A year from now, millions of Americans will be witness to a bitter, partisan battle over who will occupy the Oval Office for the next four years.
Some say the anticipated, long, heated debate is a healthy exercise, while others worry the "debate" could become so extreme, so bitter, it could severely split the country and cause fallout and damage that could linger for years.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning the Florida vote in 2000, there has been an unmasked hatred of George Bush by many in the Democratic Party. They believe their man, Al Gore, should have moved into the White House and that Bush stole the election. There is no way those sharing this belief can bring themselves to accept the fact Bush IS the president, and they have made a vow to do anything and everything to defeat Bush in his re-election bid.
Many have been vicious in their attacks on Bush, and there's no question these attacks and character assassinations will become more mean in the months to come.
They will not let up, and, in many cases, truth and accuracy really won't be important to those in this camp. It's open season on Bush, and every type of ammunition will be used to try to weaken, wound or destroy the incumbent president.
Prior to the election, there was no way Bush could have foreseen what he would encounter when he moved into the Oval Office -- the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the jet that crashed in Pennsylvania, the military actions against Afghanistan and Iraq, the severe downturn in the U.S. economy, the threat of ongoing terrorist activity here in the United States and abroad and the continued loss of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. He also has narrow margins in the House and Senate that make it difficult for him to push through many of his legislative initiatives.
Democratic candidates for their party's presidential nomination are having a field day attacking Bush. Most of these would-be presidents are trying to outdo the others in telling the public what a bad president Bush has been and why he should be removed from office. Some have even suggested a recall effort.
So far -- and things could change overnight -- there haven't been many negative or personal attacks by GOP leaders directed at any of the Democratic hopefuls. It's been a one-way street, and it has been an almost constant barrage, day after day, about what is wrong with Bush, how he is supposed to have lied and deceived the public, how he favors the rich and isn't interested in health care reform, how he wants to pack the Supreme Court with ultraconservative justices, how he doesn't care about cleaning up or protecting the environment and on and on.
As Democratic primary elections draw closer, the attacks will become even more frequent and bitter, and this is when there is likely to be a far stronger reaction by GOP Bush supporters than has been the case to date. Bush supporters know they are in for a rough, mean election, and the time will come when those working for the Bush campaign will think they must respond, answer the critics and launch their own attacks on the Democratic front-runner.
Although many probably will dispute this, so far, it's been the very partisan Democrats who have been the most vocal and mean-spirited in their charges against Bush and others in his administration. Bush and his top advisers have been taking it on the chin but haven't been goaded into similar attacks against the Democrats.
However, it won't be long until there will be a full-scale war over the election of Bush for another term in the White House. This writer believes this election could become so bitter and damage the nation so severely that it could take years, many years, for any degree of normalcy to return to the campaign/election process.
At the dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics, much was said about the importance of civil discussion of important national issues and that people, and candidates, can disagree without being disagreeable. Unfortunately, this election is not headed in that direction, and the bitterness is intensifying.
This is not good for the country. The only way Democrats are likely to tone down their attacks is if Bush is defeated. If Bush should win a second term, Democrats in Congress will use every maneuver to stall his legislative efforts and to reject the large majority of his nominees for federal court positions.
This country needs to come together rather than becoming even more divided, and there is growing need for more statesmen who put the good of the country in the forefront of their actions and behavior.
Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., has announced he intends to support Bush in his re-election effort. Miller said, "I think George Bush is the right man in the right place at the right time." He added, "These next five years are going to be crucial in determining the kind of world my grandchildren live in. And I don't entrust that to any of these folks that are running out there on the Democratic side. I'm going to vote for George Bush. I think he's got some Churchill in him."
Relative to the harshness of some of the Democratic candidates, the Georgia Democrat said, "It's a disgrace for anyone to talk like that in a time of war. And I don't question their patriotism, but I certainly question their judgment. You know, if some of these folks had been living back on that April night in 1775 when Paul Revere came riding through, saying 'the British are coming, the British are coming,' if Howard Dean was living back then, he would have yelled out the window, 'Shut up. I'm trying to get some sleep in here.'"
Miller is likely to be one of the few Democratic senators to endorse Bush, but his message is right on target. This country is engaged in a war, and the outcome of this war can and will make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for Americans and others around the world for years to come.
Bush may not have done everything right from the time he moved into the White House, and it is easy to second-guess and play armchair quarterback, but he is trying to do what he thinks is in the best interests of all Americans -- Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor, black, white, Hispanic and Asian -- and there is no easy, clear-cut right or wrong actions.
There is every reason and right for those favoring someone else for the presidency of this nation to do what they can to help their favorite candidates, but hopefully this can be done in a civil, responsible manner rather than engaging in bitterness, hatred and half-truths. Sometime, in some election, the people of this country need to demonstrate they can, indeed, engage in our political process and do so in a thoughtful, knowledgeable, truthful manner.
Otherwise, this country can expect to see behavior during national elections, and consequently the quality of the candidates, sink to new lows. The United States should set the example for the rest of the world in the manner we conduct our national elections. Unfortunately, the example being set today is not a good one.