Shorter US election

by John Q on September 16, 2004

Having been distracted by wonkish obsessions like current account deficits, fiscal bankruptcy and the situation in Iraq, Indonesia and other unimportant countries[1], I haven’t been able to keep up with the US election campaign as closely as I would like. But, following a quick tour of the press and the blogosphere, I’ve come up with the following shorter[2] (© D^2)version for others who may be in a similar position.

The crucial issue is to determine which candidate has the better record on Vietnam, and will therefore make the better president. As I understand it:

* Kerry fought in Vietnam, but then came back and denounced the war
* Bush didn’t fight, but supported the war
* There are a lot of memos

That seems to be all I need to know[3]. Have I missed anything important?

fn1. Such as Australia, which is also holding an election.

fn2. Thanks to commenter Luis over at my blog for tech support on the copyright symbol. Now if I could just do a copyleft symbol! DD points out that it’s been released to the public domain, but I still like to acknowledge him.

fn3. Or would be, if I had a vote in the election that will actually determine Australian policy on most issues, rather than our local exercise in democracy.



Brautigan 09.16.04 at 11:57 pm

Have I missed anything important?

Yes, you have.

Bush lied about it.

Kerry didn’t.


bob mcmanus 09.17.04 at 12:00 am


The actual issues are an ungodly disaster, both domestic and abroad, with no solutions available that are not painful.

Vietnam as history has some small relevance on character, but mainly since we can’t discuss issues, we have decided to let the election be determined by a two month game of dodgeball.


Jack William Bell 09.17.04 at 12:03 am

I realize you are being entirely toungue-in-cheek about this. But the media seems determined to follow this path, and for that I blame the Kerry campaign!

Why? Because it was Kerry who started this whole thing by making his four months in Vietnam the centerpiece of his strategy. The media went along because it, quite naturally, resulted in controversy — and controversy sells newspapers (and TV ads). Plus it is a hell of a lot easier to talk about than the substantive issues.

And hell, it has benefited the Republicans as well. All the storm and fire over a war that ended thirty years ago has taken attention away from the things they are vulnerable on. And they seem to know something the Democrats seemingly haven’t figured out: Your average voter figures that Kerry really was a bloviating glory hog who requested Purple Hearts for scratchs and that Bush really did use influence to get out of serving someplace where he might get his ass shot off.

And your average voter just doesn’t care all that much about either one…


Giles 09.17.04 at 12:14 am

“but supported the war ”

I haven’t read any contemporaneous articles that Bush felt strongly one way or the other about it – he always seems to explain his service in terms of wanting to fly planes and doing his duty.


harry 09.17.04 at 12:57 am

What Jack William Bell said. I watched that convention in complete horror. I kept trying not to think about how the Kerry campaign was throwing the election away, but whenever I did so all I could think about was how utterly vile both parties must seem to evewryone else in the world, so thinking about how Kerry was throwing the election away seemed preferable.

Someone pointed out to me that if every competent adult over whose life the President of the USA has powerful influence had a vote in this election both the Republican and Democratic Parties would be thrown into the dustbin of history. Small solace, that.


Sean 09.17.04 at 1:12 am

This should work: ©

That is: &-c-o-p-y-; , without the hyphens.


paul 09.17.04 at 1:13 am

Giles, a Harvard prof of GWB’s has come forward and claims that not only was he a less than stellar student but was quite the hypocrite about the war.

What did they do with all the people who remember GWB as a solid citizen, as a conscientious pilot, enterprising student, etc? All we seem to get are folks who remember him as a a coward, a drunk, a boor, a hypocrite . . . .


Jack William Bell 09.17.04 at 1:23 am

Per Paul’s point, I ammend my description to “Bush really was a callow party-boy who used influence to get out of serving someplace where he might get his ass shot off.”

And people still aren’t going to preface their votes on these points. How many swing voters do you know that are going to make their descision based on somthing that happened a generation and a half ago? Much less those that have already made up their minds and aren’t going to let a little thing like the facts get in their way.

Let’s face it (and I am speaking as someone who truly detests both parties, and their candidates) the Democrats screwed the pooch on this one. And the Republicans are laughing all the way to the polling place…


dsquared 09.17.04 at 1:23 am

The copyright symbol is unnecessary; I released the “Shorter” concept to the public domain a few months ago.


ruralsaturday 09.17.04 at 3:52 am

Kerry’s going to win the war in Iraq. But for who?
It’s as though Bush has stepped out of his own carapace and Kerry’s poised to enter it.
Other than masking that fundamental agreement, the reason there’s so much emphasis on Viet Nam, and the jots and tittles of the service/non-service of the respective Bonesmen, is that it’s the only real difference between them.
Kerry’s a rich kid with stones and a conscience, Bush is a rich kid without.

Kerry’s current stance appears to be that Bush is not winning the “war”. So the choice is between methods of prosecution. We can smack them with our right hand, or beat them with our left hand.
There are many Americans who no longer believe the US military is in Iraq to serve American interests.
Only, if the US really was wrong in invading and occupying Iraq, that sort of puts the people who were fighting against that invasion, and who are now fighting against the occupation and its residual puppets, in the right.
Sort of, in the sense that resisting someone who’s doing something wrong is pretty much a good thing to do, especially when the wrong that’s being done involves killing women and children.
How about 3 kids and 2 women for every American soldier? Is that a good ratio?
A comfortable number?
For “democracy”?
We need a politician with the profound integrity the moment calls for, who can apologize to the world for what’s been done in the name of the American people, who can separate us from the heartless disregard that’s driven us into this bloody ditch.


abb1 09.17.04 at 5:31 pm

…politician with the profound integrity…



Ken Houghton 09.17.04 at 5:42 pm

I believe they are better translated as:

Kerry fought in war, saw and heard what people do in war, saw and heard what happened to them when they came back, and did something about it.

Bush saw there was a war, didn’t want to puncture his ear drum, arranged a sinecure not uncommon for his class, then blew that off and may have decided in retrospect that he now supported the war.

this has morphed into the current day where:

Bush supports the war without mentioning the dead. (Belle sums up the general result of the war well: “I thought my government was both more competent and more honest than it actually was.”)

Kerry, having expected Bush to choose negotiation and peace and gotten war, supports the troops–and wants to get them out of there as quickly as possible, but doesn’t yet know if this can be done in less than four years.

The rest is paperwork that the White House “had every reason to believe” was “authentic.” {Thanks to Brad de Long and Duncan Black.)


james 09.17.04 at 6:11 pm

jack william bell nailed it. The other thing the Democrats forgot is that Clinton’s Vietnam record is worse than either canidates and the American people could care less. For the vast majority of people, Vietnam is simply not a national issue anymore.


Giles 09.17.04 at 11:19 pm

“a Harvard prof of GWB’s has come forward and claims that not only was he a less than stellar student but was quite the hypocrite about the war………All we seem to get are folks who remember him as a a coward, a drunk, a boor, a hypocrite . . . . ”

which paints the picture of a person most people identify with. You paint the picure of an everyman where as Kerry has tried to paint himself as an (unbeleiveable) superman


Steve 09.18.04 at 4:21 am

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