First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Kerry Plays "Let's Pretend" Like Clinton Did
How stupid are Americans?
I think the answer is:
As dumb as we wanna be.
Twelve years ago, Bill Clinton realized he couldn't get a majority to vote for him as a Democrat. So he pretended to be a Republican. He co-opted the Republican position on practically every issue. He left poor President Bush, Sr., with nothing to say except "me too."
And Bush was the incumbent.
Clinton's message back then was: Bush is a complete failure, and I'm going to make everything better by following exactly the same policies.
This year, it's not "the economy, stupid," because the economy is doing great, so Democrats can't get any leverage whining about that.
No, this year it's the war.
And Kerry is stealing a page from the Clinton election handbook by focusing on the exact issue where the Republicans have him beaten.
He's not pulling a Howard Dean and raving about pulling our troops out.
No, he's talking like Clinton: Bush has done a terrible, terrible job. Elect me and I'll do a lot better with this war on terror. And you know how I'll do it?
By doing every single thing that President Bush has done. Only I would have done it sooner and better.
Why would anybody believe him? Kerry may or may not have been a war hero -- it's for darn sure he saw more active duty than George W. Bush. But we're not voting for favorite ex-soldier, we're voting for the policies that will protect us from foreign enemies.
Kerry's voting record in the Senate says that he'd rather our military consisted of a sixty-man chorus dressed in camo and singing "Give Me Some Men Who Are Stout-Hearted Men."
And maybe, maybe, one bugler.
If it had been up to Kerry, we wouldn't have had enough of a military to take over downtown Dallas, let alone Iraq.
But, just like Clinton, Kerry has realized that you can say anything you want during the campaign. As long as you're the Democratic candidate, the liberal media will actually take your promises seriously; and when the Republicans start attacking your record, they'll accuse them of "negative campaigning."
Not only that, but Kerry's sudden "stronger defense" plans are not provoking howls of outrage from the anti-war wing of his own party.
Why is that? Don't you wonder?
I mean, they're still ripping into President Bush as if he were the anti-Christ -- no, as if he were Mel Gibson -- because they hate this war that has closed down two terrorist-sponsoring governments and liberated millions from tyranny.
But when Kerry promises to do exactly what President Bush has been doing, only "better," they don't attack him at all. Why is that?
For the same reason that the economic leftists of the Democratic Party didn't attack Clinton back in 1992.
They don't believe him.
It's as simple as that.
They know that Kerry, like Clinton, is merely saying whatever it takes to get elected. You paint yourself as the sober moderate so people will vote for you. Then, when you're in office, you behave exactly like the leftist you really are.
The Democratic Party knows that Kerry isn't serious about running a tough anti-terrorist war. And the Republican Party knows he isn't serious about it.
But the vast middle group, the people who get their news from Leno and Letterman and Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, all they know is "Bush Is Dumb" and "Kerry's Going to Win the War." So guess which one they'll vote for.
I can hear some of them saying right now: But voting for Clinton worked out OK. Remember those boom years?
Here's what I remember: The so-called Bush Recession was over before Clinton took office. The media just didn't tell you about it till after the election. Meanwhile, Clinton's policies continued the standard tax-and-spend policies of the Democratic Party. He kept none of his promises about economic policy -- except, of course, his promises to the Chinese.
Then, in 1994, disgusted with him, we elected a Republican Congress for the first time since the election of 1952. Then Clinton started governing like a Republican, at least on economic issues.
It was the Republican Congress of the mid-1990s -- the Gingrich Congress, if you will -- that balanced the budget. Clinton never even tried it with a Democratic-majority Congress in his first two years.
Now, what do you think is going to happen with Kerry? Do you think he's really been converted to building a strong national defense, after all those years of voting to eviscerate it?
Regardless of what Kerry promises during his campaign, a vote for him is a vote to end any serious effort to fight terrorism using our military abroad. And since he is also committed to dismantling the laws that make serious homeland security possible, just how do you think he's going to do against our sworn enemies?
There is a difference between the two candidates. A huge one.
In the past couple of weeks, people have been giving Reagan way too much credit for being an international tough guy. The collapse of the Soviet Union? I recall that Gorbachev and Yeltsin had something to do with bringing the idea of freedom to Russia. Reagan might have said, "Tear down this wall," but he also traded arms for hostages and pulled the Marines out of Beirut as a reward to the terrorists.
In other words, we revere Reagan for his toughness, but he had his non-tough moments, and he got lots of credit for things he only contributed to.
George W. Bush is the real thing. Despite unbelievable political hostility, at home and abroad, he has determinedly pursued the war that we had to fight, and still have to pursue until we win.
Reagan caved in on Beirut and on paying off hostage-takers. George W. Bush hasn't caved in on anything significant concerning this war.
But W isn't smooth on TV. He has Letterman ridiculing him viciously every night on NBC. He has a lot of liars calling him a liar. The media message is constantly being pounded home: Even though W has successfully governed our country through the first two campaigns of a war that was forced on us; even though he has presided over a recovery from the recession that began during Clinton's presidency, despite the huge economic setback caused by 9/11; even though he has a track record that would be the envy of any wartime or peacetime president ...
In other words, even though he has the job of President and has done it as well as anyone in recent years (and, I believe, better than Reagan by quite some) ...
He still might lose the election, because Americans are so dumb we actually believe it when political dimwits like Letterman call Bush stupid ...
And because we're such slow learners we actually believe the Democratic candidate when he pretends to be a Republican. Despite his voting record. Despite the fact that the left wing of his own party doesn't believe a word of his promises.
The Clinton Presidency weakened America's military drastically.
And Kerry consistently voted to weaken it even more than Clinton wanted to.
We have a war going on. Anybody who's serious about winning it cannot consider, even for a moment, voting for Kerry. No other issue compares to that one.
We can't afford to be stupid this year.
Copyright © 2004 by Orson Scott Card.
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