I voted for Kerry today and I’ll explain why. Not because anyone asked, but because I want to read this in 10 years, 20 years, 40 years from now and see what I thought about politics now versus then (then versus now?). My choice followed the pattern that I suspect most Kerry voters followed: it’s a vote against Bush. And I refuse to vote for a 3rd party candidate because in such an important election, it is throwing your vote away. Plus, I dislike Nader and his ego – he was nowhere to be found the last four years and only jumps into politics when he can get some attention.

So here’s how I made my decision….

Closed government. The US form of democracy requires open communication between the government and the people. Because the government works for the people and not the other way around, the people must know what the government is doing and why at all times. The Bush administration is the most closed and secretive administration in American history. Bush has had fewer press conferences than any president in modern history, more telling given that we live in an age where communication is easier than ever. There’s no excuse for this lack of communication. I don’t believe Bush wants to talk to the American people because he doesn’t feel he needs to answer to us. His attitude in the debates reinforced this… he appeared annoyed that he had to explain any of his actions or policies. This attitude is counter-productive to democracy, in my opinion. The leaks from his administration and the books written by insiders were more communicative than the President himself. He’s been widely-criticized for this police of silence and he doesn’t care to do anything about it.

Bush also is proud to admit he doesn’t read newspapers or other media and prefers to get information from “people he trusts”. Even the dumbest of us know that’s how brainwashing happens – how do you know who you can trust if you don’t know the truth?! It’s terrifying that the President of our country doesn’t think for himself and is proud to admit it.

Iraq. I supported the Iraq war because I believed the Bush Administration when they said Hussein had WMDs because it seemed likely and because after a decade of sanctions and inspections, there’s been no progress there. And I didn’t want Hussein to be like Castro: a megalomaniacal dictator determined to make a name for himself in history by stubbornly refusing to do what his people really want and staying in power long long after his time was up. I haven’t been to Iraq (yet), but I have been to Cuba and I saw firsthand (well, as a tourist) what Castro’s arrogance and stubbornness have done to the country and its people. I see similarities between Bush, Hussein and Castro: a man with good intentions and love for his country, but too stubborn to admit that he’s not the best man to do the job. Hussein had to go, Castro has to go and Bush has to go.

Moreover, Bush lied (strong word, but it’s accurate) about his reasons for invading Iraq. First it was for WMDs, then it was for regime change, then it was to fight terrorism, then it was to liberate the Iraqi people. Which one was it? All four? No, he would have said that on Day One. He seemed to say anything that he thought people would believe. That’s not the resolve he claims to have. Anyone who believes we went to Iraq to liberate the people from a dictator should be very concerned that we are now going to go invade Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea and China. But even Bush’s strongest supporters don’t believe that, so they don’t believe we did it to liberate anyone either. We did it for one reason: to install democracy in the middle east. A noble goal, but not one Bush has ever stated publicly. He’s simply lying to the American people about his reasons for invading Iraq. I really dislike lying.

Kerry “predicted”:http://john-kerry.tonyspencer.com/kerry-speech-10-9-2002.htm that Iraq would be hard to keep stable before the war, he has acknowledged that mistakes have been made (for political gain, of course, but being public about that is important). He understands that might does not make right in a way that Bush can never understand. The best way to solve problems is to work with others, not against others. Call it “politics”, because that’s exactly what it is. Kerry is an experienced politician (and I say that in a good way and I strongly reject the Joe Six-pack “politicians is money-grubbin’ hypocrites” mentality). I believe Kerry will wage an intelligent war in Iraq and an intelligent war against terrorism.

Mis-management. The job of the President, in my view, is that of management. The President doesn’t actually do the work, he sets the direction, organizes the people and manages them. He’s a manager. And Bush is a terrible manager. The first rule of management is to take responsibility for failings and to not take responsibility for successes. Bush does the exact opposite – he blames everyone else for failures and then praises himself for successes.

Ever have a boss act that way? Of course you did, because bad managers are far more common than good ones. What happened? You didn’t like them, you didn’t want to work very hard for them, you didn’t like your job and the company/organization was a mess because of it. That’s exactly what Bush is: a bad manager. But then again, we knew he’d be bad manager because he bankrupted the two companies he was CEO of. I don’t want the US to be bankrupt, but with the largest deficit in history, we’re well on our way. We need a change of management.

Kerry has a long history of working with groups and managing them effectively to get results. This is something that Bush promised he was good at in 2000, but obviously, he can’t. Maybe Bush underestimated politics in Washington. That would be dumb, given that he’s an outspoken critic of Washington politics. And Kerry has almost 20 years of experience in Washington politics. Anyone who says Kerry has been ineffective as a Senator simply hasn’t read his record.

Security. I don’t believe you make yourself safer by making more enemies or by emboldening your enemies. In my opinion, that’s exactly what Bush did by invading Iraq. Worse, he turned the incredible sympathy for the U.S. and support from the world community after 9/11 completely around. He exhibited a complete lack of understanding of foreign relations. You learn as a child that might does not make right, but Bush and his administration does not appear to have learned that. To fight terrorism, we’re treating it like a Cold War enemy so we’re beefing up our military (we now spend more on defense than all the countries in the world combined) with billion-dollar missiles while the terrorists are using $1000 bombs effectively. The terrorists understand what Bush doesn’t: information is more powerful than missiles.

Some Bush supporters argue that we haven’t been attacked since 9/11, and use that to prove that Bush is effective. The flaw in that logic is two-fold: 1) worldwide terrorism has increased and has been more successful since 9/11 and 2) large-scale terrorist attacks take years to plan. The US was hit by Al Qaeda in 1993 in the original WTC attack and the next attack was the Millennium plots planned for 2000 but prevented (under the Clinton administration) and again in 2001. The next (non-Al Qaeda) attack against the US was the shoe-bomber, who was stopped by regular citizens, not the Bush administration. The real test is when/if we prevent a 9/11-magnitude attack, which we’re due for in 2006-2009, given Al Qaeda’s cycles. There’s no proof that I can find that we are safer today at home, but many reports that we are less safe. I don’t even see any evidence that our intelligence has improved so as to prevent an attack. I believe we’ll better handle a successful attack, but none that the attack will be prevented. In fact, “our borders are no more secure now than pre-9/11”:http://www.cfrterrorism.org/security/borders.html. We need someone who understands that intelligence and diplomacy is the tool to stop terrorism, not bombs.

So what is Bush doing about Al Qaeda?! As far as I can tell, absolutely nothing. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda, so the Iraq war was a huge distraction from Al Qaeda. We had a successful operation going on in Afghanistan, the Taliban was kicked out of power, Al Qaeda was being hunted down and it all comes to a screeching halt. The Taliban is regrouping, Afghanistan has no economy so is selling opium again (remember the drug war?), Al Qaeda is stronger than ever and bin Laden is freely roaming the middle east pointing at Iraq and saying “See? I told ya the US would invade a Muslim country for no reason.”

Likewise, it’s clear that Al Qaeda is not specifically interested in killing Americans. Al Qaeda wants to destroy our economy – they realize that destroying our economy destroys the US. Bush’s incredible deficit alone is a risk to our security. And if Al Qaeda makes some traction, we’re vulnerable. I don’t believe Bush understands this, and his repeated claims that they just want to kill Americans or that they “hate our freedom” show that he doesn’t understand this.

Again, Kerry will employ intelligence to wage a smarter war on terror and protect the country. During the debates, Kerry specifically mentioned strengthening the borders, inspecting cargo, securing nuclear material worldwide, while Bush just served up platitudes and promises to do in his second term (what’s he waiting for??). Additionally, Kerry will make attempts to join forces with other nations to fight terror worldwide. We need allies and Kerry understands this.

The economy. Our economy is fundamentally strong, but after four years of Bush’s leadership, it hasn’t improved as far as I can tell. Sure, there’s some improvement, but that would’ve happened regardless of who was President. Bush has not paid any attention to it at all, as if he was just expecting it to right itself. It will, but not completely without help. His solution, so he says, was a tax cut. I’m not an economist, but there’s one thing I understand: demand drives supply, not the other way around. Giving a tax cut to the rich, a.k.a, trickle-down economics, “does not work”:http://www.faireconomy.org/research/TrickleDown.html. The consumers must have money and demand to drive corporations to produce supply. Making rich people richer and corporations richer is backwards – he should have given the poorest people the biggest tax cuts so they can buy products corporations offer. And as common sense will tell you, rich people don’t have money because they spend money, they have money because they don’t spend money. Taxing rich people and large corporations is not a negative… rich people certainly aren’t going to prefer poverty to avoid higher taxes. In fact, successful people and corporations will simply work that much harder because by the time they are successful, hard work is ingrained in them.

And, as a small business owner, I want a President who helps small businesses grow, not one who helps large corporations grow (which stifles small businesses). And Bush’s lie that his tax cut helps “900,000 small businesses” was insulting, mostly because I didn’t believe that he even believes it. In short, bottom-up economics makes much more sense to me and Bush’s policies are the opposite, which make no sense to me. If the economy improved during a second Bush term, it would be because Bush failed to screw it up.

I don’t know that Kerry will or can fix the economy, but I think he’s smarter economically. During the debates, he can actually talk about economics (you know, those number thingies) while Bush, again, served up more platitudes and promises for his second term.

Civil rights. Civil rights are one of the concepts that is profoundly American. If we don’t uphold civil rights in this country, we may as well reverse the reason for the founding of the country, or worse, become the country we’re so quick to criticize for human rights violations: Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. I view Bush as extremely anti-civil rights. The Patriot Act is a direct attack on civil rights and one Bush wants to strengthen. His refusal to even acknowledge that the actions at Abu Ghraib were wrong, in addition to violations of the Geneva Convention, shows Bush to be an opponent of civil rights. His appointing of Ashcroft and continued support of him is a clear indication that he does not respect civil rights. His aggressive stance to ban gay marriage and gay civil unions by changing the founding document of our country to strip people of basic rights was another example. Granted, he clearly did it only to pander to the extreme right-wing to help his re-election, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. In fact, it makes it less acceptable – human rights are not a political tool.

Although Kerry supports the Patriot Act, he has been a critic of the egregious portions of it. This is inline with how I feel about the Patriot Act – I like that it facilitates communication between the FBI and CIA and that’s where it should have stopped. Kerry will get the anti-civil rights aspects of the Patriot Act out. And I especially like that he named John Ashcroft by name as someone he will fire immediately.

The Environment. I don’t think I really need to explain this one. Bush is the worst President we’ve ever had on the environment. His bald-faced lie in the debates cinched this for me: not only is he an enemy of the environment, he either doesn’t even realize it, he’s a hypocrite, or a liar. The only reason he’s shown for being so anti-environment is to help big business. I can get behind being less than helpful to the environment if the result is a sound economic reason. But Bush didn’t even make a head-fake at it, he didn’t do it to help small business or spur economic growth, but to help large corporations and mostly oil companies.

I’m not a tree-hugger, but I know that humans need some basics like clean air and water, and I don’t see them as a natural enemy of economic growth. Look at the popularity of hybrid cars – smart people can make a successful new business that protects the environment. Bush’s Clear Skies Act has harmed the quality of our air to benefit large corporations – he just isn’t a forward-thinker in this respect. And his insistence that global warming is not a reality shows his ignorance and/or lack of respect for the environment.

I believe Kerry is far more aware of the risks of an anti-environment policy. Whether he is as good as Gore on the topic is doubtful, but it’d be hard to not be better than Bush in this respect.

The best reason alone to vote for Kerry, I think, is because the race has been so high-profile. Kerry has made lots of promises to change the direction of the country, so if he wins, the pressure will be on him to act quickly and decisively. And, as the Democrats are quick to point out during the election, the world is watching. So I hope for a Kerry victory so we can start criticizing him with facts and logic, things he won’t avoid. If Bush is re-elected, we have to appeal to ideology, which, of course, can’t be argued rationally.