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Strategies for the President, Problems for Kerry
by Andy Obermann
10 March 2004

The Bush campaign should focus on John Kerry's attempts to gut the defense and intelligence budgets prior to 9/11. 

It’s pretty much official.  John Kerry will be the Democratic nominee come November.  After sweeping victories in all but one of the ten Super Tuesday primary states, Kerry looks to be the center of attention until the Democratic Convention on July 26.  President Bush must be licking his chops!

As we all know, the President isn’t good with talking points, so it’s a good thing there will only be two main themes to enforce from now until the general election.  Bush’s strategy, as with all campaigns, should be to enforce his strengths, while pointing out his opponent’s weaknesses.  Lucky for him there is plenty of each to go around.

First and foremost, the President should enforce his main strengths -- leadership and integrity.  After 9/11, the nation needed a leader to unite it.  We needed a president who would act decisively to defend us and the country.  President Bush was the right man for the job. 

He was swift and merciless in dealing with the Taliban, the primary supporters of Al Qaeda at the time.  In doing so, he removed the Clinton Administration’s stigma of indifference to terrorism and declared war on those who threaten the United States.  This War on Terror is not only right, but it is just.  Those who attacked us have declared war -- and, in turn, we have obliged them. 

Our hunt for terrorists has taken us down many paths.  Iraq was one such path.  Some will say that Bush lied to Americans in order to rally us for war.  They say he has exploited the terror-mandate to seek profits for his corporate partners.  They could not be more wrong.  President Bush saw the threat and based his decision on intelligence thought valid by, not only previous administrations, but Congress, the United Nations, and the American people.  He felt the “gathering threat” of Saddam Hussein was real and that it was necessary, in order to protect and defend Americans, to act.  Yes we have run into struggles along the way, yes our intelligence may have been flawed, but he acted to protect us based on his own best judgment.  I’m not sure what more we can ask of a president. 

True leadership is taking whatever steps are necessary to protect those who depend on you, despite the personal risk involved.  The President is one such leader.

The other half of the campaign strategy should be to point out the key downfalls of John Kerry.  And, as I said, there are plenty.

Where should we start?  OK, how about this.  During the long buildup for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Congress was given the opportunity to vote on the authorization of force in Iraq without international consent.  Guess who voted for that measure?  Senator Kerry, of course.  The same Sen. Kerry who voted against the appropriation of some $87 billion to support our continued war effort and troops.  Let’s get this straight. Senator Kerry voted for the war, but against the funding for the war -- nice move.

Another issue up for attack is Kerry’s determination to slash intelligence budgets -- causing the inevitable problems with gathering intelligence that led to 9/11.  For example, in 1995 Kerry proposed a bill set to cut $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget.  Kerry stated that, “[the bill] will reduce the Intelligence budget by $300 million in each of the fiscal years 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.”  Kerry was the only Senator to sponsor the bill, which never made it to the floor.

In 1997, Kerry questioned the necessity of our intelligence establishment after the Cold War.  “Now that that struggle is over, why is it that our vast intelligence apparatus continues to grow…” the Senator chimed.  This is the same John Kerry who, four years later, called our intelligence gathering resources “ineffective” and “in need of a major overhaul.”  I wonder why our intelligence agencies were in such a condition?  Could it be due to the fact that you and your cohorts voted time and time again over the past 15 years to cut their respective budgets?  That, for sure, is one major factor.

And, let’s also not forget the fact that Kerry’s defense record leaves much to be desired.  After all, he has voted against weapons programs such as the B-1 bomber, B-2 bomber, F-15 Eagle Tactical fighter, Tomcat fighter, Apache Helicopter, Patriot and Trident Missiles, and has sought to cut funding for programs including the M-1 Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Tomahawk Cruise Missile, and the F-16 Falcon fighter jet. 

Kerry’s domestic record is that of a traditional Massachusetts liberal and has many promising aspects that the Bush campaign may look to exploit, but the defense aspect of his record shows the most vulnerability.

This election is really quite simple.  Do we want a soft-on-defense Democrat who changes his position on any issue with the wind of national opinion polls, or do we want a solid, steadfast leader who stands behind his beliefs and fights for what is in our best interest?  I think the answer is obvious.

Andy Obermann is majoring in History and Secondary Education at Missouri Valley College

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