Nothing short of the U.S presidential race could have eclipsed the incompetence and the dishonesty of the Bush administration. At a time when our nation faces some of its toughest challengesglobalization, climate change, the War on Terror, and healthcarethis administration has lacked both the policy foresight and the support of the American people to effect any meaningful change. Despite Bushs failures, however, we are optimistic that with the right leadership, our nation will be able to overcome our problems as weve done so many times before.
One of the most salient offenses of the Bush administration has been its blatant abuse of the balance of power between the branches of government. Bush has repeatedly tried to undermine the Congressional power through his use of signing statementswritten pronouncements effectively allowing the executive branch to ignore parts of legislation. A Pulitzer Prize-winning expos by Charles C. Savage 98 in The Boston Globe uncovered that Bush had claimed the authority to ignore more than 750 laws enacted between 2001 and 2006laws regulating everything from affirmative action to torture.
Sadly, the missteps in the handling of the War on Terrormost notably, the interrogation techniques used at Abu Ghraib and the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bayhave been extremely damaging to the perception of America both at home and abroad. While many Washington insiders have been less than forthright about their stance on the controversial interrogation techniques, we believe now just as we did then that waterboarding is torture, and should never be condoned or practiced by the U.S. The Bush administration, however, has had no qualms with trying to pull the wool over the American peoples eyes againtop government officials were not only complicit in the destruction of interrogation footage, but also attempted to divert blame for the prisoner abuse scandal on a few bad apples.
No doubt, history will not look well upon this administration, but there are still some positive steps this administration can takebe it the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol or the much-needed move to sever all ties with mercenary armies, starting with the expulsion of Blackwater U.S.A. (which at one point held a $1.2 billion contract with the U.S government and supplied up to 30000 private security guards in Iraq).
In addition to our problems on the international front, domestic policy under the Bush administration has been horribly misguidedfrom the death penalty to gay marriage to gun laws. The inhumane practice of lethal injection and other forms of capital punishment are still tolerated, and the Supreme Court has yet to ban what is effectively state-sanctioned murder. The constitutional right to marry and the right to equal protection under the law are still denied to same-sex couples in the majority of states (with notable exceptions in Massachusetts, and more recently, California). High school shootings and other gun violence incidents are ever-raging, yet constitutional debates over the interpretation of the Second Amendment cloud the fact that this the right to bear arms is an anachronistic impediment to the vital public policy that is needed to fight the culture of gun violence in the U.S.
While the hope of a new commander-in-chief brings with it requisite optimism, the process of electing a new president has not been free of scrutiny. Rather, the most recent cycle of caucuses and primaries has only underscored the problems with our election system. The staggered calendar has given undue influence to a handful of states with early primaries and caucusesrendering the contests of states that vote late in the schedule almost meaningless. Most undemocratic has een the superdelegate system, which may, for the first time in recent electoral history, determine the candidate for the Democratic Party. One mere vote from a superdelegate at the Democratic convention may just as valuable as the thousands of votes cast by individual citizens, despite the tenets of democracy that champion the notion of one man one vote. Further complicating the democratic process was a misguided Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of requiring government-issued photo identification, making it that much easier to silence those demographics that are less likely acquire a state ID.
Nonetheless, this presidential race will be a historic onenot only because an African American and a woman are vying for the Democratic nomination, but also because of the magnitude and the complexity of the issues we face. As the Democratic contest continues to rage on, we are heartened at a potential (even likely) Obama victoryfor his the only candidate that provides both the leadership and the policy stances needed to tackle those pressing issues. And while we endorsed Senator McCain as the Republican nominee, we still have many reservations about his policyspecifically dealing with the war in Iraq.
It is disappointing, however, to see media coverage of the elections focus on identity politics instead of the candidates substantive issues. Even more disappointing has been the way in which both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have stooped to new lows of campaigning in the race for the democratic nomination. Whether it is Obama advisor Samantha Powers comment about the monster Senator Clinton, or Senators Clinton opportunistic response to Senator Obamas elitist comment about rural America, negative campaigning threatens only hurt the Democratic partys chance in the general election.
Its time to refocus this election on the issues facing the future of our nation. After eight years with a dysfunctional, disingenuous government, the presidential race is not only our hope for the future, but it is our promise of change.