Bush vs. Kerry: The Question of Core
July 13, 2004
By D.A. Blyler
"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions
of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."
- Thomas Jefferson
When you walk into the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.,
an inscription from the architect of the Declaration of Independence
can be found carved into the base of the dome: "I have sworn upon
the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny
over the mind of man."
I was reminded of this recently when watching conservative media
pundits reduce the coming U.S. Presidential Election to the question
of "core." The way the argument plays is that the resolute, unwavering,
leadership of George W. Bush in Iraq is a reflection of our president's
strong moral grounding, while the apparent "flip flopping" of Democratic
nominee John Kerry reveals an opportunistic man without core beliefs.
By the time the November elections roll around, this argument
will have been re-hashed, re-worded, and re-invented ad nauseam
by conservatives through every media outlet with a microphone, printing
press, or web connection.
Reasoned debate was abandoned by the Republicans long ago in favor
of political mantras aimed at boring the vast electorate into non-voting
ennui, while igniting the passions of the party faithful. And by
and large the tactic proves winning, with over fifty percent of
registered voters never caring to cast a ballot, while conservative
hardliners march to the polling booths in droves.
It is a cynical strategy, and a "tyranny over the mind of man"
that surely would have provoked a hostile response from Jefferson,
were he still alive and sipping mint juleps on his plantation at
It is against this public tyranny that John Kerry must wage his
2004 presidential campaign. On the singular issue of "core," Kerry
must stake his claim on knowledge, reason, and thoughtful debate.
And to avoid the pitfalls of Al Gore, who during his 2000 presidential
run often sounded like an agitated schoolmarm, he must temper his
logic with humor, wit, and humility.
The American public must be forcefully reminded that there is no
greater core than an active, contemplative mind used to its fullest,
God-given, potential - and that the process of political decision
making is not a black and white arena of universal absolutes (such
as Good vs. Evil) but an all too human convention, which if not
rigorously evaluated and upgraded becomes obsolete.
Case in point, Kerry's quote: "I actually did vote for the $87
Billion [to fund the Iraq war] before I voted against it." The right
wing is bludgeoning the Massachusetts senator with this comment,
much in the same way they hammered Gore with the out-of-context,
misleading, accusation that Gore thought he "invented" the internet.
Gore never cut the sails from this ridiculous charge and it rode
him all the way to Election Day, with many people believing the
Democratic nominee was off his rocker.
Kerry can't make the same mistake. He must reclaim his words, place
them in perspective, and turn them against the Republicans. He must
contrast himself (his core), with a prideful sitting president who
confuses the admission of mistakes with weakness and changes of
course with a lack of stalwartness, in order to remind voters there
is no greater sign of wisdom and maturity than admitting one was
wrong, and after owning up to mistakes, laboring to make things
right. Only then will the public be reassured that with John Kerry
as Commander-in-Chief "failures of intelligence" won't have another
willing accomplice in the White House.
D.A. Blyler's essays have appeared at Salon.com, The Korean
Herald, The Nation newspaper in Bangkok, and other international
publications. He currently makes his home in South-East Asia. An
archive of his articles and books can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/dablyler/page.html.