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.
In listing "reasons" for the high cost of medicine, neither candidate mentioned that the United States has the best health care in the world. One can be treated and cured here of all sorts of maladies and diseases in ways unavailable to the rest of the world. Why do so many want to come here for vital surgery, including citizens of Canada, where socialized medicine is not serving its people well? The best costs more, but the results are better.
Kerry talked about being "optimistic," but there is only pessimism as far as his eyes can see. Nothing is good, nothing is working, the future is full of fear and struggle, and we are losing the war on terror, so elect him and he will make it all better.
President Bush believes the United States can help "spread freedom and liberty around the world." This has been American doctrine since we abandoned isolationism as we entered World War II.
The nonpartisan Congressional Quarterly publication looked at Kerry's Senate voting record, which is a better standard than election-year rhetoric for determining his consistency. In the April 24, 2003, issue, David Nather wrote, "(O)n education and health care, two of the most important domestic battlegrounds between Democrats and Republicans, Kerry has a thin record." Nather added, "(Kerry) has not played a major role in the most significant health care debates of recent years. . . ." And, wrote Nather, "(D)uring the six weeks of Senate debate in 2001 on the 'No Child Left Behind' education law . . . the Senate never debated a Kerry amendment."
Considering Kerry didn't show up for "battle," voters have a right to question his level of commitment to issues. Nearly 10 years ago, Scot Lehigh, a columnist for the liberal Boston Globe, wrote, "Kerry has long had a reputation as more of a show horse than a workhouse."
In just over two weeks, voters will make their own judgment about changing a workhorse in midstream for a show horse in mid-stride.
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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