vs. Bush: More Than a Dime's Worth of Difference
By Ernest Partridge, The
A rising chorus of discontent from the left is being heard
throughout the land - in the mainstream press, and even in
the dissenting progressive media. We are told that the Democrats
have sold out by selecting in John Kerry - "Bush-lite." As
Sam Smith writes in Progressive Review, "The
Election is Over - We Lost." And Ralph Nader is back in
And so, on election day, thousands, maybe millions, of voters
who detest George Bush and what he has done to our country,
rather than besmirch their pure political consciences by voting
for "the lesser of two evils," will either stay at home or
vote for Nader. After all, they are telling us once again,
"there's not a dime's worth of difference."
As all this takes place, somewhere in the bowels of the
White House, Karl Rove is smiling. So too are Ed Gillespie
and his minions at the Republican National Committee, and
corporate lobbyists up and down K Street. The message, "not
a dime's worth of difference," which gave us Bush/Cheney in
2000, might well once again hand them an election in November.
"If you choose the lesser of two evils, you still get an
evil," we are told by the purists, who fail to appreciate
that if you fail to choose the lesser of two evils, you will
get a greater evil. It is a forced choice, Bush or Kerry,
there is no third alternative.
Fortunately, as I will argue below, a Kerry administration
(the "lesser evil") may not be all that evil after all.
Those who told us in 2000 that there was not a dime's worth
of difference might pause for a moment and reflect. If a thousand
or so Nader votes in Florida had gone instead for Al Gore:
- Over 700 dead American soldiers - and counting - along
with several thousand innocent dead Iraqis, would now be
alive, and many thousand more hideously injured individuals
would now be healthy and whole.
- There would be far fewer Islamic radicals willing to die
in order to inflict terror and destruction upon us, "The
- The Federal Budget would continue to yield the surpluses
of the Clinton era and the national debt would be further
reduced, while our schools and infrastructure would be well
funded and our Medicare and Social Security funds secured.
- Our civil liberties would still be protected. There would
be no Patriot Act, and the influx of doctrinaire right-wing
activist judges into the federal courts would be halted.
- Our international alliances would be intact, and the United
States would not now be widely regarded throughout the world
as the greatest threat to world peace.
That's more than a dime's worth of difference.
And bear in mind that a Gore administration would likely
have been, to a significant degree, a continuation of the
Clinton-Gore administration, but without the blue dress and
slightly more to the left of Clinton.
That was then. What about now? Is John Kerry just a taller
and more articulate version of George W. Bush?
I will readily admit that Kerry was not my first choice
for the Democratic Party nomination. There is much in his
voting record and in his recent pronouncements that disturbs
me - in particular, his votes in support of the Iraq war resolution
and the Patriot Act. His position on the Israel-Palestine
struggle is appalling - sadly, in this case at least, scarcely
"a dime's worth of difference" from that of Bush.
In addition, his campaign to date has been lackluster. Up
against the most unprincipled and ruthless national political
machine in our history, the Kerry campaign has been painfully
polite and restrained. Perhaps, as some have urged, there
is some political shrewdness behind all this restraint, but
if so, we have yet to see evidence of it.
Amidst conflicting reports, on the one hand from the GOP
that Kerry is "the most liberal member of the Senate" (Washington
Times), and on the other hand from the left that Kerry
is a faux-liberal and a sellout, I decided to examine his
voting record. There I discovered that, amazingly, the GOP
account is closer to the truth. Consider:
The liberal Americans for Democratic Action posts for Kerry
a lifetime "Liberal Quotient" of 92 out of 100. By way of
comparison: Edward Kennedy - 90, Bill Frist - 3, Al Gore -
65, Paul Wellstone - 99.
The League of Conservation voters gave Kerry a score of 92
for the 107th Congress (2001-2) and 94 for the 106th Congress
(1999-2000). Edward Kennedy's scores were, respectively, 84
and 81. GOP Majority leader Bill Frist registered a cold zero.
(Unlike the ADA, the LCV does not list lifetime scores, or
the scores of former members.) (See my April 28 blog, "Anatomy
of a Spin.")
It doesn't get much better than this. What we have here
is not the record of a "liberal in name only."
Even so, Kerry's votes on the Iraq War resolution and the
Patriot Act cannot be excused. However, we might acknowledge
mitigating circumstances. Remember that only one senator,
Wisconsin's Russ Feingold, voted against the Patriot Act -
a 352 page behemoth, dumped on the senators' desks mere hours
before the vote. While Kerry was wrong to vote for it, he
was joined in this error by Ted Kennedy, Paul Wellstone, and
every other Democratic senator except Feingold - who, by the
way, I'd be delighted to find on the Democratic ticket.
As for the Iraq resolution, Kerry voted for it, along with
half the Democratic senators because, to put it bluntly, the
Senate was lied to by Bush, Cheney, and the Republican Senate
leaders. And because lying to Congress is an impeachable offense,
the Democratic senators might well have been excused at the
time for assuming that the President wouldn't dare lie to
them. By now, of course, they know better. "Fool me twice,
shame on me!"
Furthermore, "The Iraq War Resolution" is a misnomer. This
was not a vote to go to war with Iraq. It was, instead, an
agreement to sanction a war only if the Administration submitted
a formal "determination":
that the president had found that (1) further diplomatic
means alone would not resolve the "continuing threat" (meaning
WMD) and (2) the military action was part of the overall
response to terrorism, including dealing with those
involved in "the terrorist attacks that occurred on September
11, 2001. (John Dean's summary, in Worse than Watergate,
The "determination" that Bush presented to Congress at the
outbreak of the war was a travesty (as John Dean lucidly points
out - pp. 140-156, op cit). Moreover, as subsequent events
and investigations have proven, both enabling conditions of
the administration's formal declaration were flatly false.
The Senate was shamelessly manipulated into approving that
resolution. It was wrong for Kerry and the others to vote
for that resolution. But the greater offense, by far, falls
upon Bush and his henchmen in the Senate.
I have endeavored above to defend Kerry's Congressional
voting record or, failing that, to mitigate the gravity of
his acknowledged errors. While this is a good record, it contains
some glaring flaws.
But it is a mistake to assess a politician solely on his
record, and still worse to condemn him on the basis of a "cherry-picked"
list of his worse legislative errors.
Far more important, though impossible to quantify, is the
measure of the person himself: the intellectual and moral
qualities that he might bring to the office. And by these
criteria, there is simply no comparison between the candidates.
Anyone who doubts the intelligence and eloquence, and the
moral insight and substance of John Kerry should watch his
1971 testimony to Congress, available at the DemocracyNow
website. These are his own words - there were no ghost-writers.
Many disparage Kerry for his wealth and class status. But
it is surely a measure of his character that, despite these
advantages, he volunteered for service in Viet Nam, where
he displayed extraordinary leadership and courage, as testified
to by his combat decorations.
But in addition to his undoubted physical courage, he exemplified
great moral courage as he stepped forward to lead the Viet
Nam veterans' protest against the war.
In contrast, as we all know, George Bush took refuge in
the "champagne squadron" of the Air National Guard, from which
he took early and unauthorized leave, and ever since has covered
up and lied to evade the consequences of this offense.
Kerry is also a proven winner. After losing his first run
for political office in 1972, Kerry has triumphed in every
successive political race that he has entered.
As an experienced politician, and a principled and intelligent
individual, Kerry, unlike Bush, will be receptive to contrary
opinions, persuaded by expert opinion and scientific evidence,
and open to reasoned argument. There will be an end, at last,
to government by dogma, hunch, "gut," and pay-off.
This is an individual with solid experience and with outstanding
intellectual and moral qualities. We are fortunate to have
such a man running in opposition to the disastrous regime
that was imposed upon us in 2000.
While there are several individuals that I would have preferred
to find at the head of the Democratic ticket in November,
I will enthusiastically support and vote for John Kerry. He
is unquestionably the better candidate. If he does no more
than apply the brakes on the runaway train that Bush has set
in motion - running over our civil liberties and heading straight
for a economic precipice - then Kerry will have earned his
place in history.
Early in his life, Kerry displayed the intellectual and
moral qualities that could make him a great president - qualities
which, of late, have sadly been less in evidence. Somewhere
inside the too-smooth politician of today, is the courageous
27-year-old who testified so eloquently to the Senate Committee
Should Kerry win in November, he will head a party and preside
over a nation that has moved decidedly to the right during
the past few decades. A Kerry election will be a battle won
in an ongoing political war. The struggle must continue, as
progressives put constant pressure on the president, elect
liberal members to Congress, and work diligently to recapture
the Democratic party, just as the radical right took over
the GOP following the defeat of Goldwater in 1964.
In view of the alternative, I find it impossible to comprehend
how anyone of a progressive mind could even think of sitting
out this election.
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer
in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He
publishes the website, "The
Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The