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The Free Lance-Star's presidential endorsement.

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Date published: 10/17/2004

The Free Lance-Star endorsement

WHEN CONSIDERING the political endorsement of an incumbent, a practical way to proceed is to ask whether past performance justifies retention: Does he deserve to be "rehired"? This is the crucial question most Americans are asking--actually, most long ago answered it--about George W. Bush. You have probably not met a person who says, "I love John F. Kerry and I always have!" The Nov. 2 election is fundamentally a referendum on the policies of the president.

The arguments against renewing Mr. Bush's contract to lead this nation are weighty. At a time when federal entitlements consume more than half the federal budget (versus 26.1 percent in 1962), and when the graying of the baby-boom generation mandates entitlement reform, Mr. Bush launched a "traditional" Medicare drug benefit estimated to cost at least $425 billion over 10 years--not exactly an elixir for a program that already faces unfunded liabilities of over $33 trillion. Indeed, the growth of government under Mr. Bush, a growth for which Congress shares blame, has been dizzying. The first three years of his administration saw non-defense discretionary federal spending soar 23 percent, in part because--Mr. Kerry is correct--the president viewed his veto pen as an unclean object.

Other objectionable policies that did their bit to help swell the fiscal Red Sea include the No Child Left Behind Act--a federal intrusion into K-12 education that, though well intended, is one cook too many. Most states already have addressed their public-ed shortcomings by mandating minimum standards (e.g., Virginia's SOLs); federal kibitzing merely creates a bureaucratic muddle. Furthermore, the only surpluses about which Mr. Bush seems to deeply care are those on the P&L sheets of mega-businesses. This credo animates, for just one example, his environmental policies. Recall Dick Cheney's plutocratic and secretive energy task force, which lacked even a token green voice.

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