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October 29, 2004

The Endorsement I Never Thought I'd Write

George W. Bush for President

I heartily endorse George W. Bush for re-election on three grounds, the most important of which is of course the War on Terror, which I will address last.

On social and cultural issues, this is perhaps the most important election in modern history. Judges have been putting off retirement in order to secure ideologically-similar replacements, but the Court is venerable, and this cannot go on much longer. It will not go on much longer-- 3-5 justices will retire during the next Presidential term, and I'd guess it will be five.

Liberals like to speak of "conservative judicial activism." There is really no such thing, or, at least, not much of such a thing. When conservatives "scale back" constitutional protections and guarantees, they do not eradicate such protections. Rather, they simply refuse to mandate a particular outcome, and repose the decision-making on such issues in the care of the political branches of government-- where it should be.

While there are cases where a good case can be made for an anti-democratic branch of government mandating a certain political outcome, such instances are few and far between; certainly, by this point, America is one of the most free nations the world has ever known. Without explicit textual support for a ruling -- like the Fifth Amendment's clear statement that property shall not be taken without fair compensation -- jurists simply act as monarchs, imposing their idiosyncratic ideas about The Good on the public without so much as a by your leave. They're somtimes called "superlegislators" when they behave in this fashion, a Congress of Jurists, but that's inaccurate. A "superlegislator" would be expected to stand for re-election on occasion. Federal judges are never elected, and serve until they chose to resign, or die in chambers, or are impeached.

Liberals can speak of a liberal judiciary "expanding freedom" through their mandates-- but what they're actually doing is reducing democracy. Every time a liberal judge imposes the Rule of Five Men on a nation of millions, the promise of American democracy is diminished a little. If we wanted a nation ruled by an oligarchy of the learned, we could have set our Constitution up that way. But we did not. Unlike the judges, we citizens actually trust ourselves, and each other, to get the big questions right. And even when we get the big questions wrong-- well, that is the price one pays for self-governing.

If you're only allowed to democratically choose your laws and policies when a council of judges deems that you're choosing properly, you're not living in a democracy, or even a republic. You're living in, at best, a provisional democracy with most important and contentious matters decided by a quasi-House of Lords (and back when the House of Lords actually had some power).

Liberals are always willing to avoid actual democracy when it's expedient. Is the country opposed to gay marriage? No matter; we can find five judges in some liberal state who believe they know better than the public.

I'm not so willing. And if Kerry is elected President, you can count on such judges filling the Supreme Court, as well as the lower courts.

The economy never became an unambiguously positive issue for George Bush. Although it is growing -- and quite quickly, actually, despite the summer swoon over Iraq and oil prices -- job creation remains not quite subpar, but not as vigorous as one would expect in a strongly recovering economy.

I think many people fail to appreciate what a tremendous economic shock the 9-11 attacks were, and how the shock of that black day continues to weight our economy down-- unavoidably. Those who make decisions about hiring and capital investment have a new consideration never before seen in the modern age-- all decisions to spend money and expand business are taxed by a "terror premium," the economic risk that a fresh instance of mega-terrorism will suddenly put the economy into a recession (or worse) once again. Those who criticize Bush for failing to produce Clinton-style job creation should bear in mind that employers under Clinton were confident in the recovery, and had little fear that nuclear attack -- yes, a nuclear attack -- could destroy the nation's largest economic center at virtually any time.

Conservatives grouse especially about Bush's failure to adequately restrain the rate of government spending. And I too joined in that grousing, particularly after Laura Bush's suprise announcement of a big increase in NEA funding.

But I'd like to partially defend Bush on this score-- partially. Let's all keep in mind the man does NOT in fact have a working majority of conservatives in the Senate. He as a bare majority of Republicans/RINOs, but not a conservative majority. It is a bit much to ask that he restrain the growth of government when Lincoln Chafee makes noises about leaving the Repubican Party every few months.

And let us once again remember 9-11. I'm not a Keynesian -- to be honest, I have so little economic training that I'm not really qualified to call myself a disciple of any school of economic thought -- but it does occur to me that after the massive, system-wide shock of 9-11, perhaps the government should not have begun tightening its belt much at all. Companies were already doing that. If the government had also begun paring back on spending -- and shedding employees -- we would not have had the government playing a counter-cyclical role, but rather reinforcing the tendency of the private sector to save, scrimp, and reduce the number of dollars at risk.

Would I prefer that Bush had restrained spending more? Indeed. But I also must bear in mind the risks that, post 9-11, fighting for the conservative model of government was not the greatest priority. Keeping our nation from plunging into a true economic depression was our greatest economic priority. And if that required a bit of priming the pump with borrowed money spent on generally useless programs, so be it.

That may seem like foolish talk, because our economy did in fact remain more resilient than some might have expected. But what if we had chosen another path? Just because something did not happen does not mean it could not have happened. There was a time during 2002-2003 when most economists thought that deflation was the greatest risk to our economy. In such a climate, reducing the number of dollars in circulation is very risky indeed.

Finally, there is the first, last, and best reason I endorse George W. Bush: for his remarkable leadership and courage in the War on Terror.

After 9-11, I became radicalized and bloodthirsty. I savaged Bush for what I thought, at the time, was a too-merciful campaign to merely unseat the Taliban thugs from Kabul. They hit one of my cities; I wanted to hit theirs. I was no longer interested at all in the normal restraints of the Laws of War; I wanted the Islamist world to know that we would no longer respond to the slaughter of innocents with strikes on radio masts and airports. (And, of course, Afghanistan had precious little in that regard, anyway.)

I was angered by Bush's ethic of Christian mercy. Those who fault Bush for his devotion to God ought to bear in mind what a man unrestrained by a contemplation of religious mercy might have done in his stead. I know I personally would not have been restrained, except by the calculation of how much horror I could inflict on Afghanistan without being impeached by an outraged America.

But Bush's plan worked. It did not just succeed; it succeeded brilliantly. A combined CIA-Special Forces-precision bombing-light infantry campaign succeeded in dislodging this loathesome regime from power, all without inflicting near-genocidal carpet bombing on Afghanistan's cities.

We had won-- and won without compromising our fundamental respect for human life.

Bush is attempting something similar in Iraq. "Plymouth, Iraq," a friend calls it. Liberals like to talk about the "root causes" of terrorism but they don't seem to have any plan for addressing those "root causes," other than rewarding terrorists and terrorist-harboring states by paying them great sums from the US Treasury and perhaps sacrificing several million Israelis in the interests of goodwill.

I think there are two clocks counting down simultaneously. One measures how long it will take the Islamist world to shake itself out of its current pathology of psychopathic slaughter. The other measures how long it will be before an Islamist-leaning country gets the bomb. Well, the first clock has a while to go, and the second clock is three minutes to midnight. (Past midnight, actually, if you count Pakistan, which we probably should.)

Bush needed to speed up the first clock. He is attempting to show the Muslim world a better way, a way of progress, prosperity, and respect for human life, rather than a way of resentment, "humiliation," and racist mass-murder. I do not know if Bush's way will work-- let's face it, the optimistic projections of two years ago have been fairly well rubbished.

But I do know we need to do something, to try something. If we do not, then I'm afraid that one day New York City will in fact be destroyed, and I will most likely be killed. And then, we will have little opportunity to address "root causes," which take decades to address even if you're game for the challenge. Our only option will be a return of nuclear fire the likes of which the world has never seen, and hopefully will not be seen again.

I am not heartened by Senator Kerry's promise that he will defend this country the moment after I am killed by a terrorist strike. I am not sanguine about his apparent need for perfect intelligence before taking action-- there is no such thing as perfect intelligence, except for when the attack actually comes. Only then can you retroactively guage your enemy's previous intentions with perfect precision.

But only after several thousand have died. Again.

Never again.

I am not willing to wait. And furthermore, like George W. Bush, I am willing to make mistakes along the way, if those mistakes are likely to result in my survival. I don't wish to seem inhuman and unfeeling, but if we are in a state of war, cold, hot, cool, or whatever with a significant fraction of the world's population, there are going to be deaths. We didn't start this war; we would prefer it simply ended with a big group hug, as the liberals and Senator Kerry so devoutly wished. But if there are to be deaths, I am fairly strenuous on the proposition that those deaths should be, to the extent possible, suffered by non-Americans, and more specifically, by persons who are not me.

Senator Kerry, I don't want to die. And I'm not willing to die as some sort of moral tripwire, just so you don't have to face the moral dilemma of killing another without provocation. If killing on less-than-perfect-intelligence would give you nightmares, I'm afraid that's something you're just going to have to suffer.

But you have announced your refusal to make that sacrifice on your fellow Americans' behalf.

For Bush's steadfast and merciful leadership in the war on terror -- for his wise if not perfect stewardship on the economy -- and for his determination to keep democracy alive, with decisions made by the people's representatives, rather than councils of the wise -- I endorse him for re-election as President of the United States.


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posted by Ace at 12:42 PM

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