Betreff: [reality101] Tampa Tribune Why We Cannot Endorse President Bush For Re-Election
Datum: Mon, 18 Oct 2004 18:21:17 EDT

"The Tribune has endorsed a Republican for president ever since Dwight
D. Eisenhower in 1952."

"We're not electing Mr. Congeniality. We're electing the leader of the
free world and should set a higher standard than likability."

Tampa Tribune
Oct 17, 2004

Why We Cannot Endorse President Bush For Re-Election

We find ourselves in a position unimaginable four years ago when we
strongly endorsed for president a fiscal conservative and "moderate
man of mainstream convictions" who promised to wield military muscle
only as a last resort and to resist the lure of "nation building."

As stewards of the Tribune's editorial voice, we find it unimaginable
to not be lending our voice to the chorus of conservative-leaning
newspapers endorsing the president's re- election. We had fully
expected to stand with Bush, whom we endorsed in 2000 because his
politics generally reflected ours: a strong military, fiscal
conservatism, personal responsibility and small government. We knew
him to be a popular governor of Texas who fought for lower taxes, less
government and a pro-business constitution.

But we are unable to endorse President Bush for re-election because of
his mishandling of the war in Iraq, his record deficit spending, his
assault on open government and his failed promise to be a "uniter not
a divider" within the United States and the world...

The Tribune has endorsed a Republican for president ever since Dwight
D. Eisenhower in 1952, with one exception. We did not endorse in the
1964 presidential race because, as we said at the time, "it is our
feeling that unless a newspaper can recommend a candidate with
complete conviction that he be the better choice for the office, it
should make no endorsement."

Like the country, this editorial board finds itself deeply divided
about the president's prosecution of the war and his indifference to
federal spending.

Bush Overstated The Evidence

Although Bush came to office having lost the popular vote, the nation
rallied behind him after the terrorist strikes of 9/11. He transcended
the political divide and became everyone's president the moment he
picked up that bullhorn on the ashes of ground zero and promised the
terrorists that they would hear from us. Aside from a few dancing
extremists, the world stood with us.

Bush told us to wait, and we confidently stood with him. With surety
and resolve, he struck Afghanistan and the hillside holes of al-Qaida
extremists. For taking out the Taliban and bringing about national
elections in Afghanistan this month, the president deserves much
credit. While we still haven't caught Osama bin Laden, the ace of
spades, our troops have successfully caught and imprisoned many other
al-Qaida leaders.

But before securing Afghanistan, Bush grew convinced that Iraq posed
an imminent threat to America and so directed soldiers and supplies

His administration terrified us into believing that we had to quickly
wage war with Baghdad to ensure our safety. Vice President Dick Cheney
said he had "irrefutable evidence" that Saddam had reconstituted his
nuclear program. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice wrongly
asserted that aluminum tubes found in Iraq could be used only for
nuclear weapons. And the president himself said he couldn't wait for a
smoking gun in the form of a "mushroom cloud."

Again, this editorial board stood solidly with the president in his
resolve to take the fight to the terrorists where they live, forever
changing American foreign policy with our first-ever "pre-emptive"

Once we got to Baghdad, however, we found out that the president was
wrong and that the reasons for launching the war were either
exaggerated or inaccurate. There were no stockpiles of WMD and no link
between Saddam and the terrorists that struck on 9/11.

As it turns out, the neoconservatives in the Bush administration were
bamboozled by dubious sources named Curveball and Chalabi, whose
integrity and access to real-time information was repeatedly
questioned by our own intelligence services.

No Dissension Allowed

But groupthink took hold among the neocons, while those with contrary
points of view, like Secretary of State Colin Powell, were sidelined
until after key decisions were made. It was almost as though someone
who asked tough questions was seen as siding with the terrorists.

When Gen. Eric Shinseki, then Army chief of staff, said that hundreds
of thousands of troops would be needed to secure a postwar Iraq, his
argument was dismissed and the general summarily pushed aside.

But after Baghdad fell, we saw how insufficient troop numbers led to
the looting of hospitals, businesses and schools - everything but the
Oil Ministry, which our forces secured.

At the time, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said with great hubris
that the uprising was "untidy" but not unexpected. And the president
himself challenged the enemy to "bring it on."

Now we learn from Ambassador Paul Bremer, former presidential envoy to
Iraq, that "we never had enough troops on the ground" to stop the
insurgency. Baath party loyalists went underground only to launch a
guerrilla campaign that makes Iraq less safe today than immediately
after Baghdad fell.

The insurgents have taken back cities like Fallujah, which we
mistakenly ceded to them last April. And they continue to undo the
reconstruction of schools, roads, clinics and the electrical grid
built by our troops and an array of mostly American contractors. Most
problematic, they keep blowing up rebuilt oil pipelines whose revenues
were supposed to pay for the reconstruction.

In one of his too-rare press conferences, the president stood strong
in promising that Iraq would be sovereign by June 30, even though no
one could identify who would get the keys to the country. Bush's
resolve in meeting the deadline for the creation of an interim
government was commendable.

Still, despite deliberate steps to rebuild Iraq, we find ourselves
today in an open-ended war that has taken the lives of 1,081 American
servicemen and women, and wounded or maimed 7,862 more. Financially,
the war has cost us $126 billion - money that could have been better
spent securing the homeland - and is a major reason for the largest
federal deficit in history.

More Fear Ahead

What bothers us is that the president says that even knowing what he
knows now, he still would have invaded Iraq because Saddam had the
"intent" to make nuclear weapons and was a ruthless dictator who
killed his own people. If this nation-building succeeds, the president
says, we will have built a friend in the Middle East.

Because of the invasion, one other renegade country - Libya - decided
to disarm its nuclear program, a real success for the president.

Still, we are troubled by Bush's talk about a broad "forward strategy
of freedom" to "transform" the Middle East. We believe it unwise to
use our military to impose democracy on Arab countries, which would
rather determine their own future. We fear this model of forced
democracy will only fuel recruiting campaigns for terrorism.

And how about Iran and North Korea, who have considerably more
advanced nuclear capabilities than Iraq ever had? Are we going to
brashly send our overstretched military to war there too?

An American president should take the country to war only as a last
resort, only after exhausting every diplomatic channel and only after
asking demanding questions and weighing concrete evidence. On the Iraq
war, President Bush failed on all counts.

The Iraq war came about because of a profound failure of intelligence
that went unchecked and unquestioned by the president, who shows no
sign of having second doubts. He admits to making no mistakes except
for a few presidential appointments - presumably disloyal people who
dared to speak up.

Bush's re-election campaign continues to stoke fear. "You better have
a president who faces these terrorists down before they hurt us
again," he said in the first debate.

Cheney, who continues to maintain that Iraq was in league with
al-Qaida despite evidence to the contrary, went so far as to say that
electing Kerry would invite another terrorist strike.

We don't like Kerry's talk about a "global test," but neither should
we summarily dismiss the court of world opinion, which, you will
remember, was with us less than three short years ago.

And finally, Bush has done little to broker peace between the Israelis
and Palestinians, a conflict that continues to ferment hatred in the
Arab world.

Bush's Spending Ways

While his prosecution of the war is the principal reason we cannot
endorse the president's re-election, we are also deeply disappointed
by his failure to control federal spending.

It must be said that Bush has been a friend to business, and his
promise to simplify the tax code is alluring. He also has dramatically
reduced government regulations that slow commerce and cost money. As
one example, he rightfully ended the requirement that businesses
report any employee complaint of carpal tunnel syndrome.

It should also be noted that his tax cuts spurred a sputtering economy
and benefited not only the rich, but the middle class too. He doubled
the child credit to $1,000, reduced the marriage penalty and favored
elimination of the death tax, all positions we supported.

However, although the numbers from recent months are more promising,
the tax cuts did not spur the expected job growth. The nation has lost
jobs during the Bush presidency, the first administration since
Herbert Hoover's to oversee a net loss of jobs.

But while the recession, 9/11 and profligate spending by Congress have
grown the deficit, two-thirds can be traced back to the president's
tax cuts, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Bush's mistake was failing to couple tax cuts with reduced spending.
Instead of asking some sacrifice from the public, he allowed Congress
to keep spending, including a giveaway program of farm subsidies.

Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill. Even Franklin Roosevelt
scaled back New Deal programs after Pearl Harbor.

The result: Bush has turned the $150 billion surplus he inherited into
a $450 billion deficit.

At one point, Congress tried to impose some fiscal discipline.
Lawmakers said they would not pass the Medicare prescription drug
benefit if the cost exceeded $400 billion over 10 years.

So what did the administration do? It fudged the numbers.

Thomas Scully, former head of the Medicare agency, threatened to fire
chief actuary Richard Foster if he dared to tell lawmakers that the
true cost stood between $500 billion and $600 billion.

To make matters worse, the president's law prohibits Medicare from
negotiating the best prices from pharmaceutical companies.

Against this backdrop of spending, Bush announced a mission to Mars
and support for a missile shield defense system, a Cold War throwback
that would be nice to have but wouldn't stop the car bombs and
speedboats that are today's terrorists' weapons of choice.

At the same time, Bush has done nothing to shrink the size of the
federal government. He has not cut one agency's budget. In fact, at
the Department of Education, he has actually increased spending by 68

We support a strong and accountable education system, but we do not
support the added layer of federal regulation that Bush has imposed on
Florida schools through his No Child Left Behind act.

The president modeled his plan after Florida's A-Plus Plan, which was
doing well enough by itself. Now we have two government programs that
send conflicting messages to Florida parents, teachers and students.

Yet, while throwing money at programs of questionable urgency, Bush
has failed to adequately fund the Department of Homeland Security.
Penny- pinching there means firefighters and police still lack radios
that can talk to one another, cargo shipments at airports and seaports
are not screened, and hospitals and biohazard labs feel underfunded
and underequipped.

Government Behind Closed Doors

At the birth of the 9/11 millennium, President Bush rallied us around
a new world order that required some loss of freedoms so that the
government could do a better job of protecting us.

He passed the Patriot Act, which, while not perfect, gives law
enforcement agencies the much-needed ability to talk with one another.

While we supported the Patriot Act, we are concerned by the
president's relentless attack on open government.

According to the libertarian Reason Foundation, Bush has nearly
doubled the number of classified documents, urged agencies to refuse
Freedom of Information Act requests and invoked executive privilege
wherever possible.

His administration doesn't want citizens to know when hazardous
chemicals are routed through their towns, how the repair of tenuous
electric grids is going or who was at the table to form the nation's
energy policy.

Typical of this administration, only industry lobbyists and
like-minded people were allowed at the table to craft the energy plan.
People who might dissent - consumer groups and conservationists - were
not invited.

Within a year of Cheney's energy task force, the administration had
given billions in subsidies to energy firms and begun weakening
pollution laws while opening up wilderness areas to exploitation. The
administration misled people by calling a plan to weaken pollution
controls the Clear Skies initiative. As one example, the new law
allows coal- burning power plants to avoid installing
pollution-control equipment during renovations.

The Failed Compassionate Conservative

President Bush told us that he was "uniter, not a divider," but
shortly after taking office, his administration took a sharp right
turn that has divided this country.

We were glad to see him sign the ban on late-term abortions. While we
don't favor the criminalization of abortion, we want to see the number
of abortions reduced. It is not uncommon to place limits on freedoms,
such as freedom of speech or freedom of assembly. Limits on abortion
can be justified too.

We also agree that religion and tradition define marriage as the union
of a man and a woman. However, we believe marriage laws should
rightfully be left to the states. We don't support the president's
decision to engage this country in a fight for a constitutional
amendment to ban gay marriage.

Probably most disappointing, however, is his leadership in Washington.

Besides the White House, Republicans control the House and the Senate
and all committee chairs. But rather than reach across the aisle, this
president has deepened the divide in Congress, where Republican
leaders have uninvited Democrats from conference committees where
differences are reconciled. We would not condone such behavior from
Democrats and shouldn't accept it from Republicans.

We had expected something different, given Bush's tenure in Texas.

People view Bush as a man with strong convictions. And while he's
clearly convinced of the rightness of his ways, that doesn't mean he's
always right.

This president doesn't try to hear from people who disagree, choosing
instead to keep the counsel of staunch supporters. He disdains news
conferences and brags that he doesn't read the newspapers. He counts
on his core group of insiders to tell him what he needs to know.

When asked if he consulted his father, the only other president to
have waged war against Iraq, Bush unabashedly said that he spoke to a
"higher father." Presidential decisions about sending men and women to
war should be based on fact, not prayer.

Still, the president seems like a nice guy. He is plain-spoken and
says what he means. People who've met him come away impressed. If he
were a drinking man, they say, they would enjoy having a beer with
him. But we're not electing Mr. Congeniality. We're electing the
leader of the free world and should set a higher standard than

On a large scale, Bush has failed to deliver on his promise to be a
compassionate conservative.

Time will tell all the Truth