EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Why Bush is better for Australia ...
, November 6, 2004
With days to go before Americans elect a new President, the United States is increasingly polarised between the two presidential candidates, George Bush and John Kerry.
However, the key policy differences have been largely obscured by the personalities of the two men, with Democrats seizing on President Bush's religious views, oil company background and occasional tongue-tied approach, while Republicans have attacked John Kerry's aloof manner, and his policy reversals on issues such as Iraq and America's response to terrorism.
Although the American economy is strong, there is a strong anti-Bush sentiment which arises in part from America's occupation of Iraq where the US continues to sustain military casualties, as well as from the underclass of immigrants and working-class Americans who have largely missed out on America's prosperity.
While John Kerry has publicly stated that he would not withdraw US forces from Iraq, his trenchant attacks on the Bush Administration's war in Iraq in 2003 make his commitment to the long haul quite uncertain. (Incidentally, Kerry earlier had voted in favour of the invasion of Iraq in the US Congress.)
Whatever people may think of the Bush administration's decision to go to war, to withdraw now would consign Iraq (and probably its neighbours) to continued suicidal carnage, terrorism and political chaos. It would inevitably be disastrous for the Iraqi people.Domestic policy
On US domestic policy, the differences are even more stark. For example, the Bush Administration has refused to fund pro-abortion programs administered by UN agencies under the auspices of "family planning". Senator Kerry strongly supports such programs.
Kerry's pro-UN stance is also seen as support for the social agenda imposed by UN agencies in developing countries, including population control programs, abortion and free condoms for people suffering preventable diseases and malnutrition.
Further, John Kerry has stated that he would only appoint Justices to the US Supreme Court who are pro-abortion. In the third Bush-Kerry debate, Kerry repeated that he "will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade
", the US Supreme Court case which entrenched abortion as a constitutional right.
Bush responded that he would not impose any test on Supreme Court justices. "I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution, but I'll have no litmus test," he said.
As a left-liberal Democrat, Senator Kerry's positions are also radically different from President Bush's policies on environmental, social and religious issues.
On environmental issues, Kerry supports mandatory motor vehicle fuel efficiency and emission standards, and opposes oil-drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge. (Oil-drilling is already prohibited in many parts of the US for environmental reasons.)
At the same time, the senator has announced that he will move towards "an energy-independent America", which is not reliant on imported Middle East oil, currently running at nearly a billion barrels a year.
The only way in which this could be achieved, in the short term, is by massively increasing oil exploration in the US (and therefore removing existing restrictions on oil exploration), expanding nuclear energy as a source of electrical power, and by imposing high fuel costs on larger vehicles.
No such policy is proposed. Instead, he talks of developing "new energy sources" and "clean, renewable sources of energy", without once conceding that billions of dollars have been spent in these areas in recent decades, with limited success. The promise of fuel-cell cars, solar power, wind energy and the so-called "hydrogen" economy, has yet to materialise.
How Senator Kerry's apparently contradictory policies can be rationalised is unclear.
On issues of church and state, Senator Kerry is aligned with the most anti-religious elements in what is a highly religious society. He opposes federal funding of religious charities, prayer in public schools, and any display of the Ten Commandments in US government buildings.
On homosexual issues, the differences are also stark. The President has supported moves to amend the US Constitution to prevent gay marriages. Senator Kerry has opposed him, and has also supported legal recognition of gay couples through civil unions.
The left-liberal San Francisco Chronicle
summarised what voters could expect, when it declared, "Senator John Kerry is the clear choice for voters who care about protecting the environment, advancing gay rights, preserving abortion rights, maintaining a transparent government when developing an energy policy ... - and appointing federal judges within the mainstream of American values on those issues." (October 17)
In all of these issues, friends of the United States will watch the election with bated breath, as American policy inevitably affects developments throughout the world.
For Australia, President Bush represents a better choice.
- Peter Westmore is president of the National Civic Council