Tonight's the night (Sept. 30) for the first debate where John Kerry can to try to convince Americans that he can run this country better than George Bush. It doesn't look as though this will happen. .
In Lakewood where I live, there must be 20 Bush signs to every one for Kerry. And then there's the majority of the Rotarians I eat with every Thursday who say they intend to vote for Bush because he is determined to keep terrorists from attacking this country. The state's largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, promotes another term for Bush almost every day. This week it is insisting that Ralph Nader's name ought to be on the Arkansas ballot, which, of course, can only mean some cancelled Kerry votes.
All the polls show Bush ahead. However, Ernie Oakleaf, whose company makes more polls than any other company in Arkansas, makes a point that escaped me. The people reached by pollsters during this presidential election don't thoroughly represent the public because today so many people have only cell phones, which the pollsters have no way of calling. Of course, it's young people who have the most cell phones, and, unfortunately, not many of them vote.
However, this election could be a little different because young men of draft age might be afraid that they would be called to arms if the president and his neoconservative aides stay in office and begin invading other countries that aren't doing as the Bush administration thinks they should. For example, countries like Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, which were around more than a thousand years before the United States was a country. These countries have their own systems of government and also a lot of oil the United States needs.
Actually, it is wrong to fully blame President Bush for the Iraq war and the other pre-emptive invasions that maybe are being planned. He's really not the tough person that many think he is. Early in his presidency an American spy plane crashed into a Chinese fighter plane and made an emergency landing in China. To get the plane and the crew back, the Chinese government demanded an explanation and apology. Bush refused, but later he sent the Chinese an apology and admission of the plane's purpose. Shortly after Bush came into office the CIA found out that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 17 American sailors killed in a terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. But Bush did little to try to find bin Laden until 9-11.
It's the people who encouraged him to run and who are around him who would like to invade Muslim nations. These people are known as neoconservatives friendly with Israel -- hawkish intellectuals who got together in the 1970s led by Norman Podhoretz, an author of 10 books on foreign affairs and the editor of Commentary magazine who was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush. Other members of the group are Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense, Jeane Kirkpatrick, former United Nations ambassador, and, of course, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The goal of the neoconservatives is to use the United States' power to spread democracy all over the world.
In the last few months in the streets of Iraq we have seen how people resent this being done by invasion. More American soldiers have been killed in occupying Iraq than were killed when we invaded it, and some generals are saying that our troops might have to remain in Iraq for another 10 years.
Yet, it seems that most Americans want to keep the Bush administration for another four years. That's the opinion of one of America's most respected political journalists -- Walter Mears, who for 40 years covered presidential campaigns for the Associated Press. His stories and columns were printed in newspapers throughout the world and were honored with a Pulitzer Prize in 1977. He made a couple of speeches in Little Rock last week.
"Bush keeps saying 'I'm right, I'm right, I'm right' and the polls indicate that the people believe it," Mears said. Kerry's only chance, he said, was to attack Bush in the debates, telling that he has given the American people all the things he told them they would never have with him as President-wars, deficits, etc.
"If Kerry comes out of the debates the winner, he could be elected, but I don't think it will happen."
Newspaper photographers never get much money or attention. I know because I got my first job as one in the 1940s. In 1957, a guy named Will Counts learned it when he made the best pictures of the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School.