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Webb for Bush; Pignanelli likes Kerry

Webb: I'm unabashedly, unhesitatingly and enthusiastically voting for George W. Bush on Nov. 2. Seldom has a more clear-cut and obvious choice existed.

I generally don't like to label candidates "liberal" or "conservative" because politics is usually more nuanced than that. But in this case the "L word" fits John F. Kerry perfectly. The truth is, he's an old-fashioned liberal through and through, with 20 years of Senate votes as proof, further confirmed by promises, promises, promises made during this campaign.

A Kerry win means pursuit of bigger government and higher taxes, new programs for every perceived societal need. In Iowa last Tuesday, Kerry running mate John Edwards promised that if elected the duo "will stop juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases" and will enable the crippled to "get up out of that wheelchair and walk again." I assume they will also walk on water and feed the 5,000.

It's easy for Kerry to criticize, second-guess and make big promises when he hasn't been in the ring slugging it out. Bush has been there, making very tough decisions in very difficult circumstances. And, certainly, Bush has made mistakes.

But consider his record confronting the challenges. Bush inherited enormous problems in 2001, the legacy of Bill Clinton's eight years of excess, profligacy and neglect. The economy was so overheated from Clinton-era "irrational exuberance" that an enormous meltdown was occurring even as Bush took office. The resulting recession decimated government revenues and caused massive layoffs. But today, thanks to the Bush tax cuts and underlying economic strength, we're on our way to solid economic growth based on a firm foundation, not dot-com pie-in-the-sky.

Bush also inherited a world far more dangerous that any of us knew, in an international climate that coddled and downplayed terrorism. Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything, and right from the outset Bush instinctively understood the full extent and ramifications of the war we are in. While others have wavered, he has not. While others have sounded an uncertain trumpet, he has been firm and resolute.

Has he made mistakes? Yes. Would he do some things differently today? Of course. But wars are messy. Wars are unpredictable. No war has been without mistakes. This war has been fought under the most intense media scrutiny of any war in history.

I heard Charles Osgood say during a recent Utah visit that had the invasion of Normandy, with the loss of thousands of U.S. soldiers, received the same media treatment as today's war in Iraq, Americans would have never had the stomach to win World War II.

On gay marriage, abortion, voluntary prayer in schools, states' rights, taxes, government spending, health care, judicial appointments, and on and on, an imperfect Bush represents my positions and values far better than does Kerry, whose born-again campaign conservatism cannot cover up a career of traditional liberalism.

Here's the difference Bush has made. Listen to the people of Afghanistan on their election day:

"In the whole history of Afghanistan this is the first time we come and choose our leader in democratic process and free condition. I feel very proud and I feel very happy." — Muhammad Amin Aslami, a Tajik, The New York Times, 10/10/2004

"It is a very important day. We are very happy. It is like independence day or freedom day. We are bringing security and peace to this country." — Muhammad Hussein, a 75-year old Afghan in the city of Tarinan, The New York Times, 10/10/2004

Pignanelli: Unlike many Democrats, I do not have a visceral hatred for George Bush. He is a well-meaning, affable guy inflicted with terrible judgment in crafting policies and selecting advisers. As a result, the "compassionate conservative" has metamorphosed into the "toxic Texan," and the voters need to replace him with John Kerry. The Bush administration correctly analyzed that the post 9/11 environment demands radical changes from government to adequately respond to terrorists and global economic challenges. Yet, Bush was reluctant — to the point of negligence — in taking advantage of a national willingness to adapt and restructure. He should have led the effort to establish the 9/11 commission in order to correct problems with national security. Instead, he irresponsibly delayed its creation and then stonewalled the eventual investigation. In the three years since the tragedy, there has not been a substantial reorganization improving our intelligence to warn America of threats. John Kerry will provide the long overdue overhaul of our intelligence-gathering agencies.

Presuming Bush and other world leaders were innocent victims of faulty intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons programs, the White House is the sole owner of the failure to develop and initiate a successful plan for postwar rebuilding. The administration has changed the course and focus of the Iraqi operations so many times the benefits derived from our presence are deteriorating. Without a doubt, all the achievements gained from this military action for the Iraqi people are a direct result of the bravery and diplomacy exhibited by our troops, not from the dysfunctional leadership descending from the top. High-profile Republican U.S. senators are now expressing deep concern over this quagmire. Without neoconservative baggage weighing him down, Kerry has the right strategy to win the war.

According to Dick Cheney, "Deficits no longer matter." Maybe $500 billion a year of debt is meaningless for a curmudgeon with heart troubles but not for most Americans. Not since the days of LBJ has the federal government expanded in such a short amount of time. Compounded with the tax cuts, the Bush budgets are raging monsters gobbling growth potential. Conversely, more than two-thirds of financial experts laud Kerry's economic plan to revitalize job creation and pare down government spending.

Although much maligned for his complex speaking style, America desperately needs the thoughtful deliberations and orchestrated actions of a President John Kerry.

At a local high school last week, a well-meaning teacher required her pupils to research the biography of all presidential candidates. Diligent students investigated the Personal Choice party contenders, including vice-presidential candidate Marilyn Chambers Taylor. A prolific movie star in the adult film industry since the 1970s, Ms. Taylor has an interesting and well-illustrated background easily accessible on the Internet. Not surprisingly, this civics lesson has prompted a new interest in politics for dozens of young Utahns.


Republican LaVarr Webb was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. He now is a political consultant and lobbyist. E-mail: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. A former candidate for Salt Lake mayor, Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as House minority leader. E-mail: frankp@xmission.com.