Not that I am a presidential scholar, but I do know what I look for in a leader, regardless of what level of leadership I'm observing. Some of the most important categories in which I judge leaders are character, decision-making and vision (not necessarily in that order). To expand ever-so-briefly on "the big three":
1) I don't think there's any question about the character of Pres. Bush. He is a principled leader who doesn't shirk from the tough choices that face the office of President of the United States. Rather than allow our enemies to continue operating in the manner in which they were comfortable and had grown strong, he changed the game in order to tilt the battlefield back towards our favor. Rather than allow the venom of the Left to curtail the vigor with which he set out to reach his objectives (both domestically and internationally), he has remained resolute in his approach and his message. And rather than allow himself to be bogged down in the pervasive negativity of both the mainstream media and his opposition, he has maintained a positive outlook that is both inspirational and infectious (to those not blinded by hate). These are the actions of someone who is not just comfortable with himself, but comfortable with his role in these trying times and comfortable with the future that he is helping to shape through his actions. There's no "running away" with Pres. Bush--he stands for what he believes in, and he governs accordingly. That's character, for those of you who haven't seen it in action lately.
As for Sen. Kerry's character--well, these are the two examples that leave the biggest questions in my mind (although far from the only two), and since he talks about them a lot I will let them do the talking for me. First, he promises that he will continue to fight this war in Iraq--a war that he calls wrong in the present tense (not just the decision to go to war--he actually has called the war in "today" terms wrong). Why would he do that? The election doesn't just serve as a referendum on the incumbent, as has been written many places, but it ALSO serves as a referendum on the policies of the candidates themselves. Kerry's strongest "base" is in the anti-war movement; Kerry's entire public life has been spent as an anti-war "activist", if only in action rather than name at some points. IF Kerry is brought to power in this country, why would he not act to get our troops out of the "wrong" war? Forget about bringing allies to the game--why wouldn't he take the "referendum" of the American voters and act according to his instincts garnered from 30 years in public life? If the war is truly wrong AND he has the power to change it, then he should support the immediate withdrawal of our troops--but of course he doesn't say that. Or maybe he doesn't even want to do it--in which case IT IS NOT A "WRONG" WAR! Any war that is worth the sacrifice of our soldiers is NOT wrong--period. It's a room without an "out" door for Kerry--he can't logically make his ideology stand with his rhetoric without paying some sort of political penalty for it. And the fact that he chooses politics over honesty speaks volumes to me about his character.;
Second item: abortion. How can you believe that life begins at conception and yet support the most liberal of pro-choice positions? It's a step that even Roe v Wade doesn't take--there the SC refused to answer the question of when life begins (for more, see here
). Kerry, however, HAS stated his beliefs on the question--and they make his support for abortion totally illogical. The Texas statutes overturned in Roe even held protections for the mother's health--and beyond the first trimester, I might add. There is no "logical"--or more importantly, ETHICAL--way to see life as beginning at conception and yet support the voluntary choice to terminate that life. He attempts to keep to the Catholic teachings that supposedly mean so much to his spiritual makeup--but he totally misses the connection between the teachings and the exercise of the belief. It's empty words, in other words--and that's not a trait of good character.
Kerry talks about how a Bush re-election would mean "more of the same". While I don't agree with that statement on all issues of this campaign, on the topic of character it suits me just fine: principled leadership vs. political expediency of the dishonest--and sometimes immoral-- sort. Call that a "W" for W.
2) decision-making. Let's look at the decisions the President has made, and grade them in general :
-- choose your advisors. Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld (YES, Rumsfeld--I know the left may hate him, but he is doing a heckuva job of changing the paradigm of the military to make it more suitable for the battlefields of the future) as the main advisors of the administration. Cheney in the VPs office. These are good choices, people--public servants beyond reproach and dedicated to their country.
-- choose your enemies. Well, they were kind of chosen for us--but choosing how to deal with them was important. By taking the bad guys out of their comfort zone, we have revolutionized the security of the country to meet the enemies of the 21st century. Are there more terrorists today than 3 years ago? Maybe. . .but are they as well-trained, as well-versed in our methods and as free to move (both physically and financially) as they were 3 years ago? NO! I'll take 10 terrorists who can't get their feet in our country (and are forced to deal with our armed forces) over 3 terrorists who have any means to destroy us that they wish at their disposal. Another good choice by the President.
-- choose your friends. Well, I'll take a future where we're aligned more with the Brits, the Aussies and the rest of the coalition of the willing--as well as the Israelis--over a future with the corrupt, powerless and anti-American United Nations anyday. The UN isn't the way to do diplomacy in the future, where states are not the enemy as much groups that operate within certain states. Realizing who are friends actually are, and acting in concert with them to CREATE the future we need, was a strong move by a strong man. Again, plus to Bush.
-- choose our path. IN: ownership; security; international policies that favor a secure future, faith. OUT: politics (i.e. scandal) of yesteryear; cold-war mentality in a non-cold war world; taxes; invasive government. Okay, the OUTS are pretty weak--but that's just because the INs resonate so well with me. To me, good choices, good policies and a good foundation from which to build my future. GOOD!
-- many more to list, of course, but I don't want to write a book here. SO, moving on. . .
As for Kerry, these are the decisions he's made so far on the campaign trail:
- his running mate (big negative--see here
for more analysis) and other advisors (Clinton-era throwbacks--some of them engaged in criminal activity (hello, Sandy Berger, glad to have you BACK ON THE TEAM!!!) plus Massachusetts-bred tank-minded leftists--and just about everybody else who has a voice they wish to throw in--too many of them and their collective voice adds nothing to the campaign except misdirection and miscommunication);
- how to run his convention (that was the convention without any bounce in favor of the candidate, the convention where he chose to run on his Vietnam heroism rather than ANYTHING he's done in the last 30 years);
- how to respond to attacks from those who dislike him or his words (Swift Boat vets--poor response; Mary Cheney and the non-apology) etc etc
Summary: he hasn't done ANYTHING right so far except debate well, and that should have been expected. He's not made a single decision that I agree with--and this during a season where you have days, sometimes weeks to figure things out. In the oval office, there are more than a few decisions that require not just good decision-making but also decisiveness. Kerry hasn't shown me the ability to do that, or at least to do that well. No thanks, Mr. Kerry--I'll take four more years of positive decisions with a purpose over vascillation, arrogance and incompetence.
3) Vision. I've already covered this in the preceeding paragraphs, at least Bush's vision. In counter, Kerry offers nothing. Or at least nothing that's believeable. It kind of goes back to character--I really don't know how you can believe anything he says because he doesn't make logical or consistent statements. But EVEN IF you assume that he means what he has said, especially lately, then you have a person who has willingly painted himself as nothing other than the anti-Bush--and that's not vision, that's demagoguery. And there's a problem with that--IF he were to gain power, what would determine his course? His anti-American (and possibly fantasy-based) actions and rhetoric of the past? His strict adherence to seeking international approval--but when we have it, suddenly it's not enough? Or his anti-Bushness, in which case he'd have to call W up to see what he would do in a given situation in order to actually know what to say and do in counter to Bush's decision? Which of these Kerrys garners a vision that is worthy of guiding this country for the next 4 years? I'm going with option D: None of the above!
There are many more issues that I'd like to discuss here, but I WAS trying to keep this brief (sorry--the passion is too great and the importance too high for brevity). But hopefully, if you're sitting on the fence and reading this, the "topic paper" from above is enough to convince you of the necessity of Bush's re-election. Nothing more than our future is stake--please understand the importance and be sure you research accordingly before you cast your vote.