Since its foundation in 1989, The Memphis Flyer has strictly adhered to a policy of not endorsing candidates for public office. Regular readers are aware of our unabashed support of progressive ideas and, by inference, the individuals who espouse them. But we have always felt we best serve the public interest by keeping an arm's-length distance from political candidates in the run-up to elections.

This year's extraordinary presidential campaign, however, requires our making an exception to our traditional non-endorsement policy. Four more years of George W. Bush is a potential disaster of such magnitude that we feel obliged to add our editorial voice to those of so many other newspapers around this country, and declare our support for John F. Kerry's candidacy for the presidency.

The reason is simple: President Bush's policies have failed this country on nearly every front, domestic and international. There is not room on this page to chronicle those failures in detail. Our relations with our allies are in shambles; our budgetary and trade deficits are out of control; corporate lobbies are setting environmental policy; our tax system is obscenely biased towards the rich; our civil liberties are at risk. The list goes on and on

And then there's the matter of our misnamed "war on terror." Bush supporters relentlessly cite their confidence in the president's handling of this issue. It's hard to imagine why. After failing to take action despite repeated warnings from our intelligence agencies of the impending al-Qaeda attack that became 9/11, the president's definitive response to that attack was to invade, under false pretences, a country that had no proven links with the "terrorists" and posed no real threat to our national security. President Bush attacked Iraq in defiance of world opinion, ignoring virtually all the lessons learned from the first Gulf War, a victory choreographed by his own father. And since foolishly declaring his "mission accomplished" in May 2003, Mr. Bush's continued display of incompetence in his conduct of that war would be unacceptable in a Memphis city councilman, let alone in a President of the United States.

Today, this president's war of choice is an unmitigated disaster. Eleven hundred American soldiers are dead; more than 10,000 are wounded and maimed, their lives forever altered. Countless innocent Iraqi men, women, and children are dead or wounded simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. All for what?

John Kerry is not a perfect candidate. We took severe issue with his initial waffling on the war, and his vote to give the President war-making powers in the fall of 2002. But Kerry has been in real combat and knows what that means; he will not view war as an abstract geopolitical tool. He has served in the Senate for 20 years and knows how to get legislation passed. And in the debates, the Senator articulated a vision for the future that seems both reasoned and reasonable, in sharp contrast to the platitudinous pablum offered by the president.

Senator Kerry has grown in stature during this presidential campaign. George W. Bush, meanwhile, has shrunk, especially in these final days, when his "message" to the American people is little more than an appeal to our rawest and most primitive emotions. As Marie Cocco noted recently in Newsday, "Fear is the president's running mate."

At the risk of irritating the always-irritable vice president, we concur. Senator Kerry, by contrast, appeals to our minds as well as our hearts, drawing upon our nation's best instincts, not its worst. Most importantly, he offers the promise of redeeming George W. Bush's famously unkept promise from the 2000 presidential campaign.

John Kerry has shown that he can be "a uniter not a divider." George W. Bush has clearly proven that he can't. Your vote for Senator Kerry next Tuesday will be a vote for a stronger, safer, and saner America.

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