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August 04, 2004

After Boston convention, a friend's surprising conclusion

Submitted by John Flannery - please see his other superb entries from last week in our archives

On the way back to Virginia from the Democratic Convention in Boston, we stopped at Ground Zero in New York, read the thousands of names lost in that dark abyss of terror and looked into the faces of passing strangers, quietly grieving for Americans they never knew.

We were paying our respects to the heroes of 9/11, and reminding ourselves what was truly at stake in this presidential election.

One mother, looking at the steel cross fashioned from a melted girder that marks the site's destruction, struggled to find the words that might satisfy her 14-year-old son's curiosity about what happened here.

In this presidential election year, another question persists long after this horrendous attack on the continental United States. What are we to do after 9/11?

Before my visit to New York, I was back in Boston's Fleet Center when Sen. John Kerry had saluted 5,000 Democratic Convention delegates, and announced that he was "reporting to duty."

Kerry promised that he would "ask hard questions and demand hard evidence" and be "a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war."

Delegates were on their feet, screaming approval, hoisting "Kerry" banners, commending the senator to the nation as our next commander in chief.

Sen. Kerry promised he would see to it that we "never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to."

So what is it that we believe qualifies this man to replace the incumbent as our commander in chief?

Max Cleland, who lost both his legs and one arm in Vietnam, answered this question quite bluntly at a breakfast he had with the Virginia delegation: "When I was pulled out of Vietnam on a stretcher," Mr. Cleland said, "that's when John Kerry went in."

"When the Viet Cong fired on Kerry's boat, he didn't run and hide but turned his boat on the attacker and ran after him with his M-16."

On the morning that I planned to leave Boston, I had a coffee with Steve, my best friend since back when we were high school lab partners.

I didn't expect to talk much politics: Steve's a lifelong Republican. We approach our discussions of politics with some - shall we say - "delicacy."

But Steve surprised me. He had voted for President Bush in the last election, but he said that wasn't going to happen again.

Steve had turned against Mr. Bush because he believed the president went to war without good reason, misled us about why he was going in. Now Steve was concerned that the Iraq situation might signal that his draft-age sons might be at risk, and he wasn't prepared to lose them in a war without clear purpose or justification.

Steve said he can vote for Sen. Kerry because of his announced views and because of how Kerry expressed himself - "with such presidential authority and force."

The political "conversion" of one old friend is hardly a statistical sample.

But it suggests the earth change that is at hand in our political landscape.

Some voters may stand pat with this administration that favors imperial governance and unilateral international initiatives. Other voters will prefer Sen. Kerry's pledge of open government that encourages democratic participation and multilateral cooperation with other nations.

Steve has made his choice.

Soon it will be time for you to make your choice for commander in chief. We must vote like our nation's future is at stake - for it is.

© Times Community Newspapers 2004 - Reproduced here with John Flannery's permission

Posted by amahler at August 4, 2004 01:19 PM