AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: Flip-Flopping DATE: 11/02/2004 01:28:00 PM ----- BODY:
My wholly unsolicited, shoddily researched, incoherent stream of consciousness about today's election I really hate John Kerry. He's wooden on an Al-Gore level, and boasts the same out-of-touch aristocratic pedigree as Dubya. Everything he does, but especially his publicity junkets, is excruciatingly fake. Goose hunting? The man looks like he'd burst into tears trying to play "Duck, Duck, Goose." Stopping at a Wendy's only to toss the drive thru bags for takeout from the Yacht Club. Claiming to be a Red Sox fan and then identifying the Sox' foremost slugger as "Manny Ortez." Doing in interview with Details magazine over a pint of brew, looking as out of place next to it as he would, say, a minority, or a real Bostonian. He drones about the war when he's using his participation in the most heinous war of the last century, Vietnam, to boost his own candidacy. He as soon earned those Purple Hearts he threw over the White House fence as he has any actual geese stuffed on his wall. He drones about the war when he buckled like most Democrats under the pressure of the White House and voted to endorse it. He is among the Democrats who buckled, bent over, and let down the American people when the Republican machine was ramming war down our throats. Now, the best he can do when it comes to figuring out how to untangle the morass that the war has become is to say he has a plan to involve the U.N. Guess what? The U.N. may not want any part of it. I really dislike John Kerry. Dislike him to the point where, if there was a Republican running that I halfway respect, for example John McCain, I'd thank myself for registering Independent and cast my vote for him. A Republican. Seriously. Problem is, in the other corner, wearing very, very black trunks (to paraphrase South Park) is a man I consider to be the worst President this country has ever had. And when I say "worst", I don't mean "ineffective." We've had plenty of cold fish, weaklings and deadbeats (Jimmy Carter comes to mind). No, Dubya has the distinction of being proactively horrible. Where previous bad Presidents, including LBJ and Richard Nixon, could be said to have inherited the international conflicts and domestic strife that plagued their tenure in office, Bush inherited an economic surplus, a reasonably stable and contented society and a government that was ticking along with reasonable ease. In the four years in which he has held office, every one of those things has become its opposite. It's like he inherited the Garden of Eden and has returned it to us as scorched earth. Yes, it is arguable that 9/11 was not something he caused, although the fact that he receives all the credit for reacting to the situation and none of the blame for not acting on it beforehand still irks me. But even given the idea that 9/11 and the climate it created were forced upon him, Bush has only made the problems worse. Here's the bottom line: at this point we find our armed forces mired in a desperate and probably futile war which this President undertook unilaterally against the wishes, requests, protests and advice of, oh, everyone in the entire world. For, as it turned out, manufactured reasons that have little to do with our stated goal of defending our borders in the first place. And yet the same Republican war machine that impeached President Clinton for a blowjob not only praises Bush for "making America a safer place", but lambastes his critics as being callow, un-American terrorist sympathizers. We are a divided, paranoid nation teetering on the brink of economic ruin and international disaster. While it's nice to see the Presidential election take on at least as much fervor as, say, the Sox-Yankees rivalry, it would be preferable if the stakes were, say, improvement in our policies rather than the perceived avoidance of Armageddon. About my biggest objection to President Bush, in fact, is not his ill-advised war or his brash and ill-conceived sledgehammer philosophy in foreign affairs, or even his economic hoodwinking of the American taxpayer. My biggest objection is the culture his administration has brought about in which dissent is criminal, protest unthinkable, and emotional blackmail the order of the day when politics are discussed. Bush and his campaign have earned my utter, unequivocal disgust at using Sept. 11 victims to promote his re-election. Not only is it a barbaric display of callous opportunism, but it's putting a spin on what should be seen as the largest disaster and failure of his Presidency, not the greatest moment. Sept. 11 was a dismal failure of security and intelligence. Rather than overhauling intelligence agencies after the fact, Bush has added more bureaucracy in the form of the Homeland Security Department, and he and his neo-fascist Attorney General have passed the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, easily the most malevolent, unconstitutional piece of legislation ever to pass through our supposedly democratic government, and by so doing, have set about curtailing the rights of their own citizens rather than undertaking any kind of honest effort to rethink American security and intelligence as a practical, rather than a political, matter. In other words, in response to Sept. 11, our government has made us much more restricted, but not any safer. Worse, it has then turned the threat of further attack into a coercion to keep it in power. Dire warnings flow from the White House to talk radio about the tidal wave of attacks that will occur if the strong-willed Bush leaves office or the U.S. is forced to withdraw from the war. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid. But does that mean deepening those problems in the name of "staying the course" is the answer? Does it mean that our underequipped, overtaxed army should remain in their confused position in the hostile desert? Does that mean I want to listen to a Bush victory speech in which, a la Howard Dean at the Iowa Caucus, he pledges to move on "TO SYRIA! AND LEBANON! AND ISRAEL! AND NORTH KOREA! YYYAAARRRGGGHHHH!!" At this point, the Iraq war is a fact, and whether or not Bush is restored for another term will not diminish it as crucial to the future of America, both domestically and as a global player. I am not naive enough to think that isolationism or negotiation is the way to deal with heavily armed Islamist fanatics with nothing to lose, or crazy enough to think that war is wrong in every situation. But this war was wrong to begin with, and remains wrong, both in pretense and in the way it's being undertaken. Two days ago 60 Minutes ran a report showing troops in hot zones of the Sunni Triangle driving around in Humvees armored not with metal, as would befit the richest army in the universe, but sandbags, plywood, and scrap salvaged from Iraqi tanks. Their families in the US have had to buy them flak jackets, gas masks, and two-way radios because the Army can't equip them. Many are using Vietnam-era M-16 rifles, according to the report, and running out of ammunition. I personally spoke with soldiers returning from duty who told of "massive cluster fucks" in communication between personnel that resulted in a bloody ambush turning bloodier while reinforcements were stalled. They talked of enlisted men looking down on reservists to the point where operations were hindered because of petty pecking-order disputes. And you have to wonder where all the money you thought was being gutted from, say, education to go toward military preparedness has gone. According to the 60 Minutes report, operations and maintenance monies have been looted for porkbarrel spending measures such as parade grounds on now-defunct bases. Why? Because the juicy contracts (think Halliburton) aren't in equipping soldiers. They're in harvesting the oil. Am I cynical enough to think that the same military-industrial complex that subverted America's military role in the world to commandeer an oil-rich desert nation is also willing to skimp on equipping soldiers in the name of making a buck in the process? Sometimes, yes. I am. Regardless, the whole thing's a cluster fuck. And when these soldiers return home, many of them wounded and / or disabled, they find that their veterans' benefits have been slashed by none other than the man whose supporters are busy branding liberals anti-soldier: George W. Bush. Even if you believed that the Iraq War was justified, as an effort in and of itself it has been disastrously mismanaged. I am not a peacenik. In fact, I support the war on terrorism--in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, remember that? Remember the man who supposedly actually attacked us on 9/11? Osama bin Laden? Still at large? We destabilized one country looking for him, still haven't found him, still haven't restored that country to stability, and now we've opened up a second front when one job isn't done. Maybe if George W. Bush had actually caught and / or defeated the man who actually caused 9/11, I'd be a little more sympathetic to the ads with the grieving 9/11 families. Maybe if he and his administration had revamped our intelligence in any meaningful way following its disastrous breakdown on 9/11, I'd be more inclined to support four more years of his leadership. Maybe if this administration had shown through funding, smart management and any kind of human decency in handling veterans' affairs that they support our troops as much as we're supposed to, I could get behind its foreign policy. Maybe then I wouldn't be stuck voting for John Kerry.