The Vietnam War? A Look At The Real Issues Of The 2004 Campaign

Dan Murphy

“What I did do during the Vietnam War.” This seems to be the theme of this year’s presidential campaign because that’s all the media seems to be interested in. It started last spring with President Bush documents pertaining to his service in the National Guard. It continued with John Kerry touting his Vietnam War heroism at the Democratic National Convention. The swift boat veterans then attacked Kerry’s honorable service in August. Why is this campaign a referendum on the Vietnam War? Has this any relevance to our country in 2004? John Kerry bravely volunteered for duty in the Vietnam War and he acted heroically, winning several medals. George W. Bush used his family connections to attain a spot in the National Guard. Those are the facts. Let’s get over it. The discourse of this campaign should not be how many medals Kerry deserves or how many months of duty Bush skipped in Alabama. The events of nearly thirty years ago shouldn’t be getting such wide exposure. The media is at fault for this. Debating whether John Kerry committed war crimes is a sexier topic than debating the future of Social Security. All of our news outlets are guilty of sensationalizing this presidential election, especially Fox. Now, I’m a realist and I know that these stories are provocative and provide high ratings, but seriously, whatever happened to looking after the good of the country? I’m going to outline a few issues, with some appropriate commentary, the media needs touch on in this election. Iraq is as serious an issue as it gets, and to be fair the media has given Iraq decent exposure. President Bush took a huge gamble in launching his pre-emtpive war with Iraq, with the hopes of defending America against Saddam Hussein and the imminent threat he posed to national security. Bush told us that Saddam had weapons and that he was willing to use them. Now Iraq is in a state of chaos. Americans are being beheaded on television on a seemingly regular basis. Over 1,000 solider have died. Intelligence estimates say we’re losing the war. Mission Accomplished? I think not. President Bush seems to be oblivious to all of these calamities facing our Iraq effort. He keeps telling us to “stay the course.” Well “the course” thus far has been a miserable failure. Iraq is a huge problem for this country, a problem that this administration refuses to recognize. Health care in some parts of the United States is only slightly better than that in third world nations. Why don’t we have a national health care system? No simple answer exists. Special interests have a firm grip on lawmakers. Republicans and some Democrats are leery of large government programs. These are all worthless excuses because it is immoral for Americans to not have health care. If it takes creating a large government program, we should do it. Social Security and Medicare are huge government programs and are immensely popular. Whatever happened to education? Both candidates are effectively ignoring what is arguably the most important domestic issue that faces America. Inequality in our public school system is greater than it’s ever been. President Bush under funded and undermined his No Child Left Behind Act, leaving low-income school districts with unfunded federal mandates. Educating the youth of our country should be a top priority of the government, not something that is passed from one administration to the next. Where are these issues in our news coverage? They’re all extremely important and are consistently ignored by the likes of our networks, newspapers, and radio stations. The media sets our agenda as a nation. Thus far, they failed to give us any information of substance in this campaign. Time and time again our news media has shortchanged the American public. We live in a society where sensationalism dominates mainstream media. This is a situation where if left unchanged, could seriously undermine our electoral process.