I’m a conservative who’s prepared to do the unthinkable: vote for a Democrat. I love a tax cut, don’t get me wrong (my parents bought a new couch with their check), but President Bush’s enormous spending increases continue to offend my fiscal conservatism. The Patriot Act and its much-loathed infringements on our privacy and our rights makes the civil libertarian in me burn with anger. And while I wholeheartedly support the removal of a murderous despot, the president’s misleading statements about our reasons for war in Iraq make me feel betrayed as a citizen.
I take it as a personal offense when my president doesn’t tell me the truth. If we were chiefly interested in removing a mass murderer who has, for over a decade, failed to comply with U.N. mandates, I deserve to be told that. For the president to tell the American public that Iraq possessed WMDs that were a threat to national security, without sufficient research and evidence, was a huge misstep. It was a breach of public trust. President Clinton lied to me and to my nation when he denied his affair, and President Bush has similarly betrayed the public by not being honest about his intentions at the outset of war. We removed Saddam Hussein, an admirable achievement, certainly — but that was not the rationale I was given for invasion. I was fed a lure when I would have supported the truth — when I deserved the truth.
And so I am prepared in November to vote for a Democrat if one presents himself who appears more trustworthy. John Kerry is widely believed to be “the man to beat,” but I keep wondering — can I trust him more than Bush? An examination of Kerry’s record, side by side with his current statements, strongly suggests otherwise.
John Kerry voted for the No Child Left Behind Act, and is now denouncing it, claiming he believed the idea to be a good one, but has since learned it is not turning out as he expected. Same line with Iraq — Kerry voted for the war, and is now blustering that he was promised something else, that what he was told wasn’t accurate. Substitute “Bush” for “Kerry” in that sentence and you’ve got the same situation. Kerry also approved the Patriot Act, and would now like to decry John Ashcroft’s evils, while Ashcroft implements what Kerry voted for.
Doesn’t this presidential candidate sound an awful lot like our current president? Bush tells us the intelligence he was given wasn’t accurate, that the search for WMDs isn’t going as he expected. His press agents tell us that the CIA or George Tenet is to blame for the misinformation. It’s the same tactic — both men said one thing at first, and when things went poorly, they changed their stories for the country. Kerry is just as culpable for Iraq as Bush is, along with everyone else who voted for it — yet they are revising their claims for us now, shifting the blame to whomever else they can. Kerry will blame the White House, it will blame the CIA director, and maybe he’ll blame his dog for eating the real reports. But the reality stands — Kerry has to be held accountable for his voting record, be it on Iraq, or the Patriot Act, or No Child Left Behind. He is just as much a revisionist as Bush is, just as dishonest.
So here I am, ready to vote Democrat, and I can’t trust the man who looks to be the nominee. Where does that leave me? Maybe I should vote for Edwards — he claims to be against NAFTA, often cursed as the source of our joblessness, which, again, Kerry supported. He doesn’t try to deny his support for the war, or rewrite his voting record, but acknowledges what he voted for. Edwards instead focuses on the economy, especially the economics of the Average Joe — he likes to say he has always stood up for the little man, alluding to his career as a personal injury lawyer and his Senate record. He certainly has charm and polish — reminiscent of smooth Bill, and it seems he has more integrity. A choice between Kerry and Bush seems to be a choice between two men changing history for all they’re worth, and I think we’ve had quite enough of that from our presidents of late. John Edwards may not represent my politics, but it he represents my ethics, and in this moral debacle of a campaign, I’ll take it.
Brian Rose is a freshman in Saybrook College.