The Presidential Crapshoot

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Every
Presidential election is the "most important of our lives"
or "in a generation" or will "determine the course
for generations to come."

Well,
OF COURSE! We don't know what Al Gore would have done. If he would
have prevented 9-11, for example. Just as we don't know what would
have happened if Gerald Ford beat Jimmy Carter in 1976. I suspect,
for instance, that Richard Nixon would have been a better President
than Kennedy in 1960, perhaps more likely to prevent the Vietnam
quagmire. We don't really know, do we?

I'm
not talking just about the modern Presidency. The nation would be
much different today if Andrew Jackson was elected in 1824 instead
of John Quincy Adams, by the very fact that he would have made different
decisions. Just as it would be if Tilden beat Hayes in 1876. Or
if Cleveland beat Harrison in 1888. Maybe this or that law would
have been vetoed instead of signed into law, or vise-versa.

If
we had a two-term President Stevenson instead of President Eisenhower,
for example, would we have had Earl Warren as Chief Justice? Would
there have been Brown v. Board of Education?

Many
of those who elevate this election as the most important ever, also
blame Bill Clinton for 9-11. So maybe it was the 1996 election,
or 1992, that was even more important. Even Presidential acts of
omission will cause shock waves throughout American life and the
entire world's economic and security establishment.

This
is a very simple concept. All of our decisions impact the life of
everyone else. Maybe one husband's "one too many" drinks
impairs judgment, leads him into a one-night stand, and causes a
divorce. And maybe the offspring of the one-night stand develops
a cure for cancer. And maybe the person who would have cured cancer
much earlier became instead an aborted fetus.

Maybe
the woman who was excessively nervous in the job interview could
have turned the firm around with her administrative skills – if
she had been hired. Every decision we make ends up, one way or another,
affecting other people. This is particularly true of political leaders,
and most true of the President of the United States.

To
vote for, or even to cheer for, a Presidential candidate is like
living on a prayer. There is so much that Democrats have swept under
the rug for John Kerry, especially over Iraq. I have never disagreed
with a Presidential candidate over so many things. It's not his
"flip-flops" I find objectionable, it is his actual voting
record in the Senate. And I most certainly won't vote for him. I
am not optimistic about a Kerry Presidency.

But
Kerry has three things going for him. The first is, he isn't the
President, and doesn't have to run on a record of disaster after
disaster for our security, liberty, and economic future. As a Senator
and candidate, Kerry is horrible in his words and deeds. But as
President, he has a clean slate.

The
second advantage for Kerry is that the rhetoric of the Presidential
candidate doesn't necessarily predict the actions of that candidate
once elected. After my anger toward Clinton over the fraudulent
Kosovo War, the most attractive thing about Bush in 2000 was his
campaigning on a "humble" foreign policy. Putting all
conspiracy theories aside, a "humble" foreign policy was
indeed the way to go, and follows the wisdom of our Presidents through
most of the 19th century. Did 9-11 "change everything?"
How? The case for retaliation against the perpetrators is not the
same as the case for launching crusades against Moslem rebels in
places like the Philippines, or for invading the previously secular
and weak Iraq.

Kerry's
stands are egregious. He wants to escalate the War on Iraq, and
is rattling sabers against Iran. So what he may do is not actually
follow through, but reverse course as President. Maybe, because
he promised to escalate, he'll actually withdraw. Politicians break
promises and then make excuses after the fact. That's what they
do. So perhaps Kerry will do the same.

The
third advantage is purely superficial. It relates to likeability,
or magnetism, or charisma. Whatever it is. Many people say that
Kerry doesn't have it. And I'm not saying he does. But he does have
this: he "looks" like a President. He looks like he could
be a veteran character actor playing the role of the President in
a second-rate thriller. And not necessarily an evil one. Al Gore's
very presence made me angry. Bush's body language and words make
me question his competence and stability. Kerry is like Bush's father.
I feel like I can somehow live with this guy as President.

Put
another way: What if they were all Libertarians? If Clinton, Gore,
Lieberman, Bush, Cheney, Kerry, and Edwards were all vying for the
Libertarian Party nomination, I'd probably support Kerry. The others
rub me the wrong way.

Or
think of it this way. Why does Ron Paul, Congressman from Texas,
get elected time after time? Is it because of his libertarian positions?
His adherence to the Constitution? Or because he is an honorable
and likeable man?

This
is the case with nearly all politicians. The ones who win are the
ones who are most "likeable" on a personal level. That
doesn't tip the scales for hard-core ideologues, but it does for
moderates and for those who do not put much thought into their votes.

That's
where we're at. I think Kerry's policies are beyond wrong-headed,
they are evil. But I think the same of Bush's policies. The tie-breaker
is: Kerry the man, the persona, doesn't scare me. Bush the man,
the persona, worries me greatly.

But
who knows? Due to unforeseen circumstances, a President Kerry may
be dead within a year. That would mean a President Edwards, who
worries me very, very much.

It's
all a crapshoot. Both Bush and Kerry want to run your lives for
you, and will apparently destroy any other country in the world
to create the perception that you are "safer." In this
demonic choice, I suspect that Kerry will do less harm, but who
knows?

The
safest thing to do is to not vote for either of them. Better to
chose a third-party candidate more in line with your convictions,
write somebody in, or not vote at all.

November
1, 2004

James
Leroy Wilson [send him mail]
lives and works in Chicago and is a columnist for the Partial
Observer
. He also has a new blog, “Independent
Country
.”

James
Leroy Wilson Archives

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