Some questions for Bush and Kerry

October 17, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

The Herald-Mail does not normally endorse candidates in the race for the White House.

That's because, unlike the local races, where reporters and editors can talk to the candidates face-to-face, we have no more knowledge about the national races than any of our readers. Judging by some of the letters we get, some of our readers have a lot more knowledge about the national races than we ever will.

But that doesn't mean we don't have opinions about these races. I have written that I voted for George W. Bush in the last election because I believed that Al Gore would say or do anything to be elected president.

Whatever else it did, my vote gave me standing to criticize the president, not as someone who had opposed him from the start, but as someone who hoped he would transcend what sometimes seem to be the narrow concerns of the Republican Party.


Not that the Democrats don't have equally narrow concerns, in many cases. It's just a different set, tailored for a different group of constitutents.

Bill Clinton, who fumbled away a year of his last term because he couldn't keep his pants on, did manage to transcend his party's ideology on items such as welfare reform and a balanced budget. Yes, he had help from the stock market "bubble" on the latter, but he managed not to spend the surplus he had.

The question I have to ask as I contemplate my next vote for president is: Who will do what's best for America, even if it costs him the support of some of his own people?

It's hard to know now, because as a colleague said to me this week, a candidate dare not tell the harshest truths on the campaign trail. Democrat Walter Mondale learned that the hard way when he admitted at his campaign's start that he would raise taxes. He may still be digging out of that landslide.

The late Barry Goldwater was equally blunt and equally buried by Lyndon Johnson.

But if they could tell the truth, here's a few things I would ask the candidates:

· What are we going to do about Iraq?

Yes, we're going to have to stay the course, but a continuing cat-and-mouse game with insurgents, drawn for the poorest and most desperate parts of the Middle East, only seems to promise a steady stream of dead young American soldiers.

Isn't there a way we can try to convince the people that we want to go home as soon as possible, and that if they allow us to do so, we'll rebuild the country?

If we're doing any of that education and persuasion, I don't see it. Shouldn't we be showing the Iraqis what other countries, even the Kurdish enclave in Iraq's north, have been able to do by starting with peace and order?

I'm not sure that I agree that the terrorists "hate freedom," but I do believe that their leaders, particularly the religiously fanatical among them, know that if we set up a free-market democracy there, what the leaders of the mosques say might eventually become less important than getting enough cash to buy a DVD player.

And guys, here's another reason to consider that something in addition to force might help end this war. America cannot maintain an all-volunteer force if there is no hope of victory.

Who will sign up for a contest in which there is no hope of winning? And now, the choice seems to be to offer force, but not so much force that the United States would be accused of brutality. Can we win a war if we have to tip-toe through the battlefield?

· Isn't it time to try again to negotiate national health care? America's quality of care may be the best in the world - if your employer offers a good plan, if you can afford one of your own or if you're willing to sit in the emergency room for a couple of hours.

But enacting a national health planwill mean rationing care. It wouldn't be possible without it. Consider this: If you've got the flu and your previous strategy was just to suffer through it, you're not going to do that if care is available without even a co-pay.

And it's not the flu cases that would clog the system, but the people who "think they might be coming down with something" or those who just need some human contact and can't get it anywhere else.

On the upside, national health care would allow those people who are clinging to a boring job just because it has good benefits to look for something more interesting. And if business could project its health-care costs with some accuracy, and if there weren't double-digit increases every year, they might be more profitable.

· Finally, what about abortion? The issue is the kiss of death of Democrats, who have to contend with the argument that they're abetting murder, even if they only support it when the life and health of the mother are at risk.

In my view, there needs to be a two-pronged approach. Women who don't want to keep their babies need new incentives to bring the children to term and allow them to be adopted.

No doubt this would conflict with present laws against baby selling, but shouldn't there be some way to compensate the mother for not forcing would-be parents to travel to China and Russia to find adoptable infants?

The other prong is something called ectogenesis. Reported on in the Aug. 18, 2003 issue of The New Republic magazine, it's a process that, when perfected, would allow a fetus to develop outside the womb.

It's reportedly expensive as all-get-out, but so were VCRs when they first came out. The present debate hasn't produced a solution, so let's try something else.

Will all this be easy? No, but you're running for president, not hall monitor. I expect the person I vote for to work hard for his salary.

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