What Dan Rather has appropriately termed the "joint appearances" are now history. Of course I thought John Kerry won -- no I really do think he won, and big, in the larger sense. Even those who support George Bush will have to agree that either man is plausible as President. No Franklin Roosevelt, Jack Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln here, but plausible. That is a big win for a challenger as Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, or George 1st will attest. Kerry, unlike Terry (Brando), is a contender. He's seriously in the game and now all he needs is a knockout, even a technical knockout.
What strikes me about the joint appearances, and the campaign at large, is not so much what is being discussed, however superficially, but what is totally absent. In general both candidates seem to be going the extra mile not to offend or stir controversy. Yes they will make some statement on a hot topic, but it's always nuanced or "caveated" to death. Bush can't bring himself to say he's against choice and Kerry can't quite mouth the words Pro-Choice in anything much above a figurative whisper. That doesn't mean that they don't have real convictions about this, they just want to be careful not to rock a boat that is maneuvering through a very narrow channel. I for one feel that we are less safe since Bush and company began their Iraq folly, but equally feel that we are far too safe when it comes to confronting real issues in the campaign.
Have you noticed, just to use two examples, that there has been scant discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and no mention at all of Abu Ghraib? It boggles the mind that we are discussing an exploding Middle East and Moslem-Western culture conflict and not seriously addressing solutions to the unending Holy Land turf war that increasingly threatens world stability, not to mention brings death an destruction to thousands of innocents and both sides. It isn't mentioned because neither side wants to offend the American Jewish Community – my community – which they assume to be single minded on the subject. I hear Jews saying they are voting for Bush because he so strongly supports Israel and it astounds me. Speak about the big lie. Bill Clinton spent inordinate time and personal capital on seriously seeking a negotiated solution that would ultimately safeguard a Jewish State and bring about a legitimate Palestinian homeland. In the end his time ran out, but there is no doubt that had the Constitution permitted a third them, the effort would have continued. George Bush has done nothing except to mouth support for a Palestinian State (with which I agree) and bolster his fellow Rightist Arial Sharon (with which I strongly disagree). Roadmaps, notwithstanding, there has been no peace process under this Administration. And, to his discredit, John Kerry has not added much to the discussion or risked telling us how he would get it started again.
With the absence of WMDs, the entire Iraq argument has rested on bringing the wonders of democracy, including one would assume moral decency, to the unwashed multitudes in backward Moslem states. Thank God for America. Abu Ghraib, more than anything else has sullied those high purpose platitudes, calling into question why democratic states are any different or better than the combination of dictatorships and monarchies in place. The fact that not a single senior official has paid in any way for this monstrous breakdown in stewardship is shocking and a serious threat to our moral fiber and national reputation. The fact that abuses have also taken place in Afghanistan and, one must now assume in Guantanamo, speaks to an underlying cultural problem that at the very least seems prevalent in our military, but most disturbingly may also reflect something more wide spread. The truth is that "everything is not fair in love or war," and whoever is in charge of conveying that message seems to lack a moral compass. That John Kerry has not made something of this very fundamental issue is disturbing and disheartening.
I'll vote for John Kerry and without any doubt that he is the superior of the two. America will be safer and better off with him in the White House. I'll feel more sanguine about the social issues from environment to scientific research. I wish George Bush had been asked an updated version of the Kitty Dukakis question, "what would you do if Laura had suffered spinal damage and there was a cure developed from stem cell research? Would you let the doctors cure your beloved wife?" With Kerry on Pennsylvania Avenue I'll feel better about Constitutional issues, about a daughter's right to control her own body and about Dick Chaney's daughter's right to wed. I hope everyone will vote for John Kerry, early and often. He says we can do better. I agree and perhaps, if we get our heads straightened out during his days in the White House, we will. I yearn for an FDR somewhere in the future and for a time when more Westsiders will be wearing buttons for rather than against someone during a Presidential campaign.