Let Bush clean up his own mess
SCMP November 2, 2004
The instincts of my heart and soul wish for a victory by John Kerry. But a
calculating head sends a different message. In some ways, I, a non-American,
fear a victory by Senator Kerry more than the return of George W. Bush, disastrous
though his presidency has been.
It is easy to roll off a long list of the destruction wrought by
this ignorant man, who has allowed assorted fundamentalists - Attorney
General John Ashcroft,
Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Vice-President Dick Cheney, top
political adviser Karl Rove, and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
- to change the face
of America and its position in the world.
Life for Osama bin Laden may be uncomfortable, but he must be pleased
that such men are in power in Washington and used September 11 to
turn America away from its tradition of liberty, tolerance and internationalism.
As Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels once remarked, make the
people believe they face mysterious foreign threats and they will
accept almost any action which claims to increase their security.
So Americans have accepted the Patriot Act, imprisonment without
trial in Guantanamo Bay and racial profiling, for example. Fundamentalist
Christianity with messianic views is now part of the political
landscape, and issues of personal choice are claimed as a matter for
The war on Iraq was made under false pretences, meanwhile providing
cover for an expansionist Israel to do as it pleases.
Mr Bush has spawned a deficit even larger than during the Vietnam
war, in the process making the US a debtor to the rest of the world
to the tune of US$3 trillion. Income inequalities have been increased
by tax cuts for the rich. Employment has stagnated, and the economy
has gained only modest ground, despite a huge rise in household debt
and the loosening of environmental standards.
In short, it is only the Goebbels dictum which will re-elect Mr Bush,
and bin Laden's sudden reappearance may help him. So why do I harbour
doubts about electing the thoughtful Senator Kerry, representative
of a mainstream, internationalist, unideological America? First, it
is out of a sense that those who created the mess in which America
finds itself must bear the responsibility for its consequences. They
must find a way out of Iraq. They must restore US credibility, cut
spending and raise taxes to slash the budget deficit. They must face
the inevitable recession if the proper balance between savings and
consumption is to be restored, and the trade deficit reduced to a sustainable
Whoever wins, the next four years threaten to be very difficult. There
is every chance that the difficulties will blow apart the credibility
of the Bush right-wing, unilateralist republicanism so that liberal
democrats will sweep back in 2008.
By the same token, a Kerry administration may find itself having to
face the unpopularity of these problems, possibly losing heavily in
the 2006 mid-term congressional elections, and being hemmed in by Congress
and right-leaning justices from undoing much of the human rights and
environmental damage. The way could be open for a return of the radical
right in 2008.
Senator Kerry would go down well overseas and patch up relations with
allies. However, while he would never have led the US into Iraq, he
will find it no easier to get out.
Less likely to extend the war to Syria or Iran, Senator Kerry is,
however, as trapped as anyone in the domestic politics of support for
Israeli outrages. He may restrain the administration from the most
oppressive aspects of the Patriot Act. But so successful has Mr Bush
been in creating a climate of fearful patriotism, that Senator Kerry
may have a hard time reversing direction.
On environmental issues, he would be much more forceful, and a reversal
of many of Mr Bush's tax cuts is likely and desirable. But Senator
Kerry might succumb even quicker than Mr Bush to trade protectionism
if that is seen as the only way other than recession in righting the
So, although I loathe most of what Mr Bush stands for, I am in two
minds about the longer-term desirability of a Kerry presidency.
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