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John Kerry is conservative choice for President

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Election night, 2004, is upon us in days and following a rough and tumble
campaign it has become clear that Indian country favors Sen. John Kerry to
be voted in as president of the United States. In the tightest of contests,
where polls suggest a virtual dead heat, both the Democrats and Republicans
are pulling out all stops in huge registration and Get Out The Vote drives.

Democrats have unified as rarely seen before and thrown their full support
behind John Kerry. They should. They have a very decent, thoughtful and
personally conservative man for a candidate: reasonable, patient,
experienced man in the tempest of a chaotic, complex and unpredictable
world. In the face of an opponent who has perhaps done his best, but whose
resoluteness is marred by clearly unexamined decision making, Kerry looks
like a man who could help pull the country from its present malaise. The
"instinctual," "from the gut," "faith-based," "always resolute" policy
leadership practiced by President Bush, we submit, has raised a serious
wall of ill will against America around the globe, one that augurs badly
for positive American leadership on the international stage. Stretching the
national treasury while ensnaring the country's best men and women in a
costly and unnecessary war, we face a bloody and unfocused struggle with no
end in sight.

Beyond the flip-flop image that Karl Rove's command center painted on
Kerry, intoning manipulated numbers from congressional votes, and the
brutal and deceptive Swiftboat slander campaign by disgruntled Republican
operatives from the Nixon era, the real John Kerry has impressed as a
seasoned elected politician. He has communicated clearly his commitment to
lead the American people from a position of studied and well-informed
planning, under strategies that include a higher intellectual rigor. Kerry,
the only actual war hero in the race, a decorated officer who faced deadly
combat in his time and then came back to a courageous and risky role of war
critic, in short, appears ready for a major role in international affairs.

Even though this newspaper did not endorse George W. Bush in the 2000
election, we wished the best for his administration at the start of its
term. Following the heinous attacks on this country on 9/11 Indian country
rallied behind and supported the President's actions to attack and
eliminate the enemy al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. And while
we agreed that Saddam Hussein was a bad man and weapons of mass destruction
in the wrong hands could manifest a global catastrophe, our primary message
was that America needed to lead for peace and that it needed to proceed
with an informed deliberation built upon international consensus that
strengthened the world's connections to the American people. But that is
not what happened. Now with over 1,000 dead American soldiers and over
20,000 dead Iraqis (who among them al Qaeda?), and a chaotic spiral of
violence passing for "liberation," we have much difficulty with this war,
its now discredited justifications, its epic mismanagement and its current
results that include hundreds if not thousands of dead innocents, including
women and children. Indian country agrees with Kerry's assessment: The Bush
war strategy is a colossal error in judgment and much must be done,
urgently, to correct its mistakes.

More than ever America needs a broadly experienced and commanding
president, one who can override the squabbles of subordinates and make
sense of it all, be able to articulate complex issues and to command a
militarily firm strategy of peace. Indian country desires to move away from
ideological mandate back toward a pragmatic direction by a leader who
possesses not only courage but also active intellectual energy, the full
ability to discern, analyze and guide the country and engage the
international community.

George W. Bush might have had the capacity to lead America and the world
through this newly-dark period of human history. He is a man of great
resolution but deep concerns remain about his judgment. Bush's political
and policy teams leave huge chunks of both integrity and competence to be
desired. Life-imperiling and economy-stagnating mistakes are made, and no
one is held accountable. If the Republicans of today were a bit more like
the party of Theodore Roosevelt, like the party of Abraham Lincoln, even
like the party of George H.W. Bush (41), perhaps they could actually
overarch the full range of American life and culture, even deserve a
political foothold to endure a generation. But the GOP of today has
unleashed under President Bush an ideological stance against its own other
half of America that results in politics as war by other means. It is the
wrong attitude for the American public - which is greatly in need of a
sense of union - to support. Proudly based on blind faith and a willingness
to dismiss reasonable discourse, the GOP leadership even dangerously shuns
scientific findings in support of a religious fervor that tolerates little
or no variance of viewpoints on social, medical, or increasingly, political
issues. In this respect, John Kerry stands closer to the rational American
conservatism that has served Indian country well in recent history. The
intolerance we see full-grown and going full-tilt from the American right
wing, we believe, is so out of line that it is harming American public life
and is destructive to democratic practice. Even as we secure our homelands
from terror tactics by specific political groups, and strive to quiet the
specter of generations of hate in the rest of the world, American
fundamentalism is proving more problem than solution. American
close-mindedness can be as hateful as any other and potentially just as
dangerous. (As American Indians can attest one need look no further than
all the innocent victims of an unnecessary war.) This is detrimental to the
much-needed clear-thinking American intelligence, both for the agencies
charged with that task and for the public mind, which is seriously degraded
these days by the sophisticated message manipulation that bombards it.

As a way of creating misleading headlines, operatives functioning as
talk-show hosts for media moguls has taken over the political airwaves and
it is a wind overwhelmingly blowing from the right. Cold and rapier-like,
this movement has destroyed long-established notions of what is fair and
proper, what is ethical (and used to be legally prescribed) - fair and
balanced information on our television channels. The movement, which has
caused some journalism media owners to sell their souls, instead completely
saturates news programming with manipulated indoctrination of the highest
order. These days, Sinclair Broadcasting Group competes with Fox News as
the administration's favorite strategic partner and major news
conglomerates quaver at the slightest pressure from the Republican
government. The present media manipulation effort by right-wing ideologues
with their purchasing power and political manipulation is the most severe
ever launched at the American people.

For American Indian tribes, brush-ups with GOP attack operatives prove the
point. Prime example is South Dakota where a persistent rumor founded on a
lie in the usual right-wing attack mode continues to slander the integrity
of the Indian vote. Minor voter registration incidents of the 2002
congressional election, later declared very minor by pertinent Republican
officials, nevertheless made it into the meat-grinder merry-go-round of
manufactured reality, from the press releases of local operatives to Rush
Limbaugh to Tucker Carlson to Robert Novak to - just last week - that other
"Messenger of God," televangelist Pat Robertson.

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Pushing Republican John Thune against incumbent Tom Daschle (D) in the
South Dakota Senate race, Robertson said on his Christian Broadcasting
Network that "massive fraud" in the voting on Indian reservations will
affect the closely watched Senate race. "The thing that I think is
concerning many is the fraud on the Indian reservations. People go in
there, and they ... take advantage of people that are not totally literate
or, I don't know what they do, but there has been massive fraud," he said.

This is a manufactured lie, blithely re-told by a man supposedly full of
Christian honesty but so extreme in his fundamentalism he will play the lie
- on an issue this newspaper has amply documented to be bogus - to achieve
his Godly-inspired, very political (and self-serving) purpose.

We reject this sort of tunnel vision that diminishes the public's ability
to discern the truth. But we have to wonder how many in Robertson's flock
will blindly take on faith (his word) what has already been proven patently
false? The world today is full of extremists, which is all the more reason
for America's national discourse to remain reasonable, well-measured and
based on factual information and rational evidence. If American extremism
can manipulate the 9/11 attacks to take over the American ship of state for
ideological adventures, then the world is in horribly great danger, both
from the outside and from the inside.

We are particularly troubled how the Republican Party of George W. Bush has
opened the doors of government to one particular chosen people among
Americans, the Christian fundamentalist political movement leaders of the
past 20 years. Under the Bush administration, this sector of American life
has been firmly established as a core political community, admittedly even
a main pillar, of the Republican Party. These days and increasingly,
whether they lose or win this election, the GOP is governed by the
potential activist dogma of their own Christian-fundamentalist core. These
religious leaders enjoy the trust of a base that can be well-meaning, but
that also seeks, even demands a certainty of religious belief and absolute
loyalty to doctrine.

In the Native context, as the Abramoff lobbying scandal has revealed,
fundamentalist Christian activists were mobilized to attack Indian
sovereignty in Texas and elsewhere. In the Abramoff scandal we see how a
lobbyist working for an Indian tribe paid fundamentalist Christian
operatives to stimulate political action by Christian churches against
other tribes trying to establish casinos. The interesting thing was how
automatically the preachers and their churches fell into step with the
required action, how easily manipulated they were. Doing a good piece of
the manipulation was Ralph Reed, the millionaire darling of the Christian
Coalition. There is a huge amount of manipulation of the evangelical and
fundamentalist Christian bases by the prayerful right wing political
machine. None of this bodes well for the valued American principle of
separation between church and state. Even though Indian country cherishes
its own unique spiritual traditions, and there are many, and respects those
who have embraced christianity, most recognize the importance of keeping
religion out of national policy given the historic crimes it has endured at
the hands of Christian belief and institution.

In a world starved for stability and reassurance from the world's
superpower, Indian country has come to believe George W. Bush and the main
policy people he leads are too radical for Indian country. John Kerry
appears as actually the more conservative force. We don't agree with the
judgment of some that all Republican administrations would be bad for
America or for American Indian peoples, nor that another Bush presidency
would bring the end of the world. But the pulse of Indian country clearly
beats more in time with John Kerry's. He projects and has the grasp of a
more conservative style - a statesmanlike approach commensurate with
managing a world crisis such as we are now facing.

Indian country seeks a peaceful, prosperous future; with a firm military,
competently administered by honest civilians, and coupled to extremely
intelligent and sincere alliance building by our country in the world.
Forceful engagement rather than ongoing manipulation of core international
issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is required. Peace beyond
war must be the vision, or there is no vision. If America is making enemies
faster than it can kill them, as even our military commanders inform us,
how will peace ever be approached?

World leadership requires a great deal of humility from a great superpower
and a monumental amount of reasonable thinking must be invited to protect
against as well as to reduce tensions and threats from many corners,
regions and hemispheres. Terrorism is a practice by zealots that must be
stamped out like unjustified wars, massacres and genocides. The larger war,
however, must be against economic misery, personal despair and
anti-civilian violence. What other choice is there for human beings?

John Kerry appears to Indian country the candidate better capable of
engaging and actually accomplishing such a mission.