Thursday, August 26, 2004

Comparing the Two Candidates

When one is evaluating political candidates, I think it’s worthwhile to consider their personal histories and how they treat their fellow human beings.

Some people seem to take pleasure in causing pain for others. Other people are genuinely concerned with the well-being of others, including their adversaries. Some people are humanitarians, and some people are blatant assholes.

When George Bush attended Yale University in the 1960’s, there was a bit of controversy over allegations that his fraternity, DKE, had hazed incoming pledges by branding them with an iron. Bush told the New York Times "it was just a coat hanger, and ... it didn't hurt any more than a cigarette burn."

As a child in Midland, Texas, George W. Bush enjoying killing small animals. He took great pleasure in exploding frogs with firecrackers.

Bush wasn’t much of a sportsman either. As a member of the Yale rugby team, George W. Bush didn’t always play fair. In a 1969 Yale yearbook, you can see a photo of Bush clearly sucker-punching his opponent.

When he was the governor of Texas, he oversaw 152 executions, a record number unmatched by any other governor in the history of the United States. When CNN broadcaster Larry King asked Bush about death row inmate Karla Faye Tucker before her execution, Bush mocked her in a whimpering tone, "Please, don't kill me.'"

One of George W. Bush’s original campaign themes was the concept of “compassionate conservatism.”

John Kerry has a very different history than George W. Bush. Certainly, most Americans are aware that John Kerry is a distinguished war veteran who volunteered for service in Vietnam.

What is not common knowledge is the fact that Senator Kerry actually saved the life of a Republican political adversary. Chic Hecht, who was a conservative Republican Senator from Nevada, almost died when a piece of apple lodged firmly in his throat at a Republican luncheon in 1988.

Senator Hecht stumbled out of the dining room, as he didn’t want to vomit in front of colleagues. He passed out in the hallway, but luckily Senator John Kerry stepped off an elevator at the right time. Kerry rushed to Hecht's side and gave him the Heimlich maneuver -- four times.

Hecht said he was amazed that Kerry acted so quickly -- some people were assuming that he was having a heart attack. "He knew exactly what to do," he said. "But a lot of people know what to do. They just don't size up the situation immediately."

The story has a twist of irony: Hecht was up for re-election that year, and Kerry, who was serving as the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, had pegged Hecht as one of the most vulnerable Republican seats.

Indeed, the Democratic nominee for Hecht's seat, then-Gov. Richard Bryan, beat Hecht, who served just one term in office.

"Only in America can this happen, where he's working against me to get me defeated and then saves my life," Hecht said.

E.P. Thursday, August 26, 2004