Please read (it's hella long) and forward if you'd like.
Dear friends and family,
Today I am compelled to speak out. I respectfully ask for a few minutes
of your time.
After the events of September 11, 2001, I developed an enormous appetite
for information. Everyone has their own way of coping with grief, and
mine was to ask the hardest questions I could imagine and seek out what
answers were available. As a result, I have developed over the past few
years a daily habit of keeping informed of current events as best as I
am able. In an attempt to get a balanced viewpoint, I read news and
commentary from many different sources – my daily headline scan includes
my two local papers, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC,
and Le Monde.
It is from this position – as a consumer of news who has a reasonably
good grasp of what's being reported, and as your friend, family, or
acquaintance – that I write to you today and entreat you, with every
ounce of seriousness that I can muster:
Please vote for John Kerry this November 2nd.
I'm well aware that I'm just a few clicks away from finding some
professionally prepared talking points which I could insert into this
letter and call it a day, but you my friends and family deserve more
than that. What follows are my selection of the strongest reasons I can
find to back up my endorsement, filtered by my own personal priorities
and produced by my own information gathering. I've looked hard, and I
find the case for voting for Kerry to be compelling and powerful. I
will do my best to articulate that case here, in my own way.
I titled this message "Extraordinary Rendition" for a reason, for the
issue behind that phrase is at the core of what motivated me to write
First, though, I must encourage everyone to recognize that we are
electing more people than the two names on the ballot. With the
Executive branch comes an entire layer of government – so it's not just
the performance of Bush and Cheney that we are endorsing or rejecting,
we are giving our stamp of approval or disapproval to their entire team.
Now here's the problem. This team – meaning "key appointees of the Bush
administration" – is pushing legislation and policies that are
repugnant. I do not say this lightly, they are enacting ideas which
have no place in our society, no uprightness in our national morality,
and which greatly reduce our standing in the view of the world.
Which brings us back to "extraordinary rendition." This is a euphemism
to describe the practice of moving a suspect to another country where
the rules against torture are less strict. In other words, torture by
proxy – we can't legally torture someone, but we can ship them off to
another country who can do it for us.
Here's why I bring this up in relationship to the presidential election:
the Bush administration has practiced "extraordinary rendition", and
is currently trying to get the approval of this practice codified into
Really, I wish I was making this up, but I'm not. Our country, our
justice department, deported Canadian citizen Maher Arar in 2002 to
Syria, where he was tortured and held for over a year. He was deported
out of suspicion, held without charge, and only returned to Canada due
to the tremendous efforts of Amnesty International and his wife working
for his return. John Ashcroft claims to this day that the justice
department did the right thing. Mr. Arar – never charged with a crime –
of course disagrees.
For links to documentation, please see
So the question is this: Is shipping someone out of the country to be
tortured the type of behavior you want your government to be involved in?
Would you want it codified into law? Because that's what the current
Republican House leadership attempted to do this past week. Under
consideration in the House of Representatives this week was the bill for
implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations, except this House
version had a twist. Instead of following the Commission's advice to
"offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat
people humanely, abide by the rule of law" the House bill contains a
provision to "exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against
Torture … any suspected terrorist". In addition, it puts the burden of
proof on the accused and attempts to bar the courts from having the
jurisdiction to review any decision in these matters by the Secretary of
Now, here's the kicker. In the words of the New York Times: "…the
Justice Department fully supports these powers, which would let
officials arbitrarily exile suspects who have not been tried or
convicted of anything… This provision, far from living up to the
presidents anti-torture vow during the Iraqi prisoner scandal, would
Now, you might be thinking that perhaps this is some whacko in the
Congress, not under the control of the president. But it's the
administration-headed Justice Department that's asking for this, and the
Republican Speaker of the House (Denis Hastert) who introduced the
provision. The House bill has passed in a slightly modified form
(essentially to say "you can ship them off to another country as long as
that other country assures us that they won't torture them") and the
bill is headed for an uncertain fate as lawmakers attempt to reconcile
it with the Senate version.
I'm sorry, but I don't think "extraordinary rendition" is right for
America. Torture is simply not a practice that's compatible with the
values of this country, and should definitely not be the policy of our
government, whether overtly or covertly.
A few more items on this point – and these should make you sit up and
take notice a little bit because you'll recognize all of them. We hold
prisoners without charging them at Guantanamo Bay, claiming that the
Geneva Conventions don't apply to them. The "techniques" developed
there are later exported to Iraq, and we see horrible photos of abuse
which, when splashed across newspapers all over the world, make us few
friends and shamefully dim the beacon of American idealism.
Now, I'm not going to get into the legal status of what we set up in
Guantanamo, and yes, we are court-marshalling some low-level people
involved in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The key choice we have to
make as voters is really whether or not this administration is leading
us in the right or wrong direction on this core value issue.
There are two major stories from the past year that tell me that, when
it comes to these issues of basic human rights, the Bush administration
is not on the correct side.
The first comes from the conservative Wall Street Journal, in an article
published on June 7 of this year, which asserted that "Bush
administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn't
bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might
torture prisoners at his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice
It is fundamental to our system of government that the President does
not, in fact, have the power to set aside the law at his convenience.
Bush apparently thinks differently. (So did Nixon.)
The reality is that by producing such opinions, the strength of our
assertions is weakened. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer nailed this in
their July 24 editorial which began:
"Looking angry and clearly frustrated, President Bush leaned across the
lectern at a news conference Thursday in response to a question of
whether torture is ever justified. 'Look, I'm going to say it one more
time,' the president snapped, 'The instructions went out to our people
to adhere to the law. That ought to comfort you.' Bush's remarks were
hardly comforting. What comfort is there in assurances that Bush would
adhere to the law after Justice Department lawyers wrote the president
memos saying the law allowed him to authorize the use of torture?"
Our national credibility is further weakened when there is little
accountability in this area, when our own internal investigations point
at top level decision making as being at least partly responsible. This
was underscored by the Washington Post in an August 26 editorial,
written after the official Department of Defense investigation results
"These errors point to a fundamental lack of competence on the part of
Mr. Rumsfeld and senior commanders in conducting the war. But even more
important, in our view, is the panel's support for the truth most
fiercely resisted by the administration and its allies: that the crimes
at Abu Ghraib were, in part, the result of the 2002 decision by the
president and his top aides to set aside the Geneva Conventions as well
as standard U.S. doctrines for the treatment of prisoners. Mr. Bush's
political appointees in the Justice and Defense departments redefined
the meaning of torture and pressed for interrogation techniques regarded
by the Pentagon's own lawyers as excessive."
I have more documentation and links on this topic at
On torture and human rights then, I cannot support Bush. No matter what
his rhetoric might say, his actions and the actions of his appointees
and lawyers speak louder, as do the images from Abu Ghraib and
Guantanamo. John Kerry addresses these issues on his web site,
http://www.johnkerry.com/issues/national_security/democracy.html . He
has also told the Washington Post, in response to their questions on
this issue, that "A Kerry administration will apply the Geneva
Conventions to all battlefield combatants captured in the war on
terror." The Post responded with the statement:
"Without any change in policy, there is every reason to expect that a
second Bush term would produce more scandals like Abu Ghraib. As the
history of the past three years demonstrates, such abuses result when
the rule of law is set aside. That's why we welcome Mr. Kerry's pledge
to resume full U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Such
compliance does not prevent a U.S. president from holding enemy
combatants indefinitely or from denying them prisoner-of-war status. It
does not prevent American forces from conducting interrogations. But it
does ensure that the United States will operate according to the same
international standards that it wishes to see applied to its own service
members and citizens. 'We will abide by a principle long enshrined in
our military manuals,' says the Kerry statement: 'That America does not
treat prisoners in ways we would consider immoral and illegal if
perpetrated by the enemy on Americans.' That strikes us as a policy that
is both more in keeping with American standards, and more likely to be
successful in practice, than that pursued with such disastrous results
by Mr. Bush."
On this issue, Kerry has far more credibility than Bush.
On to another issue that I consider to be a moral issue – that of
nuclear proliferation. This is an area where Bush has totally failed.
We are dropping out of treaties. We are starting up an entirely new
line of more "usable" nuclear weapons when at the same time expecting
other countries to take seriously our calls to disarm. We secured more
loose nuclear materials in the two years before 9/11 than in the two
years after. Look, we've known for quite a while that loose nuclear
material is one of the most serious security issues facing us, and the
reality is that this country under Bush isn't taking this threat
seriously. Even Republican Senator Lugar – the plan for securing loose
nukes is his plan – says point blank that the "U.S. is not committed to
staving off catastrophic terrorism." This isn't buried, it's the title
of one if his press releases just this last May.
John Kerry takes this seriously, and has for decades. You can find more
about his plan in the following .pdf file (Adobe Reader is required)
Now, on the environment. First let's look at clean air, and to save
time I'll reprint a few lines from an interview with Bruce Buckheit, who
was the head of the clean air enforcement division of the EPA until he
resigned earlier this year in protest to the Bush policies. This was an
interview with Dateline:
"What's the biggest enforcement challenge right now when it comes to
Buckheit: "The Bush Administration. An opportunity to reduce pollution
just as we saw in Tampa is being foregone."
"Are you saying this administration just doesn't care about air
Buckheit: "Yes. I'm saying this administration has decided to put the
economic interests of the coal fired power plants ahead of the public
interests in reducing air pollution."
"That's a pretty serious allegation."
Buckheit: "Well, I was the head of the air enforcement division up until
a couple weeks ago and I watched it happen."
Buckheit resigned in protest earlier this year. The reality is that had
this administration simply done nothing, it would have been preferable.
There was even an organized protest by the Christian organization the
National Council of Churches protesting the Bush policy as immoral (see
http://www.ncccusa.org/news/04bushonair.html for their press release).
The Orwellian double-speak employed here is really quite brazen. The
"Clear Skies" initiative increases the amount of pollution that can be
released legally. The Bush web site boasts of its effectiveness even as
the E.P.A's own inspector general points out that the old rule was much
better. (see http://jonathan.garrigues.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=139#532)
Similarly, the "Healthy Forests" initiative increases areas of National
Parks that can be logged. Using the hype of the terrible 2002 fire
season, the initiative concentrated on decreasing public involvement,
reducing environmental protection and increasing timber harvests.
Unfortunately opening up the depths of Olympic National Park in
Washington to logging isn't going to solve the fire problem experienced
by communities in Southern California. Nor is removing the public from
the management process the correct way to manage public lands. Congress
balked at the plan, so the administration decided to implement parts of
it by executive order.
The Bush administration calls these things "clarity." I call them
rolling back environmental standards and tossing years of public comment
and discussion out the window. The Bush administration calls these
things sound policy based on science, but hundreds of noted scientists
beg to disagree. (See
http://jonathan.garrigues.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=103 for more
information on this)
Kerry has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, and the League of
Conservation Voters gave him not only their endorsement but also calls
him "one of America's premier environmental leaders." It was Kerry's
fact-finding missions to Europe in the 80's as lieutenant governor of
Massachusetts that led to the first international agreement on acid rain
controls. This later became the blueprint for the reauthorized Clean
Air Act in 1990.
Bush and Cheney received the first ever "F" for a presidential ticket on
the League of Conservation Voters scorecard, and the League says of Bush
that "His legacy will be unraveling 30 years of environmental progress."
This is not the direction our country should be heading on the
Environment. We've seen how Bush does in the white house, and Kerry
will do much better.
Now, there are in this election two large elephants in the room – one is
called terrorism, and the other is called Iraq. I'm honored that you've
chosen to read up to this point, and I fully realize that by this point
in time, you probably already have a pretty good idea about where you
stand on these two issues. Please permit me, however, to give a few
choice bits of information that I think are relevant.
When it comes to evaluating how well the current Administration has done
and is doing on the issue of terrorism, I think it's worthwhile to ask
the opinion of people whose official job it has been to combat terrorism
– they seem the most qualified to me. So first we'll seek the advice of
Richard Clarke, who advised presidents Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush
II – towards the end of this service in the capacity of
counter-terrorism czar. This is the man who the current Bush
Administration trusted to be in charge of the response on September 11.
Here's a selection of quotes from what Clarke has to say about Bush and
(I'm quoting from both a 60 Minutes interview and Clarke's testimony
in front of the 9/11 Commission):
"Frankly," he said, "I find it outrageous that the president is running
for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about
terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we
could have done something to stop 9/11."
Clarke went on to say, "I think he's done a terrible job on the war
"And the reason I am strident in my criticism of the president of the
United States is because by invading Iraq … the president of the United
States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism."
"Osama bin Laden had been saying for years, 'America wants to invade an
Arab country and occupy it, an oil-rich Arab country.' He had been
saying this. This is part of his propaganda. So what did we do after
9/11? We invade an oil-rich and occupy an oil-rich Arab country which
was doing nothing to threaten us. In other words, we stepped right into
bin Laden's propaganda. And the result of that is that al Qaeda and
organizations like it, offshoots of it, second-generation al Qaeda have
been greatly strengthened."
There is nobody as credible as Richard Clarke on this issue. Nobody.
(9/11 hearings transcript)
In his book "Against all Enemies," Clarke describes the Bush
Administration in the following manner: "The problem was that many of
the important issues, like terrorism, like Iraq, were laced with
important subtlety and nuance. These issues needed analysis and Bush
and his inner circle had no real interest in complicated analyses; on
the issues that they cared about, they already knew the answers, it was
received wisdom." Clarke later in his book calls the decision to go to
war in Iraq "a decision already made and one that no fact or event could
Randy Beers, who also worked for Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and replaced
Clarke as head of counter-terrorism under George W. Bush – has the
following to say, as quoted in the Washington Post:
"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on
terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure… As an
insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat
and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."
"The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been
avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded." The focus
on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money,
he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States'
counter-terrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation
of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said,
thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."
Eight weeks after resigning from the White House, Randy Beers, the top
counter-terrorism advisor to the White House after Richard Clarke –
volunteered for John Kerry's campaign as national security advisor.
Keep in mind that this was before the primaries – he picked Kerry before
Kerry was the official nominee.
When it comes to terrorism, it isn't just my opinion that Bush is doing
a horrible job and that Kerry would do better – it's the opinion of two
informed, intelligent counter-terrorism experts who have worked with
Bush on precisely this issue. Both of them came to the conclusion that
they cannot be a part of the Bush administration, and both of them have
risked their careers to publicly set the record straight.
I think that speaks pretty loudly.
Now to Iraq. One of the things that Randy Beers mentioned in a
Washington Post interview – he quit right as the Iraq war was starting –
was that the evidence coming from intelligence agencies wasn't as
supportive of an Iraqi threat as was implied by the rhetoric of the Bush
administration: "the evidence was pretty qualified, if you listened
This is in fact well known now, and undisputed except by the most
partisan of people. The reality is that the Bush Administration chose
to hype the war in Iraq as a very conscious policy decision, facts be
damned. It wasn't that they weren't listening carefully, it's more that
they only listened to what they wanted to hear. I would even go as far
as to say that they shouted down the analysis that didn't agree with the
result they wanted.
I am going to quote the analysis of Josh Marshall, a journalist whose
reporting I have come to respect greatly over the last few years, to
assist in making this point:
"We know that after 9/11 there were intense battles pitting the
Intelligence Community against political appointees in the
administration and that those battles were over almost every aspect of
the Iraqi threat: nuclear weapons capacity, ties to terrorism, whether
Saddam would use his arsenal against the United States, degrees of
certainty about the state of Saddam's chemical and biological programs,
"To the best of my knowledge there is not one single instance we know of
in which any portion of the Intelligence Community pressed for a more
ominous view of the threat in the face of skepticism from the political
appointees at DOD, the Office of the Vice President, the White House or
anywhere else in the administration. Not one."
"We know of many points of controversy. And, to the best of my
knowledge, every last one involved administration politicals pressing
for more extreme and ominous interpretations of the Iraqi threat against
skeptical members of the Intelligence Community. Every last one."
"This is hardly even a controversial point. The hawks themselves made
the same argument endlessly. They only stopped when the evidence came in
and they were shown to have been wrong in almost every particular."
"An internal review at the CIA conducted by Richard J. Kerr, a retired
senior CIA official, has now also concluded that there is no evidence
the CIA shaded its estimates to support the administration's case for
war. But even if we grant the accuracy of that judgment it really
doesn't get at the true question."
"Why? Because we know that there were numerous cases in which people in
the Intelligence Community tried to stop the White House from making
various hyperbolic or unsubstantiated claims, precisely because they
were not supported by the Intelligence Community's consensus estimates. "
"What we have here is a serious intelligence failure, but one that in
itself would almost certainly not have led to war, at least not on the
grounds of there being an imminent threat to the United States.
Recognizing that it was an insufficient 'casus belli' the White House
then hyped it up with all manner of unsubstantiated mumbo-jumbo."
"And for this the Intelligence Community owes the president an apology?"
"Just as the president did last summer when he forced an apology from
George Tenet over the Niger-uranium claims and then tried to put the
matter to rest without firing Tenet or asking for any kind of
investigation, he now wants to pocket the blame being heaped on the
Agency (because it absolves him politically) without having any sort of
investigation to get to the heart of what happened."
"Why? Simple. Because any truly independent investigation of how this
all unfolded would expose the administration's systematic exaggeration
of what we knew about the threat Iraq posed and, almost certainly, its
willful deception of the American people."
Want more information about this? Are you familiar yet with the
Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans" which was created to sift through
raw intelligence because the analysis coming from CIA professionals
wasn't strong enough to support the case for war in Iraq? I've
collected some articles and links at
http://jonathan.garrigues.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=176 if you'd like
to look further into these issues.
The thing is, Iraq breaks my heart. It's amazing even to have to say
this, but post-enlightenment foreign policy should be based on facts,
analysis, reason, and, dare I even say, a positive cost-benefit ratio.
This particular war fails on all accounts, and will be a stain on the
reputation of the United States for generations. It was a colossal
failure of judgment, a triumph of propaganda at the expense of American
Really, the best way to start restoring America's standing in the world
and strength both at home and abroad is to vote Kerry into office on
November 2nd and vote Bush out.
I've taken a peek into Kerry's history, and I've been pretty darned
impressed. He's taken major chances on things that were political hot
potatoes. His opposition to the Vietnam war was based on principle,
passion, and first-hand experience. Campaign smears to the contrary
aside, it's worth your time to read his 1971 Senate testimony first
hand: http://www.c-span.org/vote2004/jkerrytestimony.asp I found it
eloquent, respectful, and powerful, and I was impressed with his
leadership ability to focus the anger and bitterness of the anti-Vietnam
war movement into a powerful public statement.
While Republican rhetoric would have us believe that Kerry "has no
record" in the Senate, the truth is far different. In the face of
overwhelming political pressure and opposition, Kerry launched
investigations which eventually took down the Bank of Credit and
Commerce International, an extremely well-connected financial
institution which was corrupt to the core. Even the President at the
time asked him to back off on his investigation, but he didn't, and as a
result BCCI's drug money laundering and terrorist financing was brought
to a halt. This a decade before September 11, and Kerry was leading
this fight in the face of overwhelming political opposition.
I really need to emphasize this again. Before terrorism became the
buzzword of any elections, John Kerry went after terrorist financing.
He ruffled feathers in his own party, beat back requests to stop from
the sitting president George H. W. Bush, and provided the evidence that
eventually took down what has been called "one of the biggest criminal
enterprises in world history." I would be proud to have Kerry as my
See http://jonathan.garrigues.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=188 for links to
two articles on this issue. In particular, I highly suggest that you
read this one:
Because this is my soapbox, I'd now like to smack down the three major
Bush campaign talking points as being, well, just bogus.
First, that Kerry has "voted to raise taxes 98 times." Jonathan Chait
in the LA Times obliterated this method of vote-counting: "Meanwhile,
Dick Cheney as a member of Congress from Wyoming voted to raise taxes
144 times. If 98 tax-hike votes make Kerry a far-out liberal, than
Cheney would have to be placed somewhere in the ideological vicinity of
Second, that Kerry "voted against every major weapons program". Fred
Kaplan reduces this criticism to shreds in Slate: "Here, one more time,
is the truth of the matter: Kerry did not vote to kill these weapons, in
part because none of these weapons ever came up for a vote, either on
the Senate floor or in any of Kerry's committees. …. Those who bothered
to look up the fine-print footnotes discovered that they referred to
votes on two defense appropriations bills …..By the same logic, they
could have claimed that Kerry voted to disband the entire U.S. armed
forces; but that would have raised suspicions and thus compelled more
reporters to read the document more closely. What makes this dishonesty
not merely a lie, but a damned lie, is that back when Kerry cast these
votes, Dick Cheney—who was the secretary of defense for George W. Bush's
father—was truly slashing the military budget."
These rebuttals are worth reading: http://www.slate.com/id/2106119/
and http://www.slate.com/id/2096127 and http://www.slate.com/id/2096127
I know links are ugly, but these are really worth your time. I wonder
how George H. W. Bush (yes, Bush's father) feels about W's recent attack
on Kerry for voting 14 years ago to trim the defense budget by 1 percent
when George H. W. Bush boasted at the same time that he was trimming it
by 30 percent.
And third, that Kerry "voted for the war before he voted against it."
Before the Iraq resolution in October of 2002, Bush went to great
lengths to explain that the vote wasn't a vote for invasion, but the
best chance to present a united front to encourage Iraq to open up to
inspectors. Iraq did open up, however reluctantly, and inspectors were
in fact on the ground up until they were pulled just before the
invasion. When it came time to vote for $87 billion in funding for the
war, Kerry voted for the version of the bill that paid for the spending,
rather than the version that simply added the money to the national
debt. I don't have a problem with that. If you are into the subtle
nuances of word parsing, this piece in Slate does a good job of pointing
out that – all attacks aside – Kerry has held one nuanced position the
entire time: http://www.slate.com/id/2105096 . I've come to the
conclusion that nuance isn't a bad thing in a president – it's not much
of a spectator sport, but it results in well thought out decisions that
reflect reality, and frankly we could use some of that.
I've found in Kerry the qualities that I find so glaringly lacking in
Bush: The curiosity to seek out answers himself rather than simply
taking what someone says at face value. The ability to work with
members of the opposite party on heavily charged issues and make friends
rather than enemies. After working with Kerry for four years on the
issue of Prisoners of War, Republican Senator McCain speaks of him this
way: "You get to know people and you make decisions about them. I found
him to be the genuine article."
Most importantly, I see in Kerry's government service the ability to
pick battles because they are important, not because they win votes.
Service on the Senate Foreign Relations committee doesn't win many
headlines, but rather understanding of the issues. Taking on corrupt
money laundering banks isn't particularly glamorous, especially when
both parties are telling you to lay off – but it led to an understanding
of the type of multinational financing that became a model for
terrorists. In fact, Kerry published a book on this subject in 1997,
entitled "The New War" that demonstrates the kind of thinking that he's
been doing for years about how to deal with non-State multinational threats.
In other words, for years Kerry has been looking in the right
directions, gathering the right information, and insisting that our
government be open and accountable.
I would ask you to compare this kind of philosophy of accountability to
the behavior of the current president in regards to the 9/11 commission.
After initially opposing the creation of the commission, he relented
under enormous pressure from the victims families. The Bush
administration then hand picked Henry Kissinger to lead the commission,
a move the New York Times called an attempt "to contain an investigation
it has long opposed." Kissinger resigned after a month, citing
conflicts of interest. Bush then resisted either to fully fund the
commission or to grant a needed time extension for the work to finish,
all the while withholding some 75 percent of documents that the
commission needed in order to do their work. When the commission
requested to see 360 Presidential Daily Briefings, the White House said
only four of the ten commissioners could see them, and showed them only
24 briefings. Then they denied these four commissioners the ability to
see their own notes that they had taken. They attempted to keep National
Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice from testifying, saying that it would
be unprecedented. After photos were produced showing four previous
holders of the office testifying in front of similar commissions, the
administration agreed to have Rice testify but demanded that in exchange
no other official be required to do so. When Bush finally agreed to
testify, he would only do so off the record, not under oath, and with
vice president Cheney there to help.
Friends, this record is appalling.
I've said several times in the past year that the challenge in making
the case against the Bush administration isn't in finding the facts to
support that case – it's an organizational challenge. There are so many
competing issues clamoring for attention that it's actually quite
difficult to string them together without sounding shrill. This is my
attempt at making part of that case, and I'd like to thank you for the
time you've spent reading through it so far.
On every single issue that matters to me, the choice is clear: this
country needs to elect John Kerry for president.
Now, I understand that there are probably some of you who plan to vote
for Bush. Thanks for reading this far, by the way. Allow me the chance
to address four of the main issues which may be important to you.
First – there is a cultivated impression in this country that by
"fighting the terrorists over there, we don't have to fight them here"
and as a result, I know there are people who will be voting for Bush
because they think he's strongest on the issue of terrorism.
I probably don't need to remind you that two counter-terrorism czars
who've spent time in the Bush White House disagree. Bush's key blind
spot is this: He and his advisors have mistakenly assumed that Radical
Islamic terrorism is state-centric, and that the regime-crumbling
military power we possess is sufficient to meet any threat. Kerry knows
better, understands the importance of alliances and international law
enforcement when dealing with non-centralized shadow groups, and is
therefore a better choice to fight terrorism.
By every objective account, the incredible political capital we were
given by the rest of the world and the political unity we experienced
after September 11 has been squandered, with the result being an
increase in terrorism and an incredible lowering of our credibility of
our government at home and abroad. We need new leadership.
Bush likes to say "You may disagree with me, but at least you know where
I stand." But according to the Program on International Policy
Attitudes this isn't actually true – they did a survey of issues and
discovered that a majority of Bush supporters projected their own
beliefs onto the administration, rather than knowing his positions. If
terrorism is your issue and you still think Bush is your man, you might
want to check the following site: http://www.pipa.org
Second – abortion. Despite Bush's unwillingness to state for the record
in the third debate that he would like to overturn Roe vs. Wade, he's
carefully cultivated himself as the anti-abortion candidate. Friends, I
know some of you feel very passionately about this issue, but the
reality is that this is a go-nowhere wedge issue that's being used as a
smokescreen to obscure some seriously bad decision making – and Bush
wouldn't even take a solid stand on it when asked during the debate. To
vote on this issue alone is to close your mind to the enormous
credibility gap of this administration in the hope that he might appoint
a judge who might overturn the current law of the land. Don't wear
those blinders, please.
Third – taxes. I'll be short on this one. Despite the campaign
rhetoric, Bush's party has been in control of both Congress and the
White House for several years now. It's a valid policy choice to cut
taxes and cut spending – but the choice that they've made is to cut
taxes and increase spending, unprecedented in "wartime." This is why so
many traditional conservatives have publicly declared that they are
voting for Kerry this year – because they believe that it's immoral to
run up the biggest deficit in the history of this country and ask our
children to pay for it. Kerry pledges to restore "pay-as-you-go"
spending rules. Bush obviously doesn't.
Fourth – gay marriage. I actually agree with Cheney here: "freedom
means freedom for everybody." Bush doesn't seem to agree. Look,
friends, this is another smokescreen, in that legislation on this issue
can't even pass the Republican-controlled House (they tried, it
flopped). This issue will play out in the states, where it belongs.
Suggesting that we amend the Constitution on this issue is a shameless
political ploy that deserves your scorn, no matter on which side of this
issue you find yourself.
To close this letter, I'd like to quote from an article in Salon:
"In the first debate, Bush defended his rigid certainty. In the second,
he declined the opportunity to admit error and chose to blame others:
'Now, you asked what mistakes. I made some mistakes in appointing
people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their
feelings on national TV.' Perhaps he had in mind his former
counter-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, who testified that the
president blithely ignored terrorism before Sept. 11. But perhaps he was
thinking of the director of his faith-based initiative, John DiIulio,
from Princeton, the most distinguished man of ideas to join his
administration, who said, after resigning, 'There is no precedent in any
modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of
a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything -- and I mean
everything -- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the
Mayberry Machiavellis.' Or perhaps he meant Paul O'Neill, his treasury
secretary and a former corporate executive, who, after he was forced
out, wrote that the president with his Cabinet was 'like a blind man in
a roomful of deaf people.' Or perhaps Bush was thinking of his top White
House economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsey, who was fired after he
publicly stated that the Iraq war would cost $200 billion."
Accountability is on the line November 2. This is what democracy is
made for, and I urge you to vote for John Kerry. He's courageous,
intelligent, optimistic, and has the experience, skills, and capacity to
be a fine commander in chief.
Bush, by all objective measures, has made most of his decisions based
not on the facts, science, or reality, but on what his political advisor
Karl Rove feels will increase his chances for re-election. The buck
doesn't stop at his desk, so we need to make it stop at the voting booth.
Thank you for your time, and please vote for John Kerry.