You-know-who for President

You-know-who for President

: This is less an endorsement than a confession.

Some folks have told me I should write an endorsement post since I said it was a good idea for bloggers to go on the record and reveal their votes (and many did). The idea wasn’t really to endorse or convince anyone else which way to vote but simply to be open and transparent, to give context to what we write. I thought my views were clear: I’ve said for months that I’m leaning toward Kerry and that I’m not happy about the choice. But, for the record, on election eve, I’ll share with you my electoral anguish:

If I were to vote cynically — oh, and this year, it is tempting — I’d vote for Bush because (a) then we’d get Hillary in four years, (b) if not, we might get Rudy in four years, (c) I could ascribe my vote to my obsession with terrorism and security, and (d) I’d prove myself to be one really open-minded Democrat. This year’s choice may deserve a cynical response. But this year’s issues do not. They deserve the most serious response; that is why so many people have registered and will vote. The issues are too damned important.

If I were to vote habitually — and that’s the easy, reflexive way — I’d vote for Kerry simply because I’m a Democrat and I agree with his side on most issues. And besides, I could argue that we, the people like to hedge our bets and have one party in the White House and the other on Capitol Hill as the most practical check and balance; others are saying that. But the world has changed. Old habits mean nothing today.

So I start where I have to start: with terrorism and security. Understatement: I prefer Bush’s hard-ass militancy to Kerry’s huggy world test. I prefer someone who knows that we are at war, a world war, and that we have to fight it even if we must to do it alone. I’m OK with the Patriot Act and when I get pulled aside for extra screening at the airport (which I was Friday), I thank them. I do not believe that the Bush or Clinton administrations are one bit at fault for 9/11; the terrorists are. I saw what those bastards did that day and say we should stop at nothing to stop them from doing it again. Obsessed? You bet I am.

If I were singularly obsessed, that would be that: Check Bush; make Jersey a swing state. But even I cannot argue that only one issue matters. There’s more.

There is Iraq. I supported the war, for different reasons than the President’s. I still stand by the Tom Friedman doctrine — even if he doesn’t — that says the reason to go into Iraq was (a) to get rid of a tyrant and (b) to establish a foothold for democracy and civilization in the Muslim Middle East. By the way, that only makes Friedman’s paen to George Bush the elder on Sunday all the wackier, for if only that Bush had finished the job in Iraq, we would not be facing this mess today; we might even have a decade-old democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Some say George the junior went into Iraq to make Dad proud. I think it’s more likely he went in to clean up Dad’s mess.

In any case, I supported the war and stand by that. But I also believe the aftermath has been mucked up miserably: We did not anticipate the “insurgency” and as a result did not devote sufficient resources to bringing peace and democracy to Iraq.

That’s bad enough. What’s worse is that the president refuses to concede mistakes and fix them. That worries me most.

And there are plenty of other issues where I disagree with this president; I’ve gone through them before and won’t bore you again. But a lame-duck Bush with a Republican Congress can do real damage; if Bush appointed Ashcroft and went after gays and stem cells without a mandate and with concern about getting reelected, imagine what he would do without fears? I fear that.

So what about Kerry? I think he’s a dreadful candidate, a miserable mix of metaphors: cardboard, rubbery, oily, cottony, synthetic.

I do agree with him and his side on many more issues than Bush and his side. I don’t think he has given us enough detail on his plans, especially how he’d pay for them. But when push comes to shove on health care or the Supreme Court or social issues, his center of gravity leans my way and that’s the way he’ll fall. That’s important.

I do not think he is sufficiently aggressive on terrorism or Iraq; that, too, is sadly an understatement. I was OK with him getting the nomination precisely because he did vote to authorize the Iraq war. But his flip-flop left me flopping like a catfish in a drought. I also despise his world-pandering policy. The French, the Germans, the Russians, and the U.N. will do nothing to help us; they have amply proven that.

But I also do not believe that Kerry can or would abandon the security of America or even Iraq. He, too, must win. After attacking Bush’s execution of the fight so strongly, the pressure on him to succeed is only greater. Feet, meet fire.

Every time I think about terrorism and security, I move to Bush. Every time I think of any other issue, I move back to Kerry. I never said I was undecided; I didn’t want to join that wishy-washy fraternity. Instead, I tortured myself. And you’ve witnessed that torture, poor you. The two or three of you who’ve been here since the start — if you’re still here — have seen my political journey since September, 2001 — from pacifist to hawk. Now you’re stuck witnessing my political journey in circles. But that’s blogging. Some folks asked me what I was going to do and now I’m torturing them with this post. Sometimes, you can have too much transparency, eh?

Buttom line: I remain likely to vote for Kerry. That’s what I’m planning to do when I walk into the voting booth. I reserve the right to shock myself and I’ll tell you what happens.

But in either case, let me tell you the one lesson I have learned these last four years as I’ve bounced around like a political pinball: No matter which man wins next week (or even if it’s next month), I’ll support him… and I’ll criticize him.