Editorial: Debates last chance to present significant campaigns

As the 2004 presidential election draws progressively closer, the media have become more and more willing to distract potential voters with meaningless attacks on both candidates’ service records.

And, instead of moving past the insignificant battles for reputation based on actions some thirty-odd decades past and making a strong showing for their respective parties, President Bush and Sen. Kerry have chosen to hide behind the Iraq problem and ignore other, important issues that have dominated campaigns past.

Bush’s great strength in this campaign isn’t what he says, but what he doesn’t say. Since he can rarely be trusted to put on a good show once he opens his mouth, brevity has become his oratorical saving grace.

And, somewhere between longing for the eloquence of Bill Clinton and dreading Kerry’s propensity for verbosity, Bush has managed to come across as, quoting Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein, “true, truish or unprovable … (through arguments that are) tight, concise and, so far, impregnable.” It is, however, all part of this campaign’s “clever distortion of reality,” Klein said.

Any significant lead Kerry could have gained on Bush by reassuring the masses that his domestic policies would effectively maintain or improve life on the home front have been dashed as the Republicans continue to force him back into the Iraq arena.

So, between criticizing Bush’s many flubs since Sept. 11 and defending his own not-quite-concrete position on Iraq and the United States’ current position among the international community, Kerry is taking his sweet time convincing the people that he is equally concerned about the well-being of their own country. This mistake would be grossly less detrimental were Bush not quite so “brilliant a minimalist” or as compelling in his zeal to ensure justice for the American people and the world, however misguided his policies truly are below the surface.

This is not to say that the war is a trivial issue in this campaign; the implications are tremendous, especially considering the ever-increasing body count mirrored against the lack of significant international support or evidence that a U.S. presence in-country was ever truly justified.

And, while Kerry’s plan seems to be promising to resolve U.S. involvement in Iraq and remove the country from the Vietnam-esque path it has been on since Bush began his tyrannical conquest of all that is anti-Christian right about the world, it is hard to see through the fog of such polarized approaches to one of the most significant events of the 21st century.

Should the voting public base its decision on Bush’s heavy-handed approach to the post-9/11 condition, while ignoring his dangerous domestic ideals, or on Kerry’s soft approach to the climate of war contrasted by a stronger respect for civil rights at home? When the candidates spend more time mud-slinging than addressing the issues, it is difficult to tell.

One can only hope that the upcoming debates will shed some light on something other than falsified documents and pissing contests over military prowess, and allow Kerry to prove his case, giving undecided voters a reason to put a Democrat back in the White House.

This election cannot be decided on one issue – even so glaring an issue as American men and women dying overseas – so the United States can pretend to feel safe and secure.

This election needs to be brought back home and the potential threat of having our civil rights slowly stripped away during another four, painfully long years of Bush needs to be carefully weighed against the embarrassingly American need to play cowboy.

Time is running out for either candidate to provide more than a superficial reason for a vote in his favor.