The Presidential Crapshoot

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

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