Point/Counterpoint - Bush
There is under a week until the election in which the American people will decide who will be the next leader of the free world. The election is turning out to be a choice between two philosophies of governing. One man is guided by a principled vision for a better America. The other man is guided almost purely by the cynical pragmatism of politics that has disenchanted so many of us.
George W. Bush has shown that he is ready to lead America. While he does lack experience in international issues, his success as governor shows his command of domestic issues and his natural ability to lead. A leader is able to recognize his own strengths and weaknesses and do what is necessary to make himself the best president he can be. By surrounding himself with the Dream Team of Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell and Dick Cheney, Bush has shown his commitment to sound foreign policy. Gore's selection of Joe Lieberman, a man with whom he has had sharp philosophical differences, shows that his selections will be based on popularity, not on vision.
Gore makes the argument that he is better equipped to be Commander-in-Chief. He gained notoriety by breaking party ranks and supporting the Gulf War. In fact, Gore used his vote on the war as a bargaining chip. In exchange for a primetime speech, he agreed to vote with the Republicans. When Senator Greene, the Republican Secretary said he couldn't promise the schedule, a furious Gore said, "Damn it, Howard! If I don't get 20 minutes tomorrow, I'm going to vote the other way!" Politics is often a game of compromise. But when the issue is sending our young men and women to war, it is not time to play games. That any man votes to put the lives of Americans at risk because of a time slot, rather than voting his conscience, is deeply troubling. To put this man in charge of our military is unconscionable.
It is almost impossible to know who the real Al Gore is, but when he does seem to speak his mind, it is certainly not in the mainstream. On page 326 of his book, "Earth in the Balance," Gore speaks of the "strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine." While we should strive to improve the environment, this is not the type of anti-corporate environmental extremism that America needs. Of course, he won't mention this as he barnstorms through Michigan.
Gore is a pragmatic politician, and his voting record shows that he changes like a chameleon to the political color du jour. As a young congressman, Gore supported gun rights and was pro-life. Tennessee was conservative on these issues, so he was too. As he began to set his sights on the national Democratic scene, he realized that these positions would not fare well, so he switched. Tipper Gore, once the leading advocate for the labeling of records with explicit lyrics, also had to find a new cause, for fear of offending Hollywood donors. She is now an advocate for the mentally ill, a much more politically correct cause.
If I had to sum up Bush's guiding principle for governing in two words, they would be fairness and trust. He believes in fairness, that all Americans should be treated the same, and he trusts the people over the government. You can see the passion in Bush's eyes when he talks about education reform. No child should be left behind, and right now he sees that too many children are, and that is not fair. He trusts that individuals and communities can solve problems that school board bureaucracies have not. Fairness implies that violent criminals should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law equally. This means penalties up to and including the death penalty for criminals, regardless of the ethnicity or sexual preference of the victim. Fairness is that every American deserves tax relief, not just the ones who meet the right criteria. This means increasing the percentage of working poor that won't have to pay taxes at all. It also includes relief for people in higher income brackets who already bear the lion's share of the tax burden. Tax relief trusts that these individuals will reinvest this money back into the economy, creating new businesses and funding charities that create jobs and help the needy far more than government spending can. Fairness means eliminating the death tax, which re-taxes not only the wealthy, but family farmers whose land is worth money on paper, but who are still scraping by from season to season. Fairness means keeping our promises to seniors that they will get all the Social Security benefits they have been promised. At the same time, trust means allowing younger workers to invest a part of their own money in the private sector, ensuring that the system will survive and provide improved benefits for everyone.
Many people have been waiting throughout the election for the real Gore to finally show his face. I now believe that all transformations just show that there is no real Gore, he cares only about winning at any cost. Even if you do not agree with Bush on all his views, realize that he is driven by his own convictions and not by the polls. Bush may not have the most polished lines, but this is because he speaks from the heart. Gore has more experience in government than Bush, but he hasn't learned the most important lessons of being a true leader. A leader assesses a situation, takes in the input of others but ultimately makes a decision based on his own guiding principles.
Though few people currently see this as an important election, 40 years down the road, America may look back with regret at the lost opportunities. There is so much potential, but so far it has been squandered. A world at peace and a sound economy have empowered us to make real progress as a country. Right now, rather than using that power to move towards our goal of a shining city on a hill, we are simply treading water and slowly drifting away from creating a better America.