Why do we care about Kerry’s vietnam medals?

This election boggles my mind. The two big items of the week: Kerry’s medals and the ongoing investigation of 9/11. Let’s take them one at a time.

First, who cares whether or not Kerry threw his medals 31 years ago? I mean come on, it was a really, really different world. And he’s probably a very different person now. So looking at his record since then might give a better idea of his character than focusing solely on Medal-gate.

The logic seems to be that we can tell something about his character from knowing whether he threw his medals. And if his character is found wanting (based on one event in the early 70s), well then, we certainly can’t elect him President, can we?

Yet at the same time, we have the 9/11 commission. Why? What’s the goal of that commission? Frankly, it seems shameful that 9/11 happened in the presence of early warnings signs, but get serious folks: when you’re a new administration running a country of 350 million people, there’s only so much you can pay attention to. Even if the Bush administration made a really bad call to put terrorism on the back burner, I can sort of understand it.

What I can’t understand is what happened after 9/11: the decision to start a war with Iraq with no clear plan, no clear motivation, and at incredible expense (in both dollars and lives). Why were those decisions made? Regardless of the quality of the intelligence, one thing seems clear: even the poor-quality intelligence didn’t point to a need for immediate war.

The part that scares me the most is that Bush and Cheney felt it necessary to testify together, not under oath, and with nothing being recorded. Think about that for a few minutes, people. Whether you’re pro-war or anti-war, whether you’re American or Islamic, something really stinks when the President can’t stand alone in front of a panel and testify under oath and in writing. The only reasons I can think of for joint testimony are that Bush and Cheney were afraid their stories wouldn’t match, or that Bush couldn’t actually answer the questions. The only reason I can think of for not recording the sessions and not being under oath is even scarier: so our President and Vice-President can lie with legal impunity and with little chance of being caught, even if it’s just by the historians. In my mind, that means Bush and Cheney aren’t trustworthy. And that scares me. A lot.

If we’re going to be judging fitness for presidential candidates based on ad hoc analysis of candidate actions, let’s look at relevant actions. Forget medals. Forget pre-9/11 events. Let’s look at recent decision-making on the parts of Kerry and Bush. Let’s find out how well they use data and how their actions reveal their principles (or lack thereof). And you know what? Let’s do it in writing, with tape recorders running, and under oath. Why? Just because that way, we can trust that at least a tiny bit of accountability can be had, even if only when the transcripts are released 100 years from now.

Vietnam medals? Why do we care?

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