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Thursday, September 09, 2004 - Page updated at 12:50 P.M.
The Times endorses
The Bush presidency is not what we had in mind. Our endorsement of John Kerry is not without reservations, but he is head and shoulders above the incumbent.
The first issue is the war. When the Bush administration began beating the drums for war on Iraq, this page said repeatedly that he had not justified it. When war came, this page closed ranks, wanting to support our troops and give the president the benefit of the doubt. The troops deserved it. In hindsight, their commander in chief did not.
The first priority of a new president must be to end the military occupation of Iraq. This will be no easy task, but Kerry is more likely to do it and with some understanding of Middle Eastern realities than is Bush.
The election of Kerry would sweep away neoconservative war intellectuals who drive policy at the White House and Pentagon. It would end the back-door draft of American reservists and the use of American soldiers as imperial police. It would also provide a chance to repair America's overseas relationships, both with governments and people, particularly in the world of Islam.
A less-belligerent, more-intelligent foreign policy should cause less anger to be directed at the United States. A political change should allow Americans to examine the powers they have given the federal government under the Patriot Act, and the powers the president has claimed by executive order.
This page had high hopes for President Bush regarding taxing and spending. We endorsed his cut in income taxes, expecting that it would help business and discipline new public spending. In the end, there was no discipline in it. In control of the Senate, the House and the presidency for the first time in half a century, the Republicans have had a celebration of spending.
Kerry has made many promises, and might spend as much as Bush if given a Congress under the control of Democrats. He is more likely to get a divided government, which may be a good thing.
Bush was also supposed to be the candidate who understood business. In some ways he has, but he has been too often the candidate of big business only. He has sided with pharmaceutical companies against drug imports from Canada.
In our own industry, the Bush appointees on the Federal Communications Commission have pushed to relax restrictions on how many TV stations, radio stations and newspapers one company may own. In an industry that is the steward of the public's right to speak, this is a threat to democracy itself and Kerry has stood up against it.
Bush talked like the candidate of free trade, a policy the Pacific Northwest relies upon. He turned protectionist on steel and Canadian lumber. Admittedly, Kerry's campaign rhetoric is even worse on trade. But for the previous 20 years, Kerry had a strong record in support of trade, and we have learned that the best guide to what politicians do is what they have done in the past, not what they say.
On some matters, we always had to hold our noses to endorse Bush. We noted four years ago that he was too willing to toss aside wild nature, and to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We still disagree. On clean air, forests and fish, we generally side with Kerry.
We also agree with Sen. Kerry that Social Security should not offer private accounts.
Four years ago, we stated our profound disagreement with Bush on abortion, and then in one of his first acts as president, he moved to reinstate a ban on federal money for organizations that provide information about abortions overseas. We disagree also with Bush's ban on federal money for research using any new lines of stem cells.
There is in these positions a presidential blending of politics and religion that is wrong for the government of a diverse republic.
Our largest doubt about Kerry is his idea that the federal debt may be stabilized, and dozens of new programs added, merely by raising taxes on the top 2 percent of Americans. Class warfare is a false promise, and we hope he forgets it.
Certainly, the man now in office forgot some of the things he said so fetchingly four years ago.
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