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Welcome to Red State/Blue State, a feature presented by The Anniston Star of Anniston, Ala., and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In the December 2001 edition of the Atlantic, David Brooks wrote an essay titled "One Nation, Slightly Divisible," in which he suggested that America is divided largely into two political cultures, one "red" and one "blue." His idea is based on those electoral maps in 2000 that colored majority-Republican states in red and majority-Democratic states in blue. Brooks' witty essay pictures the red-state voter as trending rural, a salt-of-the-earth type, concerned with individual liberty and family values, whereas the "blue" voter trends urban, more of a book-reader, a Beltway-savvy intellectual, the environmentally conscious soccer mom or dad.

Cliches? Maybe. But Brooks does have his finger on two very strong currents in the American votership. It's not that Pennsylvania is a "blue state" or Alabama is a "red state." It's that our two political cultures don't talk to each other much, or even know much about each other. To bridge that gap, we've brought together two "red" voters - John Franklin and Cynthia Sneed - and two "blue" voters, Terri Falbo and Timothy Horner. Each week, they'll ponder and debate the issues arising in the election campaign. The hope is that they'll model an intelligent discussion, a great big conference room where red and blue sit down together.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Cynthia Sneed, Red Stater 

Question Number Four: Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Aug. 9 that he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would be found. How does this affect the way you view his credibility on the issue of national security?

Sen. John Kerry has promised to "reform" the intelligence system to enhance national security and, since he was a sitting member of the intelligence committee, one would think that he would be well positioned to recommended sweeping and aggressive changes. The only problem is that he attended only 11 of the 49 public hearings (missing 77 percent of the public hearings) between 1993 and 2001. He missed the June 8, 2000, hearing on the National Commission on Terrorism, during which the committee was warned about terrorist threats faced by the United States and recommendations made to address the threats.

In 1994, a year after the first World Trade Center attack, Kerry missed every single hearing, including the hearing at the Joint Security Commission. He complained that most of the meetings were "closed-door," meaning that the attendance figures are not made public, but he has offered no evidence of his attendance at those meetings, either. Other members of the committee, including Republicans, are declining to reveal whether Kerry did or did not attend the meetings but did say that they would release the attendance records if Kerry requested that they do so, and to date Kerry has not made such a request.

John Kerry was, however, more consistent on Iraq than on possibly any other issue between 1990 and 2003. His positions on Iraq were as follows:

October 1990: "Today, we are confronted by a regional power, Iraq, which has attacked a weaker state, Kuwait. . . . The crisis is even more threatening by virtue of the fact that Iraq has developed a chemical weapons capability, and is pursuing a nuclear weapons development program." (Sen. John Kerry, Congressional Record, Oct. 2, 1990, p. S14330)

November 1997: "It is not possible to overstate the ominous implications for the Middle East if Saddam were to develop and successfully militarize and deploy potent biological weapons. We can all imagine the consequences. If Saddam were to develop and then deploy usable atomic weapons, the same holds true." (Congressional Record, November 9, 1997, pp. S12254-S12255)

1998: "Americans need to really understand the gravity and legitimacy of what is happening with Saddam Hussein. He has been given every opportunity in the world to comply. Saddam Hussein has not complied. Saddam Hussein is pursuing a program to build weapons of mass destruction." (news conference, Dec. 12, 1998)

July 10, 2004: According to the Boston Globe, Kerry and John Edwards accused the Bush administration of misleading the nation and of manipulating intelligence analysts to win support for the invasion of Iraq, though both senators stood by their votes authorizing the war.

Now Kerry has promised to withdraw our troops from Iraq within the first year as the French and Germans bring in their troops. John Kerry says that the French and Germans will send troops in place of the Americans to secure Iraq. Reporters covering the both embassies say neither country has given any indication that they would be willing to send troops for any reason.

Kerry, who said on Aug. 1, 2004, that it was time to realign troops away from Cold War stations and towards the new threat matrix, said on Aug. 16 that it was a mistake to move the troops from Germany and South Korea.

So Kerry is going to remove troops from the only place on the planet where America faces a national security threat (the Middle East) and keep the very troops he said he would move three weeks ago stationed in Germany and South Korea.

Now, what we have is a presidential candidate who has said for 13 years that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were threats to national security, that Iraq had WMD, and that Saddam would use those weapons. President Bush, having seen the same intelligence information that Kerry apparently had seen (maybe Kerry read the reports instead of attending the meetings), and dealing with the aftermath of an attack more devastating than Pearl Harbor, determined that, based on those intelligence reports, Saddam was a threat to national security and removed him from his government.

Now candidate Kerry says Bush had "misled" us into a war based on false information about WMD - which means that Kerry, too, was wrong about Iraq for the last 13 years.

People say Kerry has a credibility problem. My question is: What credibility?

(0) comments

Terri Falbo, Blue Stater 

Question Number Four: Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Aug. 9 that he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would be found. How does this affect the way you view his credibility on the issue of national security?

Because I don't believe the use of force in Iraq had anything to do with our national security, it is difficult to answer this question as stated, but here goes.

On many news programs on and after Aug. 9, President Bush repeated that "Kerry said he would have gone into Iraq!"

To me, any credibility that President Bush and supporters had was ruined by their statements regarding this matter. Kerry's actual words and deeds were far different from what was attributed to him. Voting to give a president the authority to do something, should he feel the absolute necessity of doing it, is not the same as saying that you agree that the president, so authorized, did the right thing later, or that you would have done as he did. Kerry might have thought it important to show unity and strength as a threat - not realizing that the President would then choose to use his authorization when it was not necessary to protect the American people.

I must say that I do not agree that Kerry or the Congress as a whole should have voted to give the President authority to use force on that day in October 2002. Since the authorization vote, we've learned that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (which we also have learned had the United Nations inspectors been permitted by our country to continue their work). We have also learned that Iraq was not linked to Sept. 11 or to al-Qaeda. Even before the vote, there was already plenty of information available that indicated that the President, along with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense paul Wolfowitz, and others had been looking for an excuse to invade Iraq since long before Sept. 11, 2001. Why? The most brilliant analysis I have seen so far appears in an article titled "Baghdad Year Zero" by Naomi Klein in the September 2004 issue of Harpers Magazine.

Many have said that the problem with the Iraq war is that President Bush did not have a postwar plan. Klein argues that there was and is a plan; the problem is that the plan is wrong. She refers to a statement by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) that Iraq is "a huge pot of honey that's attracting a lot of flies." The honey is oil wealth, no-bid contracts, and enormous investment opportunities created by the lifting of sanctions and privatizing of formerly government-owned enterprises. The flies are the Halliburtons, Bechtels, Unocals, and venture capitalists. Simply put, the plan is to lay out as much honey as possible, then sit back and wait for the flies. This theory comes from the most cherished of conservative beliefs - that greed is good. With this view, the role of good government is to create best possible conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed. Anything promoting corporate profits is then defined as the "national interest" and in the interest of "national security."

The toll on our stance in the world. Because of that worldview, our foreign and military policy has too often fought against liberty, justice, and freedom throughout much of the world for more than 100 years ( The totally undemocratic actions of American corporate and military interests have turned many people in other countries against U.S. institutions. Around the world, people from mature democratic nations have favored legislation that counteracts unbridled greed. When most people are free, they want restrictions on greed. Most free people want to join together and laws enforcing health and safety standards, environmental regulations, living wages, etc. This type of freedom inhibits the freedom of corporations to pursue their bottomless greed. The U.S.-backed governement has repressed Iraqi trade unions.

The toll on Americans. To date, almost 1,000 Americans have been killed in this war, and many times that have been injured. How many more will die, become injured, or suffer the multiple effects from depleted uranium poisoning? How many trillions of tax dollars will be diverted? There is no end in sight. In addition, our status in the world again has been tarnished. We are seen as occupiers, not liberators.

The Iraqi Toll. The U.S. military refuses to make public its own estimates of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed during the war. Approximately 12,000 Iraqi civilians have been reported killed (, and many experts agree that the majority of civilian deaths do not get reported. An Iraqi organization, the People's Kifah, undertook a survey that documented more than 37,000 civilian deaths in just the first seven months of the war (March 20, 2003, through October 2003). In December 2003, the head of statistics for the Iraqi health ministry alleged that a survey it was conducting was ordered shut down by the U.S.-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority. Serious injuries and poisonings from depleted uranium add to the toll.

Regardless of who wins the election, we need to have a serious, uncensored national discussion about the phrases national interest and national security. Should we continue to allow our tax dollars and young people to be used for corporate freedom? Do we need to go through a national 12-step program, admitting that we have a long-term problem that has hurt ourselves and others - and making amends to those we have hurt? (Just because one group of people has hurt us does not give us the right to go out and hurt others who were not responsible.)

Will a Kerry victory allow for such a discussion? My hope is that it would.

(0) comments

Joe Franklin, Red Stater 

Question Number Four: Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Aug. 9 that he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would we found. How does this affect the way you view his credibility on the issue of national security?

Did Sen. Kerry make this statement? Did he qualify it with some long, confusing rhetorical dialogue - "I did; I did not . . . I will; I might . . . I will not . . . I'm for it; I'm against it . . . it's to be; it's not to be"? Who gave him this line, President Bush or Vice President Cheney? Has someone been plundering in Washington other than Sandy "Burgler"? He should have cleared this statement with Howard Dean's supporters before opening his mouth and inserting his foot.

Has Kerry ceased to flip-flop and totally flipped? Kerry supporters have described him as a very complex man. Now I believe them. I have detected considerable support for Kerry in South Alabama because of the voters' disapproval of the war in Iraq. If Kerry keeps talking as he did on Aug. 9, many of these voters may stay at home on election day.

It could have been much simpler for Sen. Kerry if he had attended those intelligence committee meetings and voted against the war powers resolution along with Sens. Kennedy, Byrd, Graham, and 20 others back in October of 2002. Kerry has hedged on the war throughout his campaign for president. Is he now trying to firm up his position on the war? He stated that as president, he "would have used that authority effectively." He had previously said that he would have formed a broader coalition. So, if he were president now, would be still be waiting on France and Germany to join in?

On the same day, Aug. 9, he told Stars and Stripes magazine that the guards and reserves are overstretched, that Bush had conducted a back-door draft, and that he [Kerry] supported the military strategy. He charged the administration with failing to send the troops all the equipment - body armor and armored Humvees - they needed and deserved, and that Bush had not deployed enough troops to establish security. make it secure. Kerry promised to make sure that the military has state-of-the-art equipment, create two new divisions in the army, and double the number of Special Forces troops we have to fight terror. How can he promise all this when his record shows that he has consistently voted against defense spending?

Perhaps Kerry suffered a memory lapse on Aug. 9. He forgot about the many Democrats who oppose the war in Iraq. Thus far, the Kerry campaign has repeatedly criticized President Bush for his prosecution of the war in Iraq and made a huge issue of the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found. In criticizing President Bush last week for withdrawing troops from Europe and Korea, the senator described North Korea as a "country that really has nuclear weapons," thus insinuating that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.

Kerry's campaign is best described as a revolving flip-flop. Maybe he is an evolving, revolving flip-flopper. How else to explain how he began his political career as an antiwar activist, did not support the Gulf War under the elder George Bush, and yet voted for the congressional resolution on authorizing the President?

And more to the point: With these incredibly contradictory statements, how can anyone put any credence in his national security plan?

(0) comments


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   •  08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004
   •  09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004
   •  09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004
   •  09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004
   •  09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004
   •  10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004
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   •  10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004
   •  10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004
   •  11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004

Bloggers from
Blue State (Pa.)

Terri Falbo

Born and raised in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Terri Falbo is a union organizer who has lived in Philadelphia for almost 30 years. She graduated from Temple University and previously worked as a construction worker for 17 years.

Tim Horner

Tim Horner grew up in Iowa, but has lived out significant chunks of his adult life in Chicago, IL and Oxford, England. He is married and has four children (14, 12, 10 and 7). Having grown up as an Evangelical in the Midwest and still a practicing Christian, he is concerned with how religion and politics mix. Because of a combination of circumstance and apathy, he has never voted in a presidential election. He currently teaches Humanities at Villanova University.
Bloggers from
Red State (Ala.)

Joe Franklin

Alabama native Joe Franklin, 58, was born in Pike County and grew up on a farm in Crenshaw County. He graduated from Troy State University in 1967. After working for 28 years with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles as a parole and probation officer, retired to Crenshaw County, which is just south of Montgomery, where he spends his days working on the farm.

Cynthia Sneed

Gadsden resident and local college professor Cynthia Smith Sneed has a doctorate in Accounting from the University of Alabama. Her fields of academic research are in state pension and employee benefit issues. She has been published in numerous academic accounting journals and has done research for the Alabama Policy Institute. She is a member of the American Accounting Association, Governmental Finance Officers Association as well as being active in the Republican Party.

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