Never before have I been in a position where anyone outside of my immediate family cared about who I’d be voting for in a Presidential election. Now, daily emails arrive asking why I haven’t come out and declared my preference for Bush. The fact is, I’m not ready to do so. Yet.
Before I explain why, let me say that although I am a registered Republican, although I contribute regularly to the Republican National Committee and proudly display my personally-signed portrait of George and Laura Bush in my den, although I always assume I’ll be voting Republican in every election (but sometimes don’t), I don’t cast my vote based on a candidate’s vision for America. I vote based on my vision for America, and I cast my vote for the candidate who seems not just more likely to move in the direction that I think is best for our country but also more capable of keeping our country from going in directions we should never go.
When I think of what America should be, I think back to our stated ideal of protecting the citizen from governmental overreaching. I think of our claim to tolerate – if not encourage – competing ideologies, religions and lifestyles. I think of our heritage based on turning personal freedoms into entreprenurial success, and how that success on the individual level has historically translated into our nation’s success on the global level. Most of all, I think of our implicit devotion to serving as a model – and a defender – of tolerance, integrity and rationality for other nations whose citizens yearn for the freedoms and comforts that Americans enjoy.
I don’t see anyone among the Democrats interested in pursuing my vision. I can’t take Wesley Clark seriously, not only because he’s never held a political office but because of the blatant way in which he contorts himself to appeal to different voting segments: the gay community, Jewish voters, and the anti-war crowd – after giving sworn testimony to Congress in favor of the very action he now condemns.
John Edwards has an automatic liability in my opinion since he’s being likened to Clinton and Carter, is already embroiled in campaign contribution controversy and claims to be against lobbyists while accepting lobbyists’ money. Then there’s that whole Charles Pickering thing.
As for John Kerry, the man who claims to have learned that “in life as in politics you stay steady” he seems to take a long time learning what stability means. He is accused of ripping off a small-businessman’s ideas, district-shopping through three separate congressional districts in the span of two months while looking to win his first election. As for “family values,” he has an apparent preference for heiress brides: Julia Thorne, his first wife, whom he divorced while she was battling a suicidal depression (which she’s since gone on to write about); and Theresa Heinz, his second wife, who only recently took on his last name (rather than her dead husband’s famous Ketchup-family name) when Kerry announced his candidacy. Meanwhile, as Kerry has busied himself with accusations that Bush adheres to a “creed of greed” there’s that sticky little matter of his off-shore investments not cited in his Senate financial disclosures and the fact that his largest contributors are the very same special interest groups he condemns. But condemning the very mechanism which propels his career is nothing new for Kerry – witness his denunciation of the Vietnam war, without which we might never have heard of the man with JFK’s initials.
And Howard Dean? Please.
Still, I can’t honestly say that I’m entirely pleased with President Bush’s performance, either. The Republicans re-entered the White House under the guise of “compassionate conservativism” and yet compassion seems to stop where Administration members’ personal morality begins, to-wit: the President’s notion of a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage while planning a billion-dollar drive to promote heterosexual marriages. In a nation where the separation of Church and State are held sacred (for lack of a better word), social progress demands an end to using the law as a means to disenfranchise a large, productive segment of our society. We, as Republicans, are failing there.
The level of deficit-spending over the past four years shocks me, and the recent reigning-in is tardy, to say the least. The notion of amnesty programs for illegal alien workers, loans to the U.N. and thinly-disguised federal management of public school systems seems… well, liberal. Where is the conservative President I elected?
I despise what I sense is our slow loss of personal privacy, all in the name of national security (read: “Big Government” under a different disguise). There was a time when I disregarded those who warned that the Administration would abuse its power. I’ve had to eat my words, an experience which left a bad taste in my mouth.
Looking overseas, I never bought into the notion that WMDs were our only reason to go to war in Iraq: Saddam Hussein’s history of despotism, cruelty and machinations were sufficient justification for me, and I am pleased to learn that President Bush acknowledges that we may never find WMDs in Iraq. I believe that the war in Iraq has reduced our chances of being dragged into a war elsewhere. I believe we were right to go there, that we’re right to be there, and that we need to remain as long as it takes.
But now that the Bush presidency has become a “war presidency“, few hold as much influence over the next four years (and thereafter) as the man or woman named as the Secretary of Defense. Yet Donald Rumsfeld’s agenda to hamstring the U.S. Army – an agenda blindly rubber-stamped at the onset of the war by the Administration, much to its detriment – still concerns me. I am appalled that as we lose troops through both casualties and attrition, Rumsfeld is fighting against sending reinforcements to the desert to relieve those who’ve been fighting.
See, the thing is – in my mind, at any rate – even though Donald Rumsfeld believes the U.S. can fight a war on two fronts, the reality is that our Armed Services are now, as a result of the Administrations’ policies, being compelled to fight a war on four fronts. Three are obvious: the war against public opinion, the war in Iraq, and the war on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. (After all, despite being considered within the same operating theatre, the troops are divided and we’re still searching for a tie between the two). But, under Rumsfeld, there’s a fourth front: the war against the DoD to salvage the ground forces’ morale, the sense of family and the career pride that is intrinsic to a well-prepared, well-trained fighting force.
What it boils down to is the fact that Rumsfeld “manages” the military like Montgomery Ward’s CEOs managed their company: always looking at the bottom-line and taking for granted that employees will happily, and unquestioningly, bear the brunt. That crippled then bankrupted Monkey-Wards, which was once considered an American institution. What will it do to the U.S. Armed Forces?
Once we, as Republicans, believed* that Christie Whitman would be the only underling undermining the President’s goals. We were wrong. Yet to this day the Administration turns a blind eye when it comes to Rumsfeld’s ambition, a drive rife with the very taint of deception that fuels conspiracy theories among our liberal counterparts. It is little comfort, then, to learn that mine is not the only vote apparently hinging on Rumsfeld‘s continued employment.
The fact is, I voted for George W. Bush to be my President. I knew when I voted for him that, like all his predecessors, he would delegate responsibility to others. That’s part and parcel of being a good executive, whether that be in business or in politics. But I did not vote for four years – nor will I vote for four more years – of Donald Rumsfeld’s worldviews in which so many “possible threats” are overstated while so many realities are misstated. So if George Bush wants my vote he needs only do one thing: take charge of the White House by clearing out the cobwebs that are clouding that vision of his.
Until then, I’m going to sit here on this fence and watch the various candidates grapple with their pasts as they each try to wrest hold of our country’s future. May the best man win.
*Link via Instapundit.