Actually, I'm only mildly in favor of Bush and might yet change my mind before hitting the voting booth, should something arrive that actually gives me a favorable picture of Kerry. In Illinois, it won't matter which way I vote in any race. I have been gerrymandered into oblivion and the Republican ticket has self-destructed here at the top.
But that's not on point to the question. I mildly favor Bush because I think that, by and large, he's done about as well as he could do, given the problems that he's been handed and the amount of political polarization that existed before he even took office, given the closeness of the last election.
The economy: I remember discussing politics with folks before the last election and reaching the consensus that whoever got elected was screwed, because they were about to inherit a recession and get blamed for it. If you paid much attention to all of the leading indicators from June 2000 on, it was clear that the bubble had popped. Tax cuts are pretty classical Keynesian economics in that case. While I think that some of the scheduled-to-expire-in-2010 tax cuts need to be undone -- and I have at least one liberal friend who argues vehemently against me when I suggest that reinstating some form of estate tax is a reasonable idea -- I'm not by any means convinced that Kerry's tax plan is an improvement on the current situation.
Social Security: I have been watching (and writing about!) this demographic disaster since 1980. As a tail-end Baby Boomer, I have (excuse the pun) a vested interest in it. My general impression is that the Democrats will continue to say "We're all fine here" until the train runs off a cliff. The Republicans are, at least, trying to explore ideas that would let me get some return on the taxes that I have paid. I have long thought that if something weren't done about it, anyone who saved for their retirement would discover that they were "means-tested" to the point where they wouldn't be paid Social Security. I was not surprised to hear Kerry suggest using means testing to prevent anyone who had too much money from getting more back from Social Security than they had paid in taxes over the years. It doesn't mean that I have to like it.
The War on Terror: Well, there's the whole ball of wax, when you come right down to it. For instance, am I happy that Osama bin Laden is still at large? Heck, no! Do I understand that the reason that he's still at large (and the reason that the Pakistani father of their nuclear program has received only minimal punishment for his part in spreading nuclear weapons information to other countries) is because we can't afford to have the Pakistani government collapse? Yeah, I understand that too. And I notice that we're getting more cooperation from the Pakistanis lately, which could be part of the big "October surprise" or could be because careful diplomacy is working. Take your pick.
I've been reading two year old Time magazines on the exercycle in the morning. Recently, I read a quote from Hans Blix dating to about May 2002, noting that there was a lot of new activity in satellite photos of sites where the Iraqis had formerly conducted banned weapons programs. There was apparently a lot of intelligence, going back to the Clinton administration, that made the entire world think that Hussein had WMDs. When the weapons inspectors went back into the country, Hussein acted like a man with WMDs, conducting shell games with the inspectors. (As opposed to countries like Ukraine, which led inspectors to nuclear weapons and said, "Please take these away.")
Maybe we didn't need to invade Iraq at the moment that we did. But it certainly looked like a good idea at the time. Especially with the amount of smoke that is developing around the "Oil for Food" program that suggests that one of the reasons we were having difficulty getting support from France, Germany, and Russia was that influential people there were making a lot of money off of illegal kickbacks that allowed Hussein to divert the funds from humanitarian purposes to his own devices.
And, of course, there is no way to prove that Gaddafi's decision to disarm was related to our invasion of Iraq. It certainly smells right to me, though. (And -- in yet another failure of intelligence -- Libya seems to have had a much more advanced nuclear program than we thought they did. I guess it's a good thing that they were shut down.)
Then there's Homeland Security. God help me, could anyone have picked a worse name for that function? Understand that I agree with Bruce that many of the things we are doing or thinking about doing in the name of security are not good ideas. I'm just not strongly convinced that either party, in this position, wouldn't do some stupid things in the interest of being seen doing something.
One of the arguments used when the Patriot Act passed was that then current law allowed these measures to be used against drug dealers but not against terrorists. Now, the salient argument is "Why was it ok to use these measures against drug dealers?", but I just don't hear either party getting around to making that argument either.
Some of the things that the Patriot Act allows seem to be good ideas -- for instance, that a wiretap should be able to follow an individual around in this day of disposable cellular phones instead of being tagged to a single line. Others, I'm sure, are pretty bad ideas, although the one that has provoked the most outrage -- library records -- doesn't worry me as much as the possibility that some nitwit judge will decide that Ranma 1/2 is child pornography after raiding my house. But I digress...
Now, am I happy about the budget deficit? No. Or about how the occupation of Iraq is going? Nope, not real thrilled about that either. (Although the retrospective argument that we shouldn't have disbanded the Iraqi army -- which, yes, was probably a mistake -- causes me to imagine the reaction from some quarters if we hadn't done so. De-Baathification was the equivalent of De-Nazification after World War II. It just didn't work as well.)
On balance, I think that Bush has done an ok, but not wonderful job. And I will admit that my tendency to defend Bush is motivated, in part, by the screaming that people have been doing about the man even before he was elected (and let me add to that the folks who insist on referring to him as the President-Select, the Resident, and the like).
*sheesh* It reminds me of nothing other than the sheer vitriol that a different group of people spewed at Clinton. Now, while I didn't much like Clinton, I'll admit that he did a reasonable job as President.
So the reason you see me writing posts defending Bush is because I'm doing it as a counter-balance to my friends who will hack and slash against him in ways that I don't consider reasonable. Trust me, it's not out of blind loyalty.
(Aside: I like those tactics about as well as I like the RASFF conceit where some folks there refer to the "War on Some Drugs". Now, I actually agree that our drug laws are moronic and that the best solution to the "War on Drugs" would be to emulate Nixon, declare victory, and pull out. But the whole thing ticks me off, because playing at being cute is not the way to convince the people you need to convince! All it does is wave a red flag at the undecided to let them know that you've decided to be blindly partisan about it and they can ignore you.)
Ok, this is a much longer response than I'd intended and I still have a lot of work to do. (Which is why I'm at work on Saturday.)
But let me say that Kerry worries me. Not in the way that Gore scared me. (Gore, I felt, was extremely bright and extremely wrong on a number of critical issues, which made me consider him dangerous.) My perception of Kerry, based on what's he's emphasized in his speeches, is that he's likely to be a more moderate President than Gore would have been.
But this article actually worries me. It's a pretty favorable article, all things considered. But read to the end, with the bit about the hat that he carries in his briefcase.
That's a little creepy. At least, I think so.
It might not stop me from voting for him. But at the moment, I'm leaning toward Bush.