‘A Serious, Sober Look Around’

One of the nation’s most liberal newspapers, The Austin American-Statesman, has decided to endorse President Bush for re-election. Their endorsement is full of practical advice for the country in general and for the President, specifically. I don’t agree with some points they make, but it is a surprisingly fair assessment.

Endorsement: Despite flaws, Bush better leader for perilous times

A country so deeply divided over such an array of issues should pause a moment and take a serious, sober look around.

Americans should ask themselves whether they really believe that European nations critical of the war effort will intervene in Iraq if Sen. John F. Kerry is elected president. They won’t.

Further, we should ask whether they really believe that anything less than a fundamental change in the way Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs are funded is adequate to meet future demands.

The war on terrorism

Redirecting the focus to the world as it is, Libya has given up its nuclear program and Afghanistan held its first free presidential election ever, and the process — the first in which women took part — went rather peacefully. A changed Libya and a changed Afghanistan were the direct result of President George W. Bush taking action.

We generally have supported the war on terror as well as the decision to go to war in Iraq, but we have never been shy about criticizing the prosecution of them either. The judgment of the president and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as well as Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, has been clouded at times, and if Bush wins a second term, changes are certainly in order.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz need to go. Changes at the top of the Defense Department hierarchy would signal not weakness but a commitment to break from the mistakes of the past three years. The young people bearing the brunt of the burden and their families who share that burden deserve no less.

But there is no guarantee that a change in administrations would bring either stability or security to the Middle East in the foreseeable future. In fact, changing administrations now might embolden enemies who believe that Americans don’t have the stomach or the patience for the kind of protracted, unconventional warfare in which we are engaged.

Three years after terrorists struck at targets in New York and Washington, we live in a world that looks familiar but is vastly different from the one we knew before Sept. 11, 2001.

President Bush got some things wrong, but there is much he got right. We are faced with an unrelenting foe who strikes from the shadows and won’t be deterred by diplomacy or international resolutions. Bush’s resolve and commitment to stay the course are clear. As Winston Churchill once said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Though Kerry is an honorable man who knows firsthand the horrors of war, he is deluding himself if he thinks a different administration will change the outlook of a foe that doesn’t make war on an individual administration, but on the West in general and the United States in particular.

Dubious also is any notion that the United Nations will suddenly start enforcing its own sanctions and resolutions if there is a different occupant in the White House in January.

That said, this is no blanket endorsement for the way the Bush administration has run the Iraq war. From its reliance on flawed intelligence to its inability to admit lapses in judgment, the White House has been its own worst enemy in making a cogent case for its war-related actions and conduct.

Domestic policy

Bush defies the conventional “do not touch” school of thought on Social Security and government-subsidized health care. He challenges us to confront realities that most in public life would rather not.

These programs must undergo radical changes as baby boomers, who are now keeping Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs afloat with their tax contributions, begin to retire and become consumers rather than providers. That day is almost upon us. We’ve been in denial long enough.

Though there is plenty to be wary of in Bush’s plan to privatize portions of the Social Security program, no one can argue that fewer workers will be around to support more retirees than ever before in the history of the Depression-era program. Something must change before the system collapses.

Which brings us to Bush’s spending policies. Lyndon B. Johnson tried to have it both ways and found out that it’s either guns or butter.

The president has not asked for sacrifice, despite the huge financial costs of the war. He and other politicians ought to be more responsible and quit accumulating so much debt.

Bush’s tax cuts might have provided needed economic stimulus, but it’s time to tap the brake on them.

If he does not, we will leave our children a legacy of spiraling debt and a lower quality of life.

Civil liberties, appointments

An erosion of civil liberties under the Bush administration also troubles us. A time of war requires the nation to address security issues, but we see in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s policies a frightening capacity to abridge constitutional rights. Ashcroft also needs to go.

We urge Bush to approach appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court with the same eye for balance that he did in selecting appointees for the Texas courts when he was governor. Those of us who admired the way he was able to forge bipartisan alliances with Democrats in the state Legislature yearn to see the Texas Bush inform the Washington Bush on effective, inclusive governance.

This president is not a conservative in either foreign or fiscal policy. In some ways, he is radically changing the course of government — and that might be just what we need to face foreign threats and a rapidly changing global economy. We certainly hope so.

We do not make this endorsement lightly or without reservation, and we ask that the president return our faith by acknowledging his failures and acting to correct them.

1 thought on “‘A Serious, Sober Look Around’”

  1. I’m just so ready for all this to be over. But it is kinda remarkable that the Austin newspaper supports the President. We’ll take all the help we can get though, heh.

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