Friday, October 01, 2004


Early in Thursday night’s face-off between President George W. Bush and Candidate John Kerry, Bush stumbled briefly and spoke out of turn. Kerry flashed a warm smile at his rival and said, “I’d be glad to throw out these rules and have a real dialogue.”

Kerry was referring to the rules agreed on by representatives of both the Republican and Democratic Parties, rules which make it impossible for the candidates to actually question and engage each other on the issues, something which Kerry, at least, knows is the hallmark of real debate. But Bush avoided Kerry’s challenge, and the moment quickly passed.

Since Bush has routinely questioned Kerry’s fitness to lead, and even attacked this war hero’s courage, just as in previous campaigns, he maligned the courage of such real men as John McCain and Max Cleland, this brief moment in the so-called debate seems to offer an insight into the President’s character, or lack of it. Of course he doesn’t dare go mano a mano with John Kerry, who, even adhering to the stilted and arbitrary rules, far outclassed the President in this first meeting.

From the opening question, Kerry kept Bush on the defensive, consistently marshalling the facts while Bush repeatedly fell back on his old lies—that Saddam Hussein posed a threat, that everything is going well in Iraq. On the issue of Bush’s failure to pursue Osama bin Laden, the real perpetrator of 9/11, Kerry seized the advantage and drove home what a colossal blunder this was. At that moment, Bush’s defenses collapsed, and he seemed almost lost for any logical reply. Often, all he could do was stumble and repeat his mantra, “It’s hard work,” “We’re working hard,” “We have a lot of hard work to do.”

Similarly, Bush appeared weak and even foolish in his attempts to explain why he has kept the U.S. from joining the World Court, or why he has turned his back on the Kyoto Accords, thus failing to respond in any way to global warming. And when Kerry challenged him on stem cell research, Bush could find nothing to say. What could he say? Virtually every scientist alive knows that this research could hold the key to curing a wide range of diseases and disabilities, such as cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and spinal cord injuries.

Clearly, it’s time for a change in leadership. Or, to put it another way, it’s time we had a real leader for President, not merely a straw man.


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