Monday, November 01, 2004

Who's going to win tomorrow? Who should win?

I have no idea who is going to win. Of all the elections I've voted in since the VietNam years, this is the closest I've seen.

But if I had to bet real money, with tradesports the last time I looked today still charging 55 to pay 100 on Bush, at those odds in what seems a dead heat race, I'll put my $2 on Kerry.

Who should win??

If today was a situation like 1996 or 2000 then I might well be persuaded by the case for throwing a strategic vote for Kerry. That is, not actually vote for the man, but for the consequences of his being elected. (Hey, is anybody actually going to vote for Kerry tomorrow, as opposed to against Bush, or against the Republicans, or for any generic Democrat?)

If one is a small-government type then having the Presidency, House and Senate all run by the same party at the same time has a bad downside, even if it is your party: invariably, the pigs feed at the trough with nobody to stop them.

That's certainly been the case during the Dubya years (with not even one veto of a spending bill) just as it was during the first two Clinton years (when they tried to fold the nation's entire health care system into the government) and back during LBJ's Great Society years, and FDR's New Deal, and so on.

Restraint in the growth of government occurs when one party holds the Presidency and the other holds Congress. Then each blocks the other's plans for growing the government and depleting the fisc. "Fiscal responsibility" returns -- if only as the side effect of paralysis. That's what happened during the years of Bush the Elder dealing with a Democratic Congress, and during Clinton's six years dealing with a Republican one. Far fewer initiatives get passed, and those that do must have bi-partisan attraction -- so (presumably) they are more likely to have some merit. Bruce Bartlett says more for the idea.

In that case, of course, one hears a multitude of complaints about how divided government "can't get anything done". But that's not a flaw, it's a feature! As Will Rogers put it ...

"Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they don't do nothing, that don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous."

So with the Senate probably staying Republican, and the House an apparent Republican lock for years to come -- arguably the single most impressive and lasting political achievement of Bill Clinton -- a vote for Kerry is a vote for divided government. Sounds good!

But ... the snag is that the situation in 2004 is not like 1996 or 2000. A vote for Kerry is a vote for Kerry the man leading the military and the nation in a time of armed conflict -- and at least as importantly, a vote for the return of the Democratic foreign policy establishment.

Let's remember that Democratic establishment first. Do we recall Sen. Patty Murray, still the Democratic senator from Washington, saying that Osama is popular among Muslims because "Mr. Bin Laden has built many roads, mosques, hospitals, and schools", and engaged in other Democratic-type social projects?

Or Sandy Berger (now one of Kerry's top advisors) telling the 9/11 Commission that the Clinton Administration rejected four plans to kill or capture Osama bin Laden due to worry about "being blamed" if things went wrong. How many embassy bombings does it take?

Then we have Clinton and Berger contradicting each other about whether Sudan actually offered to extradite Osama to the US -- you'd think they'd be able to get something like that right.

And Clinton saying the US declined to take Bin Laden because "At the time [bin Laden] had committed no crimes against America, so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him," even though Osama was at the top of the known terrorist list, showing the view of international terrorism being treated as a domestic crime that Kerry still has -- except Kerry actually chooses to compare fighting terrorism to controlling victimless crimes: gambling and prostitution.

And we have Osama explicity stating that the Clinton foreign policy team's fast cut-and-run from Somalia upon incurring first casualties convinced him of American weakness -- "Our brothers with Somali mujahedeen and God's power fought the Americans. God granted them victory. America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin..." -- and encouraged him to attack.

Do we remember David Bonior, who had been the #2 Democrat in the House, and Rep. Jim McDermott actually going to Baghdad to stand beside Saddam? I mean, it's one thing not to want to invade his country -- but quite another to go have your picture taken with him while he's still busy filling mass graves...

I could go on -- but the point is that these aren't mere anecdotes. In November 2002, well after 9/11, the Democrat-friendly Washington Monthly ran a cover story War Torn: Why Democrats Can't Think Straight About National Security, which tells how it all fits together.

The party of the presidency runs foreign policy. Are these really the people we want to take over foreign policy and national security now?

And what about Kerry himself?

I'll limit myself to one thing he said on Meet the Press back in early 2001 -- when he wasn't running for President, and before 9/11...

"We don't have legitimacy in the world, Tim, if we go to other countries, in Bosnia or China or anywhere else, and not say, 'You know, we made some terrible mistakes.'

"And that honesty, that lack of a sense of honesty is part of what is driving people's anger toward the United States today..."

Considering when that statement was made, I have to conclude that he actually believes it in his heart of hearts -- he believes in a foreign policy of "Apologize First".

But why? So America will attain the credibility of China? Which is so well-known for admitting its terrible mistakes?? (Of which it has made more than a few!)

Or, perhaps, when setting American foreign policy Kerry won't recognize the credibility of China because it hasn't admitted its "terrible mistakes" to us all? (Will he recognize the credibility of France?)

I mean, is this what we want to be the starting point of the learning curve of a new President directing national security and foreign affairs in time of armed conflict?

For a broader look at Kerry's general leadership skills and executive abilities, consider the observations of Kerry supporter Mickey Kaus and consider -- as Mickey doesn't -- that they will likely apply to produce the same amount of success that he predicts for Kerry in domestic affairs when directing national security and foreign policy. Is that what we really want?

I could go on but won't, except to mention the matter of Kerry's apparent very calculated deceit about his military record, in order attain the position of military commander in chief, as noted in my prior couple posts. If that in fact proves true after he is elected, it will likely prove a real leadership problem for those he is supposed to be leading lead in time of war.

So who should be elected?

History may tell ... but I just can't bring myself to vote for Kerry, the man.