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Orlando Sentinel October 24, 2004

Kerry for president
Our position: The Bush presidency has disappointed us on almost all counts.

(The first time in 40 years that the Sentinel has endorsed a Democrat.)

See the source article

Four years ago, the Orlando Sentinel endorsed Republican George W. Bush for president based on our trust in him to unite America. We expected him to forge bipartisan solutions to problems while keeping this nation secure and fiscally sound.

This president has utterly failed to fulfill our expectations. We turn now to his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, with the belief that he is more likely to meet the hopes we once held for Mr. Bush.

Our choice was not dictated by partisanship. Already this election season, the Sentinel has endorsed Republican Mel Martinez for the U.S. Senate and four U.S. House Republicans. In 2002, we backed Republican Gov. Jeb Bush for re-election, repeating our endorsement of four years earlier. Indeed, it has been 40 years since the Sentinel endorsed a Democrat -- Lyndon Johnson -- for president.

But we cannot forget what we wrote in endorsing Mr. Bush in 2000: "The nation needs a leader who can bring people together, who can stand firm on principle but knows the art of compromise." Four years later, Mr. Bush presides over a bitterly divided Congress and nation. The unity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- the president's finest hour -- is a memory now. Mr. Bush's inflexibility has deepened the divide.

Four years ago, we expressed confidence that Mr. Bush would replace the Clinton-Gore approach of frequent military intervention for one of selective involvement "using strict tests to evaluate U.S. national interests." To the president's credit, the war in Afghanistan met those tests. But today, U.S. forces also are fighting and dying in a war of choice in Iraq -- one that was launched to disarm a dictator who did not have weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea have worsened.

Before the Iraq war, Mr. Bush brushed aside dissenting views -- some within his own government -- about Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities. And because the president failed to round up more international support, more than 80 percent of the coalition forces in Iraq are American troops, and the United States is spending $1 billion a week on the conflict. 

Four years ago, we also called on Mr. Bush to pay down the nation's multitrillion-dollar debt before cutting taxes or increasing spending. Yet since then, he has pushed through massive tax cuts, and the national debt has risen from $5.8 trillion to $7.4 trillion. Discretionary spending -- not including defense and homeland security -- has risen 16 percent over three years. The president has not vetoed a single spending bill.

Mr. Bush has been unwilling to reconsider any of his tax cuts, even as the rationale for them -- a huge budget surplus -- has vanished, and the country has gone to war. Other presidents have raised taxes to pay for wars; Mr. Bush is borrowing the money, leaving the bill for future generations.

Four years ago, we called it a "disgrace" that 43 million Americans lacked health insurance. That number has risen under Mr. Bush to 45 million. Yet the plan he now touts on the campaign trail would reduce the ranks of the uninsured by less than 20 percent, and he has not offered a way to pay for it. 

Mr. Bush has been a disappointment in other crucial areas. He has weakened environmental protections, pushed an energy policy that would perpetuate America's oil dependence and given up on free-market agricultural reforms that could jump-start trade talks. 

Indeed, Mr. Bush has abandoned the core values we thought we shared with him -- keeping the nation strong while ensuring that its government is limited, accountable and fiscally responsible. 

We trust Mr. Kerry not to make the mistakes Mr. Bush has.

Mr. Kerry's two decades of experience in the U.S. Senate have given him a solid grounding in both foreign and domestic policy. There is no disputing his liberal record representing Massachusetts, but we believe he has moved to the middle. In this campaign, he has put forth a moderate platform with fiscal discipline at its core.

Despite his differences with Mr. Bush over the wisdom of the war, Mr. Kerry recognizes the imperative of securing and stabilizing Iraq. He would intensify efforts to enlist more foreign help, and speed up training of Iraqi forces and reconstruction in the country. 

Mr. Kerry would bolster national security by adding 40,000 troops to the overstretched U.S. military, and doubling its special forces. He would accelerate the program that secures nuclear material in the former Soviet Union before it can fall into the hands of terrorists. 

Mr. Kerry would enhance homeland security by doing more to protect ports and other vulnerable facilities. Unlike Mr. Bush, he understands that government accountability and civil liberties must not be needlessly compromised in the name of the war on terrorism. 

Mr. Kerry's health plan would extend coverage to 27 million Americans, more than three times as many as Mr. Bush's plan. Contrary to what the president has been saying on the campaign trail, Mr. Kerry's plan would be voluntary, and include private-sector options for coverage.

Also to Mr. Kerry's credit, he has pledged to strengthen environmental protections. His energy plan would do far more to promote conservation and alternative fuels.

Mr. Kerry proposes to pay for all of his plans, primarily by repealing tax cuts for Americans earning more than $200,000. He has not called for tax increases on middle-income Americans. 

Mr. Kerry has committed himself to reinstating pay-as-you-go rules that helped turn deficits into surpluses during the 1990s. Such rules would force him to scale back his plans if he can't pay for them.

In sum, we believe Mr. Kerry would be a more bipartisan and effective leader than Mr. Bush. In the Nov. 2 general election, the Sentinel endorses John Kerry for president of the United States.


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