Politics & Policy

On Balance, Bush

A libertarian looks closely at the options.

As I watched John Kerry declare victory in the New Hampshire primary back in January, I wondered if I could live with his election as president. He seemed articulate, stately, and, long face aside, presidential. His successful surge in the Iowa caucuses and defeat of his Granite State rivals gave him an appealing air of toughness. As a registered Republican and practicing libertarian, Kerry was not my cup of tea. But would I actually choke on what he was pouring?

After all, much of President Bush’s domestic record was hard to swallow. With his veto pen still in mothballs, Bush has proposed or endorsed 8.2-percent average annual increases in non-security-related domestic spending. This outpaces even Lyndon Johnson, according to Club for Growth calculations. Could Kerry top that?

Bush shocked free marketeers with 8-30 percent steel tariffs. Pakistan, a war-on-terror ally, still faces textile quotas, while last November brought barriers against Chinese bras. Could Kerry out-protect Bush?

Bush signed a Medicare drug benefit covering all seniors, regardless of income, saddling future generations with a new entitlement costing at least $534 billion through 2013 alone. Could Kerry accelerate government any more quickly?

Yes, yes, and yes. Kerry proposes $2.2 trillion in fresh spending, including health coverage for “every child”–even Sarah Jessica Parker’s. His populist rhetoric on outsourcing justifiably spooks free traders.

Kerry and Bush are brothers, if not twins, on marriage. While Bush favors a federal constitutional gay-marriage ban, Kerry would let states block same-sex matrimony. Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, were the only senators who skipped the July 14 Federal Marriage Amendment vote. Kerry’s and Edwards’s use of Vice President Cheney’s homosexual daughter as a political prop smacked of gay baiting to disorient Bush-Cheney’s socially conservative base. Like Bill “Defense of Marriage Act” Clinton, Kerry and Edwards have mastered the Democratic art of grabbing gay-campaign cash while impersonating Republicans on same-sex issues as Election Day nears.

Kerry and Bush differ dramatically on taxes. Kerry voted 98 times to raise taxes, and promises to restore Clinton’s top two brackets. Under Kerry, some Americans with incomes as low as $89,237 can expect tax hikes.

Bush has signed $1.9 trillion in tax relief and envisions major second-term tax simplification. Bush’s approval of vouchers for Washington, D.C.’s beleaguered government-school students and his advocacy of Social Security choice signal key reforms by 2008.

But leading the war on terror is where Bush leaves Kerry in the lurch.

Bush has confronted terrorists and their sponsors. The Taliban no longer runs now-democratic Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein’s terrorist general store is kaput. (See HUSSEINandTERROR.com for details.) Pakistan, a former Taliban ally, has arrested some 600 al-Qaeda murderers. Yemen convicted and will execute two USS Cole bombers and jail four others. Saudi Arabia has begun to neutralize local terrorists. Six days after Hussein’s arrest, Muammar Kaddafi abandoned Libya’s atomic ambitions.

Kerry, meanwhile, takes terrorism insufficiently seriously. He has invoked at least twice the “law enforcement” counter-terrorism model, as if bombing Islamo-fascists with subpoenas will do.

1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef said he aspired to murder not six people, as occurred, but 250,000. Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war on America said: “To kill all Americans and their allies–civilians and military–is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.” Al-Qaeda’s Jamal al Fadl explained in 2001 why he searched Sudan for radiological materials: “It’s easy to kill more people with uranium.”

Against such a driven, bloodthirsty enemy, America needs resolute leadership. Instead, President Kerry would be President Carter without the polyester suit. Kerry has embraced then spurned the Iraq war, $87 billion to support it, the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, ballistic-missile defense, and NAFTA, among other oscillations. Kerry dizzyingly has recommended more soldiers in Iraq, a July 2005 troop withdrawal, a presence through January 2006, and an open-ended commitment.

Would Kerry have invaded if Hussein ultimately refused to disarm? Kerry assured Missouri voters last August: “You bet I might have.” Asking Kerry to hold a position is like begging a tumbleweed to stand still.

Despite some domestic faults (and amid hopeful signs for a second-term agenda), I trust the president to keep Islamic extremists far from me, my family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen.

In short: On balance, Bush.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a contributor to National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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