never been able to understand. Every Republican I know personally would agree emphatically with the two ideas Cheney espoused: freedom for all, and limitation of federal power by allowing states more autonomy.

Yet Bush's push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage violates both those tenets. What I don't understand is why Republicans could possibly support something that limits freedom while enlarging the power and control of the federal government.

The only conclusion I can reach is that in this case in particular, supporters of the amendment are being led by simple fear and bigotry--fear of homosexuality and a desire to stamp out that which is feared. Honestly, I can see no other reason than fear and bigotry to want to actively create a specific class of sub-citizens in the United States.

August 24, 2004

527s and Independent Ads

I've heard the term "527" recently because of the whole Kerry-bashing ad flap. I don't really know what a "527" is, and I bet you don't either, but I'm willing to bet it's a tax-exempt designation that carries with it several regulations about financial sources and expenditures.

John Kerry has called for George Bush to condemn a particular ad placed by a particular 527 organization. George Bush, in turn, has called for the elimination of 527s and the elimination of all ads from independent organizations.

This is both a tremendously bad idea and right in line with what Bush, Cheney, and Ashcroft have been pushing towards: a curtailment of free speech, a restriction on non-approved opinions, and consolidation of power among government and big-money elite powerbrokers.

The mainstream media, cynically, went right to the budget numbers in assessing whether John Kerry would join Bush in condeming all independent speech on candidates and elections. As it turns out, the numbers seriously favor Kerry--independent 527s have raised many times as much for Kerry-related speech than for Bush-related speech. The mainstream media, being fed a line they can all parrot with interesting graphics and charts, stopped there.

Instead, they should have continued to explore the first amendment and how 527s are vital for allowing independent--truly independent--groups to speak out on political issues and political candidates. 527s can do what the mainstream media has so far this campaign failed, in general, to do: express opinions that do not come directly from the spokespeople of the candidates.

August 22, 2004

The Vietnam Story

I am tired of all the tit-for-tat about the specifics of what happened on a particular day 35 years ago in Vietnam. There is no question whatsoever that many thousands of American soldiers faced worse situations and more danger, suffered greater wounds and hardship, than John Kerry did in Viet Nam. Just read the book (or see the series) "Band of Brothers." Now THERE was some hardship, suffering, and danger.

But that's not really the point, is it?

The point is to determine the type of man John Kerry is--his integrity, his character, his courage. John Kerry is running for President, a civilian position which has, as one of its duties, command over the greatest military power on the planet (for now anyway). Character matters. Integrity matters. Wisdom matters.

Thirty-five years ago, John Kerry volunteered to go to Viet Nam. George Bush and Dick Cheney did not; instead, they used their considerable influence to get out of going to Viet Nam. I don't blame them--in their position, I would have, too. I hope that in my entire life, I never have to see ten seconds of combat personally. Clearly, George Bush and Dick Cheney feel the same way. That does not necessarily make them (or me) cowardly, but it does speak volumes about John Kerry's courage and character. John Kerry still carries shrapnel in his leg. Some say his wounds were "not really that bad." When did "it has to be a really bad wound" become a prerequisite for being respected?

Integrity also matters. A group of veterans claims Kerry falsified after-action reports. This is a "whom do you believe, him or me" question. The Naval documentation supports Kerry's account. Kerry's attackers, however, have not a single item that could possibly prove their story. Instead, the best evidence they offer is, "I wasn't wounded, so how could there possibly have been a big firefight?"

Sounds an awful lot to me like, "Of course we can't find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, obviously he's hidden them." Lack of counter-evidence does not satisfy burden of proof. So clearly, the integrity of the veteran group is much more in question than Kerry's.

But back to Kerry's integrity: After he got home from the war, he followed his heart and his mind and spoke out against the war. The veterans that now attack him felt betrayed and angry and no doubt now resent his success, particularly because he is a Democrat. The point, though, is that Kerry learned while in Viet Nam, and he felt strongly enough that he did what he felt was right. George Bush, however, still has six months of missing records from his National Guard service. Bush has also lied about Saddam's weapons, the cost of the prescription drug benefit, the cost of the Iraq war, "mission accomplished," "the economy has turned the corner." Integrity is not Bush's strong suit.

Finally, wisdom matters. Foreign policy and economic policy are not best defined by a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later cowboy. Understanding every nuance and being able to adjust policy accordingly is the key to policy wisdom. Bush doggedly sticks to his vision of the world, his vision of how things must be, without understanding nuance and in fact ridiculing Kerry for it. This is like the "C" student ridiculing the "A" student for being smart in school. All the other "C" students get a big kick out of it and slap him on the back, but when push comes to shove, who would they rather have as the "brains" of their operation? Kerry has wisdom to ask questions, listen, and formulate responses and strategies. Bush blasts into every situation knowing in his soul that he is right, even when the evidence is against him.

This whole Viet Nam thing bothers me because it is so far away from the real point of this election that it should have disappeared in a puff of irrelevance when it first showed up. Kerry deserves respect for volunteering to go when other privileged young men used their influence to stay home. There is no evidence of Kerry falsifying anything. Until there is, this should just not get any more media attention.

August 19, 2004

Because I Don't Like Talking to Myself

I finally figured out why I want to have a blog. Every reason I could come up with I quickly shot down; I'm a very honest person, and I couldn't lie to myself. It's not that I have things to say that art truly insightful--most of my political views can be seen in the New York Times or Washington Post regularly. It's not because I have great writing to offer the world. Some day I will finally create a great story, but it won't be through a blog. It's not because you care about my kids, or what I ate for dinner last night, or why I'm feeling angst about my upcoming product release at work.

The real reason I want to have a blog is that I don't like talking to myself. If I talk to the computer, I can imagine that you are out there right now reading this. Of course you're not, but with over a billion people on line, the potential audience is HUGE.