This is the simplest choice in over twenty years of voting for President. At the most fundamental level our leader must be smart. It is not just enough to sound bite the right words after the right photo op. I mean Rhodes Scholar, book smart. As much as we voters would like to see issues as binary (yes or no, black or white, good or evil), both domestic and diplomatic issues are not so simple. That's why people write issue papers and not issue choices. This nation's and the world's future requires an intelligent leader.
Our vote though is a binary choice. And for me there is clear cut evidence that George Bush Jr. fails this smart test. It is not his pauses during the debates or his Bushisms. It is this simple: No WMD, No Bush. I'm not in the "intelligence business" (eg CIA) or the like. I'm a common citizen who reads the news and prior to the war I was suspicious of the WMD claims. He should have been too. After the Cold War was over, analysis showed that the CIA estimates of the USSR weapons was overestimated. Therefore, anyone should have expected that the estimates of WMD would also be overstated and that this administration would be certain not to be misled by weapons "intelligence" again. It is clear from the 9/11 report, time-lines about 9/11 and senior administration officials hatred of Iraq that Bush was not smart enough to be certain about WMD. Not only must a President must be certain before leading America into war, but he must do enough homework to get to the truth.
If it were as simple as No WMD, No Bush this choice might be harder. There seems to be many other items that lead me to this conclusion. While Bush is a Yalee, it does not mean anything. He was a legacy so his grades did not have to be anywhere near his classmates and professors have indicated he was not a great student. Bush has avoided news conferences as President which is unacceptable and leads me to believe that he is unprepared on the issues. If he is unprepared then how can he be trusted to make the decisions a President must make. Recent stories show that Bush did not want aides preparing long issue papers in the White House or when reviewing death penalty cases in Texas. In both one debate and at a news conference, Bush failed to admit any mistakes of his administration. While you might consider these items to be weak, I believe the overwhelming evidence is that while this President maybe intelligent, he is not intelligent enough to lead us forward.
Is Kerry intelligent enough? I believe we have enough evidence to believe so. His law degree. His Yale record. His work and re-election in the Senate. His bravery in Viet Nam and his decision after the war to not just be silent. His ideas and presentation during all three debates. This is not to say he is perfect. He struggled to find his voice about Iraq. As the campaign has gone negative, his campaign has occasionally jumped too quickly. But he has recognised his mistakes in both the primaries and the general election and brought in more help when he needed it. So Kerry, in my view, Kerry passes this test.
Some may argue that Kerry is a flip-flopper. While I do think that Karl Rove did an excellent job of tagging Kerry, I don't believe that it stands up. First, as many commentators pointed out during the primary, any Senator has a nearly impossible record to defend. There are so many procedural votes and bill containing a multitude of items that an aye or nay vote is not so simple. Second, I believe that Bush is the bigger flip flopper given the 9/11 Commission and the Department of Homeland Security. How can he claim credit for creating the department when he opposed it as much as possible. So flip flopper is a non-starter for me.
So, Kerry for President of the United States.