Photo by Albert Watson

  John Kerry for President

Our current leadership seems to have lost its way and its moral compass. Dishonesty has become a national policy.

We have been asked to debase our Constitution for political purposes, to enshrine bigotry and to take away fundamental rights from Americans. We have abandoned scientific and medical research, bowing to narrow religious beliefs. We have handed over even more of our national wealth to the rich and taken it from the poor and the workingman. We have gone to war for reasons that have been proved wrong, and we have sanctioned torture as acceptable policy.

We must not make war on other nations because we think we hear God telling us who is evil. We must not unleash the terror of war -- death and destruction and the inevitable murder of innocents -- as if it were some God-given right. The fear of terrorism cannot be used to cover up secret agendas and policy failures nor to curtail the rights handed down to us by the Founding Fathers for generation after generation, through crisis after crisis, from president to president.

It is time for the nation to face up to the truth about Iraq. We were told there was a clear and present threat to our security. We were prepared -- in a time of apparent crisis -- to believe our president and vice president.

As we now know, none of what they said was true.

What mix of arrogance and blind faith, incompetence and inexperience, deliberate untruths and deceptions on the part of the president, the vice president and their closest advisers brought us to this horrible turn in our national policy will be for history to decide.

For now, it is our job to right the wrongs of the Bush administration, to fix the damage before it is too late. But to simply list the dangerous failures of the Bush presidency as the primary reason to vote for John Kerry would sell short a man of high purpose and moral courage. He is battle-tested, both as a young man in war and as a political leader up against the withering and unprincipled assault of the Bush-family attack machine.

John Kerry brings gravity and experience to this historic race, not to mention an intellect equal to the challenges before the nation. A complex, modern world demands we make judgments based on facts and careful analysis, not on ideology or religion.

What is the cost of this war -- in the deaths of more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers, the disfigurement of thousands more now in hospitals, of Iraqi women and children maimed and killed by the massive weaponry of our military?

What will be the cost in dollars: 300, 400, 500 billion? To think what we could have done for a safer, better America and for the welfare of the world with that money. It should make us weep.

The Middle East is in flames, due to the neglect of President Bush. Since the very beginning of his administration, he has all but walked away from the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. There can only be a durable peace in Iraq when there is a durable peace between Arab and Jew in Israel. The talks must be restarted. John Kerry understands that a great president must use his political capital to make this happen.

He also understands that we can begin to reverse the decline of the environment and save ourselves from the disaster of global warming only when we do something serious about our dependence on oil. We cannot have a secret energy policy. And we must have real, immediate action on fuel-efficient cars. John Kerry and John McCain have already jointly introduced this legislation. As president, John Kerry will not postpone action for another decade, hoping for a technological miracle. This is well within our abilities to accomplish now, within our lifetime.

Mr. Bush has delivered on almost every rollback and giveaway his wealthy supporters have asked for. Not once has he shown the courage or strength to stand up to special-interest contributors and narrow voting blocs, let alone forge policy for the common good -- or the common man.

How often do we have to be fooled to say, "We won't get fooled again"? A so-called renewal of Head Start ends up draining its funding. The "Healthy Forests Initiative" opens up Western lands and forests for more clear-cutting and mining. "No Child Left Behind" turns out to be severely underfunded. The "Clear Skies" policy is, in fact, a back door for more air pollution. The "middle-class tax cut" is primarily for the top two percent. Medicare reform bans drugs imported from Canada and bulk purchasing to lower drug prices while putting billions into the pockets of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

It's like WMD. Haven't we been hoodwinked enough? Haven't we learned our lesson? It is hard to accept the idea that our president has misled us. It is against everything that we have been taught about the presidency and against what we most dearly want to believe. But the facts leave us no other conclusion.

I have known John Kerry and have followed his career for nearly thirty years. He resonates with the best values and ideals of our shared generation and is one of its outstanding leaders and heroes. The anger at the stupefying misleadership of America by George W. Bush is enough cause to vote for change, but it should not overshadow the quality and substance of John Kerry. He is an honest man and a fair man; he goes where his intellect and high ethical values take him; and he tells the truth, and is willing to trust the American people with that truth, and make them his partner in the leadership of this country.

I urge you to read the interview with Senator Kerry conducted in early October on the eve of the second debate. It lays out very clearly where he stands and where he wants to go.

It is time to return to the idealism, the boldness and the generosity of spirit that marked our great presidents. We need a leader who lifts our hopes -- not one who divides us with disguise and fear -- and tells us the truth. We want to bring America back to our bedrock values of tolerance, honesty and hope, the beliefs that hold us together.

(Posted Nov 11, 2004)