Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Kerry would provide
thoughtful leadership


President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls of Hawaii voters.

HAWAII has become a battleground state in this year's presidential election, with President Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry in a virtual tie in voter opinion polls. Hawaii's four electoral votes could be crucial in determining the next occupant of the White House. Possibly even more than in other states because of Hawaii's recovering economy and low jobless rate, national security has become the dominant issue.

Kerry's liberal voting record in the Senate has caused some concern among moderates. However, continued Republican control of Congress will make him a centrist by necessity if he hopes for his proposals to be enacted.

The differences between Bush and Kerry in their approaches to the war in Iraq and the wider war against terrorism are subtle. Bush's inclination toward unilateral action has distanced the United States from its traditional allies, but Kerry better understands the leadership role America must regain. He has our endorsement for president.

Kerry says he will seek more international help in Iraq, faster training of Iraqi soldiers, rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure and the holding of free elections. Those generally encompass the Bush policy, and each candidate claims to have originated the strategy. However, they disagree on the policy that resulted in troops being sent to Iraq in the first place, revealing sharp differences about their views of international law and appropriate use of pre-emptive military action.

Bush showed strong leadership in responding to the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, by sending troops into Afghanistan and toppling the medieval regime that had provided a haven for al-Qaida. However, Bush administration insiders quickly focused on Iraq as a terrorist threat. Bush cited U.S. and British intelligence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had links to al-Qaida. The evidence was compelling.

As we now know, the intelligence was flawed but was widely believed by traditional U.S. allies. Congress, with Kerry's blessing, approved authority for Bush to invade Iraq but many members intended the backing to provide Bush greater leverage with the United Nations Security Council. Although most Council members believed the intelligence about weapons was true, they favored further inspections for verification before U.N. authorization should be approved, as did the Star-Bulletin. Kerry says he also favored further U.N. inspections before an American invasion.

Bush could not wait, and he charged forward under what proved to be a false premise. He has tried to justify the invasion since then by saying that Saddam's capture has made the world "a better and safer place," with which no one disagrees when considering Saddam's imprisonment in isolation. Despite a dearth of evidence, some still believe Iraq was part of a terrorist network prior to the war. There is no doubt it has become a magnet of terrorism today.

On domestic issues, Bush can take credit for education reform through the No Child Left Behind Act, although the program has some faults that need correcting. It also is underfunded and might remain so under either Kerry or Bush, whose proposals are likely to continue straining the federal budget.

After years of budget surpluses in the Clinton administration, Bush increased discretionary spending by 8.2 percent annually, compared to 2.5 percent a year under President Clinton. The 10-year negative effect of Bush's proposals would be $1.33 trillion, compared to $1.27 trillion under Kerry, according to the nonpartisan Concord Coalition. Unfortunately, neither candidate is a fiscal conservative, and we urge the next president to use more constraint in spending.

On numerous social issues, Kerry's position is similar to that of the Star-Bulletin -- increased federal funding for stem-cell research, abortion rights for women and protection of the environment. Bush supports and Kerry opposes a constitutional amendment requiring that marriage be between a man and a woman, although Bush this past weekend said that he, like Kerry, favors states allowing civil unions of same-sex couples.

Of concern in Hawaii, Bush has not indicated whether he will support Senator Akaka's bill to provide federal recognition of Hawaiians. Kerry says he supports the bill.

Domestic issues are important and we find ourselves in agreement more with Kerry than with Bush. The overriding issue in this election is national security, and Kerry has shown a more thoughtful process in his approach to protecting the United States from threats abroad and restoring relations with America's traditional allies.




Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Dennis Francis,
Larry Johnson, Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke,
Colbert Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,

Dennis Francis, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
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