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By all appearances, the Kerry campaign is heading toward a resounding defeat barring a miracle between now and November. In part, this is because the Senator has failed to play straight with voters, pretending to be what he isn't.
A Campaign in Disarray? Probably -- Plus Campaign Issues
-- Robert M. Liu
By all appearances, barring some kind of a miracle between now and November, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign is heading toward a resounding defeat. In part, this is because Senator Kerry has failed to play straight with the public, pretending to be what he isn't.
Not long ago, he was pretending to support the Iraq War, saying that he would have voted for the war authority given to President Bush even knowing what we know now about Iraq and its WMD threat level. Then, somebody in the Kerry camp sent out word that a Kerry presidency would have ousted Saddam Hussein as well.
There was a good rationale behind such pro-Iraq-War statements from the Kerry campaign: Polls show the American public wants the U.S. military to win the global war on terror and the remaining battles in Iraq, so there is a need to paint the Senator as a strong leader capable of handling the volatile global situation America is facing.
The problem is that John Kerry is clearly not a strong leader capable of handling such a situation. By a whopping margin, American voters see Bush as a strong leader, not Kerry. Should we doubt their intelligence and wisdom? Some of them may even regard Kerry's Vietnam footage as a staged joke, rather than a sign of strong leadership.
It is not only the American public that refuses to see Kerry as a strong leader. A survey conducted by Marshall Fund in June indicated that 58% of Europeans considered strong U.S. leadership to be undesirable. Yet, by a big margin, they favor Kerry over Bush -- an indication that they prefer a weaker America under a Kerry presidency.
That most citizens in the jurisdictions of America's European allies reject American leadership and prefer a weak Kerry presidency at a time when the entire free world is facing deadly threats from terrorism is disturbing. Wise or not, that's the choice by the European public. Should it be yours?
Apparently, John Kerry has come to realize this "strong leader" card goes nowhere. So, of late, he suddenly turned around and showed his real colors -- his real anti-war colors, calling America's military action to depose Saddam Hussein "a wrong war in a wrong place at a wrong time."
In doing so, John Kerry is telling the U.S. solders in Iraq that they are fighting for a wrong cause. Remember: All those soldiers are volunteers. They are in Iraq because they believe they are fighting to defend America. Kerry's "wrong war" rhetoric could shake the soldiers' faith in their mission. It can only serve the interests of the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq.
But this shouldn't come as a surprise. It is John Kerry showing his real face, who, in the Vietnam War era, made a big dent in home front support for the U.S. military and who is now trying to do the same thing again. This is the real John Kerry. The John Kerry who said that he would have voted for the war authority even knowing what we know now about Iraq was showing his phony face.
The new Kerry strategy is to ignore the consequences that the international community would have had to face if U.N. Resolution 1441 had not been enforced, as well as the potential costs of inaction that could have emerged if Saddam Hussein's reign of terror had been allowed to continue, while at the same time trying to focus the public's attention on the costs of the Iraq War.
But can the Senator guarantee that the murderous Saddam Hussein regime would have stopped pursuing its WMD ambitions if not ousted? Can he guarantee that Saddam Hussein would have stopped using his vast financial resources to fund international terrorist activities against the interests of America and her allies if not deposed? According to Russian intelligence, he was doing exactly that before the outbreak of the Iraq War.
Another reason Kerry's campaign appears to be in disarray is that the issues of this election year don't seem to work his way. First of all, three years after 9/11, the American public continues to have vivid memories of that terrible day, making national security one of the top campaign issues. Yet John Kerry has failed to sell himself as a strong leader.
He is running against an incumbent who has spent the past three years fighting international terrorism, has eliminated two evil regimes (one in Afghanistan, one in Iraq), has disrupted terror networks and safe havens not only in the Middle East but in Southeast Asia, and has to a great extent cut off financial resources for terrorists.
In short, George W. Bush has weakened international terror networks to the extent they haven't been able to stage another attack on the U.S. in the past three years.
In sharp contrast, John Kerry has none of such experience. All he has to show is a short footage from his four-month tour in Vietnam (between late 1968 and spring of 1969), which is totally irrelevant to how to fight international terrorism -- the very issue an American president has to deal with today if he is to prevent another 9/11.
The fact that the Kerry campaign brought up that old Vietnam footage in the belief that it would help the Senator win the 2004 presidential election is an indication of just how incompetent and desperate the Democratic candidate must have been, because what it actually tells the public is that the man has nothing else to show.
Running for president of the United States of America on a 35-year old footage? How ridiculous! Who are the folks he thinks he is kidding? Is he delusional? Does he think the American public is made up of morons?
In the meantime, his erstwhile comrades in the military seized upon another Vietnam-War-era footage which shows Kerry sitting at a 1971 Congressional hearing accusing U.S. troops of committing war atrocities: "They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads... randomly shot at civilians... cut limbs, blown up bodies... razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan..."
And it has been played on TV again and again. It doesn't look good. But who is to blame? Kerry cannot blame his comrades for reminding him of what he said thirty-three years ago about the Vietnam War when he uses his Vietnam War credentials as proof that he has the "strong leadership qualities" -- if not the experience -- to enhance national security and win the global war on terrorism.
Another top campaign issue is the economy. But it is not as "stupid" as it was in 1992. With GDP growth fluctuating between 3% and 4%, the economic recovery is steady without overheating. With investors eager to do bargain hunting at the 9800 level, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is likely to consolidate above 10000. Wall Street is expecting a Bush victory in November.
If you have a 401(k) retirement portfolio, why would you vote for Kerry? Not a single economics textbook would tell you that Kerry's tax increases could help the economy, the stock market, and, last but not least, your personal 401(k) retirement portfolio. No wonder bad news for Kerry is good news for stocks and vice versa. Now that the Kerry campaign is floundering, Wall Street is celebrating. Check your 401(k) and you'll see the relationship between politics and the economy.
Of course, there are some negative aspects too, and John Kerry wants the public to focus on the negative. For instance, 8 million Americans are out of work, accounting for 5.4% of the American work force. While 8 million jobless Americans are a lot of real people facing real financial problems, 5.4% is still one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. Besides, looking at the issue from a different perspective, one could see that more than 139 million Americans are working.
You might say that joblessness fell to 4% in the late 1990s. But that was a bubble era when wrong-headed government regulations brought numerous untested telecommunications service providers into the market in the name of "encouraging competition".
Based on grossly exaggerated demand growth estimates, the service providers expanded their capacities and payrolls, placing orders for new equipment with telecom equipment makers, who in turn expanded their capacities and payrolls, also based on grossly exaggerated growth estimates.
All this led to the creation of millions of jobs driving the unemployment rate down to 4%. However, as we learned later, such expansion was unsustainable. By early 2000, both telecom service providers and equipment makers began missing earnings targets because demand had started to ebb. Soon, they announced their layoff schedules. A number of telecom service providers went bankrupt.
As you can see, many of the jobs created in the late 1990s were unsustainable bubble jobs, which shouldn't have come into existence in the first place. In other words, that 4% jobless rate may have been an aberration, rather than a standard measure that we should use to gauge the strength of the U.S. economy. The economic pendulum is swinging back to normal now.
There is not a single country in the world which is without unemployment. Natural unemployment exists as there is usually a period between the time a worker is laid off and the time he finds a new job. Besides, it is always possible that the demand for certain work skills may decrease in certain areas, while jobs requiring other skills are waiting to be filled.
Nevertheless, there is some good news for job seekers. According to a survey of 118 corporate chief executive officers conducted by the Business Roundtable in mid-August, 40% of them expected their companies to expand payrolls in the next six months, while 48% expected their payrolls to remain steady. Only 12% said they might have to lay off staff. Business Roundtable Chairman Hank McKinnell expects the economy to return to good recovery levels in the second half of this year.
Job outsourcing is another issue John Kerry wants to talk about. He says if elected he would eliminate tax breaks for companies guilty of job outsourcing. That sounds like a punishment and makes outsourcing sound like a crime. It isn't. It is a pattern of corporate behavior determined by economic realities and driven by the need for corporate survival.
Anyone who reads economics textbooks knows that capital always flows to places where it can generate the most profit. John Kerry cannot change the basic laws of economics. The forces of the marketplace are stronger than any left-wing political demagogue. That is why Karl Marx's socialist economic theory has proven to be unworkable in the former Soviet Union and has been quietly tucked away by the ruling Communist Party in China.
If Kerry's plan is to encourage businesses to stop outsourcing with tax incentives, then, such tax breaks or subsidies would have to equal the benefits of outsourcing. Otherwise, they wouldn't have the anticipated effects. Since the wage differentials between the U.S. and China (and other developing countries) are huge, Kerry's subsidies would have to be huge too, and American taxpayers would have to pick up the bill. Trying to stop outsourcing is a fool's errand, which could only serve to distort the reality of globalization.
Oh, before I forget, I must mention that America's federal budget deficit for fiscal 2004 (which ends on Sept. 30) is expected to hit a record high of US$422 billion. Yes, a record high in dollar terms. But America's GDP is more than US$11.70 trillion. A US$422 billion deficit accounts for only 3.6% of GDP.
Given that the United States is in the middle of an expensive global war, the War on Terror, a 3.6% deficit is not excessive. In 1943 when America was in the middle of another global war, i.e. World War II, the U.S. federal government ran a budget deficit that accounted for more than 30% of GDP.
John Kerry wants to cut down on military spending and invest the savings in his universal medicare program in the middle of a global war. Such savings on the military could be deadly at a time when the threat of terrorism is staring us in the eye. Although a DNC campaign TV ad shows a retired general praising Kerry for having "the common sense" to lead America, one would wonder if the Senator has the common sense to set his priorities right.
As you may be aware, John Kerry has a plan for America. If you have time, you can read his book "Our Plan for America" to find out what it is all about. But if you are too busy to do so, you need only look at his liberal (i.e. left-wing) ideology to see the essence of his plan: John Kerry wants to turn America into a European-style "Socialist Paradise".
This ideology of John Kerry and the liberal wing of his party is nothing new. Just look across the Atlantic and you'll see what happens in Europe's "Socialist Paradise", where regulations are friendly toward labor and unfriendly toward business, where welfare programs are expensive, and where tax legislation is skewed against "the rich".
So if you are not "rich", you may think you have nothing to worry about in the "Socialist Paradise". The problem is that businesses and investors tend to find out that they have no reason to stay in the "Socialist Paradise", so they tend to move out and leave you to enjoy the benefits of the "Socialist Paradise". As a result, Germany's jobless rate stands at 10.6%, while France's hovers above 9%.
One more campaign issue: it would be unfair not to mention Iraq. As violence continues there, the American public is understandably concerned about U.S. casualties. In the past 18 months, more than 1000 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq. The cost of the war in human lives is high. But according to Spec. Joseph Roche, a First Armored Division soldier who recently returned from more than a year in Baghdad, U.S. troop morale in Iraq is high.
Roche hopes the American public will stick by the mission. This may depend on whether the American people are willing to see things in perspective. For example, traffic fatalities in America totaled 43,005 in 2002 and 42,643 in 2003. Do such high figures on traffic deaths mean we should stop driving cars and shut down the automobile industry once and for all?
Finally, here is a joke: Senator John F. Kerry says George W. Bush's middle initial "W" is for "wrong". Let's guess what the Senator's middle initial "F" is for. Is "F" for "flip-flop"? There is another "f" word whose meaning is even worse when coupled with "up". But I wouldn't say it. Instead, I will use an "s" word to get across the meaning. "S" is for "screw up", and it looks as though the Senator has screwed up his own campaign.
[September 14, 2004]