Two updates in a single day. Aren’t you lucky?
Once again, I find myself looking at the Presidential race and just shaking my head sadly. I still haven’t made up my mind how I’m going to vote. Maybe in the long run it doesn’t matter, as I’m just one small voice among the millions of people in my home state, but it matters to me. I want to be able to look back on my vote as something to be proud of, something with meaning. I’m not going to write some cartoon character’s name in the write-in box as some of my friends do (though it’s definitely tempting to write in Bill Pullman—he made such a great fictitious President that he could hardly do worse than any of the unappealing choices on the ticket this election). But more and more, I just find myself being turned off of Bush.
If I’m going to vote for a President, what matters to me more than politics or party lines is personal integrity, or at least the appearance thereof. (All right, so I’m looking for personal integrity in a politician. If you need to stop laughing before you can start reading again, it’s okay, I’ll wait.) I’d vote for McCain in a heartbeat; I only wish I had that choice.
Kerry, like McCain, is a Vietnam vet. As President Clinton noted in his Democratic National Convention speech, Kerry could have avoided the war, could have shirked his duties and stayed stateside. Instead, he went, he served, and he won three Purple Hearts for being wounded in the line of duty. Even granting his detractors the benefit of the doubt on the one that’s in dispute, that still leaves two instances of one of the highest military honors this nation can bestow. And if he came back to the states and spoke out against the war after that, well, I’d be the last to gainsay his right to do that. Unlike most of the anti-war crowd, he was actually there.
Bush, on the other hand, avoided serving (like so many of his generation, including President Clinton), and his conduct over the course of the campaign has not been very becoming. There’s a lot of evidence suggesting that Bush has very strong secret (and, where they involve his campaign, illegal) ties to the 527 group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group whose members’ present statements in commercials attacking Kerry’s Vietnam record often conflict with the records or with their own prior statements. A Bush campaign lawyer also advised the Swift Boat group (and has subsequently resigned). Bush campaign worker Ken Cordier appeared in Swift Boat ads (and also subsequently resigned). And Bush has continually refused to condemn the Swift Boat ads—the closest he’s come is condemning all 527 ads in general, including the ones run by liberal 527s like MoveOn.org.
When asked directly if that included the Swift Boat ads, Bush gave a weaselly evasive response, followed by an even more weaselly “clarification” from a press spokesman:
One reporter cited the swift boat ads and asked, “When you say that you want to stop all—” “All of them,” Bush responded. “That means that ad, every other ad. Absolutely. I don’t think we ought to have 527s.”
White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters Bush’s use of the words “that ad” did not indicate a repositioning on the issue. He said Bush was repeating his previous calls for an end to 527 ads.
So he doesn’t even want it to look like mentioning the ad nonspecifically as an example of the inclusive class of all 527 ads suggests any condemnation. What I don’t understand is, why all the pussy-footing around? Would it really hurt Bush so badly to come out and say, “I don’t condone what those ads said”? Even if he didn’t really mean it? Bush’s disavowal of the ads rings just a bit false without a condemnation to back it up, and it’s making him look bad.
After the Kerry campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, the Swift Boat Veterans dropped the offending commercials and started on another line of attack…but now that the Swift Boat vets’ usefulness is apparently played out, Salon Magazine editor Scott Rosenberg notes, Bush is calling for an end to all 527 ads—again, including those of the 527s in Kerry’s camp. Gee, I wonder why? Could it be that now that your side has gotten its licks in, Mr. Bush, you don’t want anyone else to have a shot?
The thing that gets me the most about this is the way it insults my intelligence. Does he really think the American public dumb enough not to see why he’s doing this? Does he think I’m that dumb?
At any rate, that’s more of why I’m going to have a hard time picking a candidate this November. (You can also see my earlier post on the subject.)