About "the candidates' debate," Simon and Garfunkel wrote and sang:
"Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Ev'ry way you look at it you lose."
That cynical outlook from the '60s doesn't apply now. There is much to lose concerning success in the war against those who hate and wish to kill us; the size, reach and cost of government; and the way we look at issues - from law to life.
The third debate clarified a number of things for those still in need of clarity. Sen. John Kerry is trying to portray himself as something other than the tax-and-spend, big-government, social liberal that he is. Kerry sees government as a kind of "under savior." There is little in his remarks or in his wealthy and privileged life about personal initiative, right choices or individual liberty. It's all about what government can do for you, not what you should first do for yourself.
President Bush rose to the occasion in debate number three. He managed to get off some good zingers, especially the one about Kerry's voting record making Sen. Edward Kennedy look like the "conservative" senator from Massachusetts.
Kerry again said he would require any nominees to the Supreme Court to favor abortion. Most candidates (and presidents) have refused to "litmus-test" in the past. One can examine a candidate's judicial philosophy and usually determine his or her approach to the law and the Constitution. Kerry was pandering to his liberal base and establishing a dangerous precedent.
On the war, the president's line that Kerry's approach is about "retreat and defeat" was a good one, and the president touted last Saturday's election in Afghanistan as a success, which it was. He said again that progress is being made in Iraq, which it is.
On health care, there is much to say that wasn't said. As a senator, Kerry was not known as a champion of market-based competition for health insurance. He now says he wants to allow citizens the same choices Congress affords itself. A market-based system, instead of one controlled and regulated by government, is the best way to keep medical costs under control, along with a healthy lifestyle, which neither candidate talked about. In a self-centered age, never ask what you can do for yourself; ask only what government can do for you.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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