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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, May 10, 2004

Although the parallels are obvious enough, I'm not so sure I see this race as being like Dukakis-Bush. I'm thinking it looks more like Nixon-Humphrey in 1968-- war going badly, country divided as much by the war as by cultural issues, and close to a dead heat in the polls. The difference then, of course, is that neither was an incumbent. Humphrey was as compromised by the war as Kerry seems to be-- HHH because he was a member of the administration that was prosecuting the war, and couldn't distance himself from it, Kerry because he likewise cannot distinguish what he would do from what Bush is doing, except on issues of style.

I can't tell if Kerry is laying back for the big push that he'll need at the end, or if my thinking so is merely wishful thinking. Humphrey almost made it-- with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that '68 was much closer than it looked at the time. I have never been crazy about Kerry, but I am at a loss as to how anyone could favor Bush over him-- Bush seems to me to be pretty clearly one of the worst Presidents the country has ever seen. He has done long term structural damage to the economy, and I do not think that America's stature in the world has ever been lower. The US is fortunate because it is difficult to break something that is blessed with as many advantages as we have. This is a country with natural resources that place it in the top ranks for any commodity that is essential for a modern economy (think of what Japan could do if it had our oil resources). We continue to be a manufacturing leader, and we have educational resources that are second to none. We have a diverse population that is motivated to work, and an economic structure that allows us to work and encourages the entrepreneurial. For a long time we had the advantage being physically isolated from the rest of the world, which gave us greater security than most other countries had, and allowed us to develop a military that was designed to project force, rather than to defend our borders. This advantage has eroded (on Bush's watch, but let's not put all the blame on this Administration), but all of our other strengths remain. Only monumental mismanagement could have placed us in our current position: no longer a symbol of freedom and opportunity, we are now-- I don't even know what. Greedy pigs at the trough. An occupying army of oppression. The schoolyard bully of the world. And all off this is happening at a time when the economic disparities among our own people are growing greater every day.

I look around at the people I know, and I think, this government is not representative of who we are. I listen to other people talking as I travel, and on TV and the radio, and I think, this is not who they are either. And then I wonder what it will take to get us out of this, and whether people even realize what has happened to our country. I wonder if we will stay on course with this downward spiral out of sheer doggedness. It is incredible to me that something as trivial as who gets to marry who may be what decides the future of "the only indispensable nation." I stand slack jawed in amazement that this sort of cultural issue may be what decides whether the US becomes Great Britain or not, but that is how it goes when you are a hegemon-- it's the internal forces that allow the external enemies to bring down the great powers, every time.

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