When John Kerry says that
“America can do better,” he’s not lying.
Unfortunately, he’s not part of the solution —
he’s half the problem. The American president, arguably the
most powerful person in the world, is elected in a phenomenally
stupid manner, with little regard to anything of substance. Take
for example that prior to the first presidential debate, political
analysts said John Kerry’s chief problem, and thus President
Bush’s chief strength, was that Kerry couldn’t condense
his rhetoric into catchy phrases. Can someone explain to me the
benefit of a national security plan that uses parallel structure
and alliteration? Of course, during the first debate, Kerry shocked
the nation by revealing a new line of snappy one-line punches and
mantras. Consequently, his poll numbers went up — not because
he said anything of any import, but because people thought he
delivered his sound bites in a more convincing tone than Bush.

Suhael Momin

This election cycle, the so-called debates have become nothing
more than simulcast stump speeches. Because the candidates cannot
directly question each other, the best they can do is play a game
of “You lie! No, you lie!” Substance has no place in
these debates — it was conveniently neglected in the first
two presidential debates and the only vice presidential debate, and
it will be neglected tonight. The candidates make unrealistic
promises, confident that the debate format ensures they will not be
directly questioned. During the debates and on the campaign trail,
these presidential hopefuls play a fast-and-loose game with our
future, misleading us about Iraq, the economy and each other in an
effort to skim a few more votes.

Bush, at his worst, is guilty of simply inventing an alternative
reality to suit his ends. Bad facts become good facts; discouraging
news becomes a sign of hope. On the same day as the last debate,
the Labor Department issued a dismal job creation report: Only
96,000 new jobs were created in September. The Bush team
immediately argued that this slower-than-expected job growth is a
sign of an economy on the rise and that an economy on the rise is a
sign of a wise fiscal policy — tax cuts followed by more tax
cuts. Nobody at the Bush-Cheney campaign even bothered to address
economic facts in the real world; at a very minimum, the economy
needs to generate 150,000 jobs a month to merely keep up with
population growth.

On another note, instead of admitting the Iraq war might have
been based on faulty premises, Bush turned the Duelfer report,
which argued “we were almost all wrong” about Iraq,
into proof that immediate, pre-emptive war was absolutely vital to
American interests. How does a report indicating that Saddam was a
contained threat who had no weapons of mass destruction, and
furthermore, no intent to use them against the United States,
reinforce the case for a war predicated on national security?
Apparently, because firm, resolute leadership is politically
preferable to flip-floppy indecision, reality is no longer
relevant. If the facts don’t support an assertion, spin the
facts until they do.

Not to be left behind, Kerry has made his own ridiculous
contentions. Chief among them is a promise that is reiterated at
every campaign stop and will be reiterated tonight: Under a Kerry
administration, outsourcing will not be a problem. His plan: remove
any tax incentives that exist for corporations to move their jobs
overseas. While this sounds tempting, he pulls a slick trick on
voters who are uneducated about international economics but
concerned about job security. Corporations do not outsource labor
because they have a tax incentive to do so; they outsource because
labor costs in America are incredibly high in relation to the
developing world. Economists, the majority of whom view outsourcing
as a positive extension of economic globalization and trade
liberalization, have reached a fairly unanimous consensus: Kerry is
making a very large, very empty promise. Even Kerry, with his
talented team of advisors, must know that he is making a fairly
impossible commitment. Nonetheless, because focus groups have
concluded that standing against outsourcing is politically
expedient, substance has gone out the window.

Iraq will not suddenly transform itself into a vibrant democracy
through blind perseverance alone. The American economy will not
return to the glory days of the past decade if a few tax loopholes
are closed. Elections are about choosing between differing
ideologies and plans, not between different misrepresentations and
empty promises. Both Bush and Kerry claim to have concrete,
factually sound reasons as to why they deserve the presidency. It
is time they were heard.

Momin can be reached at
“mailto:smomin@umich.edu”>smomin@umich.edu.

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