inessential by Brent Simmons


When I was 18 years old I liked to try to convince people of the correctness of my political beliefs.

But that was years ago—Ronald Reagan was president—and I no longer enjoy it. In fact, I pretty much hate doing it.

But what if I think this election is very important, far more important than the average election, and our choice is not about four years of one style or the other but about two very different futures for our country?

I tell myself that writing software that allows so many people to read and write about politics is a good thing itself—and it is—but does that get me out of having to take my own stand?

Russell Beattie quotes Dante: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

William Gibson quotes Unamuno: “At times, to be silent is to lie.”

As much as I don’t want to get into this, I’m going to get into this. You can jump out now.

I’m a moderate, not registered with any party. I’m neither pacifist nor hawk. Sometimes I agree with Democrats, sometimes with Republicans, depending on the issue.

My values match most everybody else’s: I want the most freedom and opportunity for the most people. I want our country to be safe and prosperous. I want a society that helps people who need it, but I want that help to be more “teach a man to fish” rather than just “here’s some fish.” I want America to be a force for good in the world.

At this high level there’s nothing controversial. Both Bush and Kerry would agree with the above paragraph, I’m sure.

I could go through every one of these basic values—but I’ll pick just one: safety. Safety because, right now, this is the most pressing issue.

I want a president who will:

1. Actively fight terrorists where they are.

2. Use every weapon at his disposal: military, diplomatic, and economic.

3. Prevent attacks on America.

In other words, I want John Kerry to be president.

George Bush has hurt the cause of safety.

1. He has not killed or captured Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda remains a threat. By diverting energy to Iraq, he skipped out on the job of getting the people who attacked us.

2. By being continually hostile and condescending to our allies—our friends—Bush has put us in a position where we must do everything ourselves. That’s like fighting with one hand tied behind your back. I want to fight with both hands—and both feet, teeth, and brains.

3. Bush has insufficiently helped efforts at home to prevent terrorism. The emphasis has been on things like the Patriot Act rather than on the more boring but very important issues of securities in ports, trains, airplane cargo holds, and so on. First responders are under-funded. Tax breaks get priority over common-sense security, which is inexcusable in this time of asymmetrical warfare.

Were this an episode of The Apprentice, Donald Trump might say, “I like this guy. He has a lot of potential. But he didn’t get the guys who attacked us, and he made too many bad decisions and didn’t take responsibility.”

So I have to say, George, you’re fired.

Would Kerry be better? A new president is always a gamble.

But Kerry talks about going after Al-Qaeda, finishing the job in Iraq (we broke it, we bought it), and fixing our relationships with our allies so we’re no longer hamstrung by going it alone. He talks about increasing security inside the United States and funding our first responders.

I don’t think he’s lying about his plans. He might have trouble getting Congress to go along—but that’s a risk every President faces. At least he knows Congress. (Face it: being an “outsider” in Washington means that, well, you’re an outsider.)

They say to always trust your gut. My gut said, “Don’t write this piece!”

But my moral sense tells me that taking a stand is the right thing to do. So, with great reluctance, I will now hit the Post button.