Mr. President, I have a message for you. I think it's important that you hear it from me, because I believe millions of Americans agree with my feelings. Based on the things you do and say, I think you've made an assumption about me and the rest of my American friends that is incorrect.
Mr. President, I am not afraid. I'm not afraid to attend a baseball game or to go to work in a large office tower in San Francisco's financial district. I'm not afraid to ride public transit or to drive the streets of my hometown. I'm not afraid of getting on an airplane and flying to Seattle, London, or anywhere else. I am not afraid of life, Mr. President.
I am not afraid when I turn on the television — to a cable channel, because you aren't trying to scare Californians who only watch the over-the-air stations — and see a paid advertisement with you sitting on a sofa with your wife, telling me you "can't imagine the great agony of a mom or dad having to make the decision about which child to pick up first after Sept. 11." (This advertisment is available on your Web site, but I will not provide a link and thus promote your agenda in this space.) Why is that so important that you need to pay millions of dollars to share that with me, Mr. President? I agree it must have been tough for those parents, and I shiver to think of the hell they went through. But that was three years ago, Mr. President. The fact that it hurts you to think about them today doesn't make them or anyone else any safer. The parents for whom you feel such anxiety also know this, and many of them are offended that you are once again using Sept. 11 for political gain. A true leader wouldn't use terror to sell his story or to win an election, Mr. President. A true leader would quietly and confidently protect the people he leads. A true leader doesn't have to tell us he's a good leader. We'd already know it.
Also, Mr. President, I believe you should concentrate on a different aspect of the lives of these parents. Life does go on, Mr. President, and stories of lives moving forward are inspirational. Years ago, the son of a friend of mine was shot in one of those school shootings we all used to worry about before Sept. 11. I didn't know her then, but I'm sure she was terrified and confused; I can only imagine that she must have felt as if her life was crashing down around her. But her son survived the mental and physical anguish and has thrived as a young adult, Mr. President. Would this young man — and his mother, and my lifelong friend and brother who married her several years ago — have thrived by spending their living hours terrified of life? I'd bet that most Americans would consider them heroes for being strong and moving forward. I know I do.
Don't get me wrong, Mr. President. I'm not saying I feel any safer than I did on Sept. 10, 2001, because of anything you've done or said. I don't. I don't believe that America has fewer enemies in the world today than it did three years ago, and I believe the actions of you and some confused, twisted, and unprepared soldiers will help recruit terrorists in troubled regions until long past when today's kindergartners discover their first gray hairs. Like many Americans, I think you've botched this "war on terror" that you declared. When I hear that the country is now on "orange alert," I don't notice any fewer riders on the BART train, nor do I notice any additional security personnel monitoring the transit system. We Americans don't know what to do with terms like "orange alert," Mr. President. All we remember is your hand-picked terror czar told us once to buy up all the duct tape we can find — a sound byte that your administration spent very little effort trying to correct or clarify. Even today, millions of Americans hear of a terror alert and think, simply, "duct tape." This is not especially helpful.
I am also not afraid, Mr. President, when Terry Holt, the national spokesman for your Elect Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, goes on "Hardball" and tells Chris Matthews and his audience that you oppose fully funding embryonic stem-cell research because you believe it protects Americans from "mad scientists," like he did tonight. Mr. President, is that really a cogent reason to oppose scientific research that could, perhaps, cure horrible disease? Do you honestly believe that a renegade band of rogue scientists who in your mind probably all look like Dr. Emmett L. Brown of "Back to the Future" is out there trying to use embryonic stem cells to create saber-toothed Al Qaeda operatives with skin made of cast iron? (Do you also believe these scientists are being chased by a Volkswagen filled with cartoonish Libyan thugs with machine guns?) I would think it makes more sense to assume the scientists and researchers who have dedicated their lives to this work may actually use their findings for good, not evil. Of all topics about which to try and scare me and the rest of America, this one seems especially sick. It's almost as if you've realized your theological objections to this possible scientific breakthrough are simply insufficient reasons to build obstacles to perhaps curing terrible diseases, yet you're too much of a coward to admit you were wrong. In other words, perhaps you're the one who's afraid.
I'm also not saying I'm comforted by how you've dispatched your wife to tell America that embryonic stem-cell research is hopeless. With all due respect, Mr. President, your wife is woefully unqualified to make such declarations. In 1973, the same year you weren't showing up for National Guard duty, your future wife earned a master of library science degree from the University of Texas at Austin, a wonderful school. While this may make her an expert on the Dewey Decimal System, it does nothing to make her anything close to an expert on genetic research. You and your handlers — the ones who sent your wife out there to make such frivolous statements — should understand this. You should not be in the habit of sending your wife out in public to embarrass herself on your behalf.
It also concerns me that your handlers feel the proper way to win an election is to lie to the American people. I'm sure you would say you aren't lying, but that's simply another lie. Your wife said, "the implication that cures for Alzheimer’s are around the corner is just not right and it’s really not fair to people who are watching a loved one suffer with this disease." Mr. President, I don't condemn your wife for saying these words; she's simply reciting what your staff of writers composed for her. But exactly where and when was this implied, and who implied it? When Ron Reagan talked about stem-cell research at the Democratic National Convention, he never suggested any breakthroughs were just around the corner. Nobody but the most desperate friends and family members of ailing loved ones would ever imply such a thing, and even they understand that scientific breakthroughs are never "just around the corner." You know this as a fact, yet you, members of your administration, and now your wife continue to tell these lies. Why? Don't you respect us Americans enough to tell us the truth?
Is it because you can't run on your own record? I've seen many of your ads attack John Kerry viciously, even though he volunteered to fight in a war that many people, including you and your vice president, fought even harder to avoid. Why do you feel the need to tell America that John Kerry was a bad soldier? Wouldn't it be more effective to tell America why you're a better president than John Kerry would be?
You can't do that. America knows this, and America sees this. You know John Kerry, hardly the dream candidate, would be a much more effective president than you, so your only hope is to take every opportunity you have to chop him down until he falls to your level. Mr. President, you should take a look at the polls. There is little quantitative research that suggests your personal attacks on John Kerry have worked whatsoever, even though you've spent more than $90 million to buy advertisements that slander Senator Kerry, his military service, his voting record, and virtually any other aspect of his life. According to a leaked Bush administration memo directing federal agencies to anticipate cuts beginning in fiscal year 2006, the Head Start program is scheduled to lose $177 million in funding that year, which the Washington Post predicts will result in 21,820 kids being cut from the program nationwide. In other words, the $90 million you've spent telling lies about your opponent could have instead been used to offer Head Start to more than 10,000 additional children who qualify for the program. I doubt many Americans think slandering John Kerry is more important than helping kids prepare for their future.
What truly scares me, Mr. President, is the concept of you remaining president for four additional years, because you don't seem to know why you should be president. You like to tell me and the rest of the country that you're a "war president," and the other day you even lamented that nobody, especially you, wanted to be a "war president." Why didn't you also admit to the crowd you were addressing that it was your decision to be a war president, and that there was no reason — other than the incessant chirping of the single-issue neo-conservative zealots to whom you turned over your presidency — to send even one soldier to Iraq, let alone the nearly 3,500 soldiers who have been killed or injured in the war you wanted? Your actions suggest that you had every intention to become a "war president." The fact that Sept. 11 happened simply provided you with enough political cover to pull it off. Under no circumstances is that fact — accompanied by your lies, your dirty politics, your character defamation of your opponent, your clear disregard for scientific thought, and your obvious disrespect for your own wife — enough to reward you with four more years.
In January, when you go home to the ranch in Crawford, Texas, where you have enjoyed so many photo opportunities over the last three years, to ponder your one-term presidency, I hope you aren't afraid, Mr. President. When that day comes, I assure you that America will be a safer place. You won't have to be afraid any more.