The last debate

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 18.10.04

“Will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world as safe and secure as the world in
which we grew up?” was the first question of the third and last pre-election debate between
Senator John Kerry and the existing President George Bush, moderated by of the CBS
News anchor, Bob Schieffer, held Wednesday night at Arizona State University. The answer
of both the competitors remained: Yes, I can make the US safer and more secure for you.

The focus of the debate was domestic policy. The first question posed was a reflection of
the perception of feeling of the rampant insecurity in the US for which a full fledge Home
Land Security Department was created. It indicates that the perpetrators of the 9/11 have
got their objective achieved. That is, a “non-state actor” called Al-Qaeda, like a drug mafia,
can be considered more powerful than the former Red Army. Kerry suggestively criticized
that to save the US from such an actor even the incoming cargo hold should be X-rayed,
besides human beings and their baggage. It is nothing but to make people security maniac.
When the sole superpower thinks of itself vulnerable what would be state of affairs of those
countries, like Pakistan, that are siding with the US in its war on terror!

When Kerry asked, “Where is Osama bin laden?” to embarrass Bush, he was basically
demanding of a more aggressive approach to have been adopted. Bush’s formula was two
folds: “stay on the offense against the terrorists and spread freedom and liberty around the
world” — by inviting people in the folds of democracy so that they refrain from harboring
terrorists. It seem that the formula has got less appreciation both in and outside of the US
owing to the way it has been presented. The same was the view of Kerry especially
pertaining to the invasion of Iraq. Kerry scored a point here by devising a three-pronged
war method: have the best intelligence, build the strongest alliances, and do not rush into a
war. However, Kerry did not ponder if the threat of any non-state actor and the Weapons of
Mass Destruction are bracketed at one place, true or false, a rush into a war will be a better
strategy or not? It shows why criticism is considered an easier act!  

Interestingly, when Schieffer asked, “do you believe homosexuality is a choice?” Bush
replied that he did not know whether homosexuality was a matter of choice. He repeated his
backing for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage (to preserve the
sanctity of marriage as an institution between man and woman). Kerry who already had, in
the Senate, voted against the Defence of Marriage Act (which had reaffirmed the right of
states not to recognize gay marriages licensed in other states) responded by referring to
Mary Cheney, the daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, “We're all God's children, Bob
and I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell
you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to
anybody, it's not a choice”. It means, it is not a choice but a person is a born gay/lesbian —
a matter of compulsion. If anyone is to blame, God is to be blamed for that. Kerry has
flouted a new idea to the world — an idea of ‘unconstrained liberty’ in guise of a ‘matter of
compulsion’ far ahead of a ‘matter of choice’.

When Kerry said, “This is the first president in 72 years to preside over an economy in
America that has lost jobs, 1.6 million jobs”; the force of the capitalist system was felt
strongly. The system, having defeated the communist/socialist system, is now dictating who
can run a democratic system — a job cutter or a job enhancer!
Kerry also said, “the middle class has seen their tax burden go up and the wealthiest tax
burden has gone down”. He has basically repeated the “people versus the powerful”
argument of Al Gore that he made in the closing days of his contest in 2000. It can prove to
be a lethal blow this time for Bush as November 02 in not too far. The second major
criticism that can change the minds of the ‘swing voters’ and opponents alike is Kerry’s
health care plan. Kerry has proposed a major expansion of health coverage through
subsidies to employers and enrolling more children, low-income adults in the public
programs, and less expensive drugs for Medicare (for seniors), with a motto: healthcare for
all Americans. However, Mr. Bush asserted that the whole program would inevitably lead to
higher taxes.

While Bush was opposing embryonic stem cell research and abortion, as these are loss of
lives, there appeared news that U.S. forces have exhumed a mass grave in northwestern
Iraq (at a site near al-Hatra) and uncovered the remains of hundreds of people believed to
be the bodies of Kurdish women and children killed by the Saddam Hussein regime in early
1988. Human rights groups believe about 300,000 people were massacred during
Saddam's 24-year rule till the U.S.-led forces toppled his regime in 2003. Amazingly, there
is no hue and cry from the Muslim world over Saddam’ crime against humanity. It is still a
puzzle for the non-Muslim worlds as to why do the Muslims keep silence on the atrocities
committed by a Muslim on fellow Muslims? However, they are quick to criticize when a non-
Muslim country invade a Muslim country, as happened in case of Afghanistan and Iraq.

There were two major issues, the environment and energy, which did not come up. The
debate revealed how the expenditure on war on terror is costing at home. The debate was
also a conflict between neo-conservative and neo-liberals. It will be difficult for the American
Muslims to vote either for Bush who invaded two Muslim countries or for Kerry who believes
in unconstrained liberty?

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