Let Bush clean up his own mess
The instincts of my heart and soul wish for a victory by John Kerry. But a calculating head sends a different message. In some ways, I, a non-American, fear a victory by Senator Kerry more than the return of George W. Bush, disastrous though his presidency has been.
It is easy to roll off a long list of the destruction wrought by this ignorant man, who has allowed assorted fundamentalists - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Vice-President Dick Cheney, top political adviser Karl Rove, and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - to change the face of America and its position in the world.
Life for Osama bin Laden may be uncomfortable, but he must be pleased that such men are in power in Washington and used September 11 to turn America away from its tradition of liberty, tolerance and internationalism. As Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels once remarked, make the people believe they face mysterious foreign threats and they will accept almost any action which claims to increase their security. So Americans have accepted the Patriot Act, imprisonment without trial in Guantanamo Bay and racial profiling, for example. Fundamentalist Christianity with messianic views is now part of the political landscape, and issues of personal choice are claimed as a matter for the state. The war on Iraq was made under false pretences, meanwhile providing cover for an expansionist Israel to do as it pleases.
Mr Bush has spawned a deficit even larger than during the Vietnam war, in the process making the US a debtor to the rest of the world to the tune of US$3 trillion. Income inequalities have been increased by tax cuts for the rich. Employment has stagnated, and the economy has gained only modest ground, despite a huge rise in household debt and the loosening of environmental standards.
In short, it is only the Goebbels dictum which will re-elect Mr Bush, and bin Laden's sudden reappearance may help him. So why do I harbour doubts about electing the thoughtful Senator Kerry, representative of a mainstream, internationalist, unideological America? First, it is out of a sense that those who created the mess in which America finds itself must bear the responsibility for its consequences. They must find a way out of Iraq. They must restore US credibility, cut spending and raise taxes to slash the budget deficit. They must face the inevitable recession if the proper balance between savings and consumption is to be restored, and the trade deficit reduced to a sustainable level.
Whoever wins, the next four years threaten to be very difficult. There is every chance that the difficulties will blow apart the credibility of the Bush right-wing, unilateralist republicanism so that liberal democrats will sweep back in 2008.
By the same token, a Kerry administration may find itself having to face the unpopularity of these problems, possibly losing heavily in the 2006 mid-term congressional elections, and being hemmed in by Congress and right-leaning justices from undoing much of the human rights and environmental damage. The way could be open for a return of the radical right in 2008.
Senator Kerry would go down well overseas and patch up relations with allies. However, while he would never have led the US into Iraq, he will find it no easier to get out.
Less likely to extend the war to Syria or Iran, Senator Kerry is, however, as trapped as anyone in the domestic politics of support for Israeli outrages. He may restrain the administration from the most oppressive aspects of the Patriot Act. But so successful has Mr Bush been in creating a climate of fearful patriotism, that Senator Kerry may have a hard time reversing direction.
On environmental issues, he would be much more forceful, and a reversal of many of Mr Bush's tax cuts is likely and desirable. But Senator Kerry might succumb even quicker than Mr Bush to trade protectionism if that is seen as the only way other than recession in righting the trade balance.
So, although I loathe most of what Mr Bush stands for, I am in two minds about the longer-term desirability of a Kerry presidency.
Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator