Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Well, another one has come and gone. Although this one was not that easy to predict, it is not a complete surprise, either. The Rasmussen tracking poll only showed Kerry ahead on one day since August.

There are, however, several interesting things about this election. I live in China, now, and my perspective on this issue is influenced by the way people outside the United States are affected by the election. This goes two ways. Americans are often unaware of how the actions of America are perceived around the world. But it is also true that people outside of the US (I speak particularly about China, now) are often quick to judge American actions in ways which betray a lack of awareness of American priorities.

I have been very troubled by American actions in Iraq. By this I mean both the manner in which America entered the war, and the way the war has been conducted. This puts me on the same side of the issue as many in China. But I also take issue with many in this country who tend to think that the invasion of Iraq is an expression of America's desire to control the Middle East. I have always believed, and believe still, that Bush's actions in Iraq were personal. His father backed out of Iraq without removing Saddam Hussein from power, and then Saddam Hussein tried to kill his father. However, to the extent that there exists much misunderstanding, Bush is largely responsible for this misunderstanding. I should emphasize that the sentiments expressed have usually been shared very politely. From my church friends, it's usually some form of, "Do you really think Bush is a Christian?!" Nevertheless, there is widespread belief that America has bullied a small defenseless nation for reasons which were, at best, not valid, and, at worst, deliberately fabricated.

September 11, 2001 presented an opportunity to go after Iraq that I believe was largely misused. Saddam Hussein was not involved with the attacks on that day. Using 9/11 as an excuse to attack Iraq was not appropriate, and it tended to draw American attention away from Afghanistan. Sometimes it is better to do one thing right, especially in a situation like Afghanistan, where the Americans clearly had a reason to act. But there is no question that 9/11 made the American people willing to tolerate war in a way they probably would not have been if it had not happened. I was listening to Ed Koch (former New York mayor), who is a man of integrity, and probably my favorite American politician of all time, being interviewed this morning on the BBC. He said that he had voted for Bush, and that this was the first time he had ever voted Republican. Whatever else may be said about Bush, he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to garner very strong support from highly respected people.

But at the same time, his support has not been broad based. It is no secret that George Bush's political model is Reagan rather than his own father. But, as Chris Mathews pointed out, Reagan, who was the quintessential conservative, carried New York in his reelection campaign. He was viewed as a national leader, even though his views were very conservative. In the end, there is not much more that can be said about it. Bush is the first president since his father to be elected with a majority of the popular vote. Clearly, the Americans want George Bush to be their president. America is a democracy. End of discussion.

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