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   Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis

Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2004

2 August 2004

NEW YORK - What to make of US presidential candidate John Kerry? Is he really an indecisive serial political flip-flopper and national security lightweight, as Republicans charge?

George Bush takes pride in being strong and decisive, comparing himself to FDR and Reagan. Republicans keep trumpeting the president is bold and resolute. Middle America loves the image of a tough-talking president who is ready to use America's vast military power to crush those who object to `freedom.'

Bush has been decisive all right — but decisively wrong. The American leader he most closely resembles is the 19th century Gen. George Armstrong Custer, an arrogant, opinionated, headstrong fool who spurned all warnings, boldly and resolutely lead his command to disaster on the Little Big Horn.

Kerry, like anyone who served 20 years in the Senate, is by definition a flip-flopper. Legislators are hounded by powerful special interest groups whom they must accommodate to keep vital political donations flowing. This dependency, and heavily amended bills often contradicting their initial intent, produce contradictory votes.

As for national security, one's stomach churns hearing President Bush, VP Dick Cheney, and neocon sofa samurais, all of whom dodged active military service during the Vietnam War, shamelessly accusing Kerry, who won three Purple Hearts in combat, of being soft on defense.

Bush and Cheney presided over the two worst intelligence fiascos in modern US history: 9/11 and Iraq; plus the most expensive, stalemated wars since Vietnam: Iraq and Afghanistan are costing US $6.5 billion monthly. Plus over 912 American and some 20,000 Iraqis killed. Plus the Abu Ghraib prison horrors.

Speaking of national security competence, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika either blundered the US into a mistaken war based on grotesquely faked `intelligence,' a farce worthy of the Three Stooges, or lied the US into war, purposely deceiving Congress and the public, a malfeasance demanding impeachment.

Half of all US ground forces are stuck in Mesopotamia while National Guardsmen, who should be fighting fires and floods at home, are press-ganged to Iraq. The Iraq occupation is grinding down the over-stretched US military. Enlistments are dropping sharply.

The Bush-Cheney `crusade' against so-called terrorism enraged the entire Muslim World and is incubating ever more violent anti-American groups. Administration bungling allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora. Now, 20,000 US troops are tied down in Afghanistan desperately trying to find him before November elections.

Bush & Co. have ruined America's good name around the globe. George W. Bush has become the world's most detested man.

Only the brain dead and could call this grand failure a successful national security policy. The Bush Administration has added to America's insecurity, not security. It's very hard to imagine John Kerry doing worse than Bush.

But will he do better? So far, hyper-cautious Kerry failed to call for a pullout from Iraq, as did courageous Governor Howard Dean. Kerry waffled over Iraq, fearing opposition to the war would exposed him charges of being unpatriotic. His proposed solutions to Iraq sound unrealistic.

Kerry has mouthed the same empty platitudes as Bush about fighting terrorism, instead of telling Americans the truth: they face a growing insurgency in the parts of the Muslim World the US rules directly or indirectly.

Senator Kerry was dismayingly quick to signal support for Israel's hard-line, expansionist government, disappointing those hoping for a more balanced Mideast policy. The relentless oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli-US alliance is the most important single cause of surging hatred of the US across the Muslim World.

The media's destruction of outspoken Gov. Dean was not lost on Kerry. His carefully crafted blandness is designed to avoid controversy and appeal to the center, attracting undecided voters and wobbly Republicans.

The last factor will be very important in November: increasing numbers of Republicans are unhappy with Bush, his warmongering cabinet, and the damage caused the US economy by his out-of-control spending. A swing of only 2-3% of Republicans away from Bush could produce a win for the Democrats.

Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention was a masterful political tour de force, covering almost every issue in the election. The senator came across well and established himself with the public as a credible presidential candidate and future commander-in-chief.

Still, while clearly establishing his credentials, Kerry failed to emotionally connect with voters, to electrify them. He needed fire to go with brains. The unisex speech could have been delivered by either a Republican or Democrat. Two failed wars, threats to civil liberties, and runaway deficits is no time for pussyfooting.

Kerry should take example from his intelligent, feisty wife, Teresa, who seems to have bigger cojones than her husband. She brings the sophistication, worldliness, and street smarts so lacking in the insular, xenophobic, Bush Administration.

The wild card in this race is Osama bin Laden. Bush wins if US forces can capture bin Laden before November. Otherwise, George Armstrong Custer Bush and Decaffeinated John Kerry appear in a dead heat.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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