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A Presidential Dilema

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October 2004
A Presidential Dilema

Part 1 Opinion

The GOP and Us

Why the Indian-American vote should go to the Republican candidate.

By Dr. RAGHAVENDRA VIJAYANAGAR

2004 will be remembered as a watershed year for the Indian-American community and the Republican Party. Community activism combined with President George W. Bush's leadership has led to a new, dynamic relationship between Indian-Americans and the GOP:

� Nearly 20 Indian-Americans served as delegates to the Republican National Convention, the highest number ever, with close to 30 South Asian delegates in all. Indian-Americans have received 14 full-time political appointments in the administration of President George W. Bush. This is the highest number ever.

� There are at least 7 more Indian-Americans appointed to presidential commissions.

� For the first time ever in American history, a Hindu spiritual leader was welcomed into the White House. This occurred when President Bush welcomed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar into the Oval Office in May 2004.

� President Bush regularly mentions Hindus in his speeches in reference to his faith-based initiative, something no President ever did before.

� President Bush honored Hindus with an official White House celebration on the occasion of Diwali in November 2003. This was the first time ever such an event took place.

� President Bush honored Sikhs with an official White House celebration on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the installation of the Sikh Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, in the Golden Temple. This was the first time such an event ever took place.

� For the first time in our nation's history, an Indian-American, Bobby Jindal, will be elected as a Republican Member of Congress.

� Nikki Randhawa Haley, an Indian-American woman, will be elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives as a Republican.

� For the first time ever, the Indian American Republican Council (IARC) hosted a successful reception and dinner at the Republican National Convention to honor our Indian-American delegates and to express our support for Republican leadership. Nearly 200 people attended this event, including Members of Congress, media and other dignitaries.

� The IARC is also expanding, with 13 independent state affiliates in existence and more on the way.

Many Indian-Americans are embracing the Republican Party because: we believe in limited government; support less taxes on American families and businesses; support curbs on excessive lawsuits; support medical malpractice reform, and support President Bush's strong position in fighting the Global War on Terrorism, as we have seen the devastating effects of terrorism in Kashmir. Many of us are supporting Republicans because of our belief in traditional marriage, because we are pro-life and value the importance of faith in our daily lives. These are values we share with Republicans.

Faith is very important to our community. We are very diverse, made up of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and others. We represent the tolerance and acceptance found in India's religious diversity. Whether we go to a temple, mosque, church, or synagogue, visiting a place of worship is important to us and our children. Respect for our scriptures, culture and religion, are part of the value system we cherish as Indian-Americans. We also are thankful for the tolerance and acceptance of American society that gives us this religious freedom.

Polls have consistently shown that a person's degree of religious commitment, measured by how often they attend worship services, is a more significant indicator of voting behavior than education, income level or gender. According to a November 2003 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 63% of voters who attend religious services more than once a week say they will vote for President Bush in the upcoming election, while 62% of voters who seldom or never attend services say they will vote for the Democratic nominee. Thus, those who regularly visit a place of worship are much more likely to vote Republican. More Democrats avoid discussing religion because their base of voters is increasingly hostile to religious values. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life noted in a January 28, 2004 article, "Democrats realize they have a problem with religious voters." This is known as the religion gap. More Americans view the Republican Party as the protector of religious values compared with Democrats. Many parents and families are concerned with Hollywood's glorification of sex, violence and drug use, and they view Republicans as the protector of moral values.

Our community is no different. Our whole life revolves around our marriages, raising our children with proper morals, values and respect for elders, and ensuring we find suitable matches for our children to marry. We want to make sure our traditions and culture are properly passed down to the next generation. In this context, faith is important to our community, and it is a value we share with Republicans. The Republican Party has become all-inclusive, because we recognize that while the scriptures we read and places we worship might be different, the values our religious traditions espouse are the same. We should remember that many liberal Democrats are atheists, secularists or openly hostile to people who are religious, while more and more Republicans are becoming more accepting and opening up the Party to people of all faiths.

There is no question but that among most Indian-Americans, regardless of faith, origin in India, or mother tongue, marriage is most sacred to our community. It is the beginning point for the creation of a family and provides the basis for having children. Indeed, families are the foundation of our society, and marriage is the structure upon which families are built. The best role models for children are mothers and fathers, each with specific duties to one another and their children.

The concept of gay marriage radically changes the basic structure of families that has existed for more than 5,000 years. With aggressive liberals acting in conjunction with activist judges, what defines a marriage and family is being challenged. What if these same radicals seek to force these social changes upon other democracies? What if they decide that gay marriages must be legalized in India? If Massachusetts wants to provide gay marriages or civil unions to its citizens, shouldn't the state legislature, as elected representatives of the people make such laws? Should a few activist judges on one court in Massachusetts decide such important cases affecting the entire nation? Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans oppose efforts to legalize gay marriages. This is because marriage is more than just legal recognition of a sexual relationship. The primary purpose of marriage is for procreation and propagation of the family. Homosexuals cannot create life, and legalizing gay marriage amounts to nothing more than governmental approval of an alternative sexual lifestyle.

Our community should support a constitutional amendment to make marriage solely between a man and a woman. This does not mean we are being intolerant. Far from it. Rather, we are stating that if homosexuals want to engage in homosexual relationships in private, this is none of our business. However, when homosexuals say they want legal, societal and governmental approval and regulation of such relationships, we must stand firmly behind the 5,000 years of our heritage and culture and reject such changes.

Most importantly, the way gays sought to change marriage laws has not been through Congress or state legislatures, where the people's representatives sit. Instead, they sought targeted lawsuits in specific courts with sympathetic liberal judges who wanted to find a way to further their agenda. Why did they do this? It appears gay organizations wanted to circumvent the democratic process by forcing us to accept a lifestyle that is inconsistent with our traditional marriage and family values.

Our community has been so successful in America because of our strong family values, belief in chastity before marriage, and low divorce rates. Our community's family values serve as a role model for mainstream American society demonstrating the success you can achieve when you have successful families. We should actively spread India's great family traditions and values in American society.

Furthermore, Democrats today are far too liberal for our community. U.S. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA), explained why he was disappointed with the Democrat Party on the August 1, 2004 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

"I'm disillusioned with a party that has gone completely so far to the left ? because they are associated with the National Democratic Party, they're associated with the Kerry-Edwards-Daschle wing of the Democratic Party. And this group is so far to the left that they are completely off the charts. . . . the Republican Party has become the party where diversity is accepted. You know, they talked about diversity at the Democratic convention. There was no diversity in ideology whatsoever. They have completely pushed out any moderate to conservative Democrat. It's no longer the party of the big tent that it once was."

The Honorable Ed Koch, a liberal Democrat who served in Congress for ten years, served as Mayor of New York City for twelve years, and who recently endorsed President Bush, wrote in the August 12, 2004 edition of Jewish World Review:

"My decision to vote for the reelection of President George W. Bush, despite the fact that I am a life-long Democrat, has caused some to call me a turncoat. But am I really? Or am I moving in a direction the Democratic Party itself should be going? As mayor of New York City, I described myself as "a liberal with sanity." It troubled me that over the years, the Democratic Party had drifted toward the radical left."

In the September 2004 issue of Atlantic Monthly, writer Eric Alterman notes, "Together with organized labor and the trial bar, Hollywood is now one of the three pillars of the Democrats' financial structure . . . . [b]y mainstream American political standards, the groups that compete with one another to be the group in Hollywood ? are all quite liberal." ("The Hollywood Campaign - Want big money to get elected to national office? If you're a Democrat, you need to head for the hills?Beverly Hills. A miner's map for the liberal Gold Rush.").

Trial lawyers, labor unions and Hollywood liberals. These three groups are now the "pillars" of financial support for Democrats. Trial lawyers are responsible for frivolous lawsuits and skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates for physicians. Labor unions are behind the anti-India hysteria on outsourcing. And Hollywood liberals ? do I need to say more about their values?

I am most disappointed by the India-bashing by John Kerry and John Edwards on the issue of outsourcing. Mr. Rammohan Rao in the August 24, 2004 edition of The Financial Times notes that the outsourcing industry in India accounts for less than 3% of global outsourcing operations, and while there were over 300,000 call centers worldwide at the end of 2002 employing around 18 million people, India has just 250 call centers, employing 33,800 people. Based on these statistics, and the fact that the U.S. economy created 1.7 million jobs in 12 months of continuous economic growth, how can Kerry and Edwards continue on with their rhetoric on outsourcing? Our community's interests have been sacrificed by these two liberals at the behest of labor unions, creating a political issue where none really existed.

We should think very carefully about the differences between liberals and conservatives before we vote on November 2. Liberals believe in personal freedom while conservatives believe in personal freedom with responsibility. Conservatives believe in self-reliance and independence. We believe in funding for a strong national defense. We support abstinence and traditional marriage. We believe in less taxes, less government and less regulations on businesses. We believe economic freedoms unleash America's true potential. We believe in being aggressive in the Global War on Terrorism.

On November 2, we are electing someone who represents our values, work ethic, and business interests. I personally believe the best person to take our nation forward is President George W. Bush.

________________________________________________________________

For the Soul and Future of America

(Part 2 Editorial)

This presidential election is one that will, proverbially speaking, "chart the course of America's future." All special interests, including the Indian-American platform, must take a back seat if we value the whole over the part that interests us.

By PARTHIV N. PAREKH

It was sheer marketing genius that gave us the Marlboro man ? a rough, tough, and handsome fellow who seemingly personified the rugged men who built America. Sadly, the product that this advertising icon of the ?80s really represented was one that killed indiscriminately. While we may be smarting up about cigarettes, modern American politics is increasingly ruled by raw marketing where image and reality are poles apart. Generalizations such as "Bush is tough on terrorism" or that "Kerry is a war hero" seem sufficient for many to cast their precious vote.

Laziness to go beyond sound bites, blind party ideology, and group special interests are some distractions that pry us away from contemplating about what really is at stake this November. Take, for example, the issue that is center stage. For all the finger-pointing, what both sides seem to agree on is the importance of protecting Americans from a nuclear attack.

All indications?including Washington's own admission?are that such an attack is "very likely" in the near future. Yet, few are willing to ponder on the potential consequences of a nuclear attack. What if, for example, Atlanta was attacked? How horrific would it be? Would it be a painless death ? getting vaporized before any conscious awareness has a chance to catch up? How many decades would it be before a city would rise again? What would the aftermath do? To our economy? To our psyche?

Unless we are willing to acknowledge such an attack as imminent, we will be easy prey to diversions and slick marketing from either side.

This is one election where Americans can least afford to drop their guard. What is at stake is just too crucial to our life, liberty, and happiness. Because, as grave as the threat of terrorism is, it is by no means the only consideration. The other issue of historic proportion is our collective checkbook. From the beginning of the Bush term, a projected 10-year surplus of 5.6 trillion dollars in the federal budget has been transformed into a projected 10-year deficit of $5.2 trillion dollars! That is a reversal of $10.8 trillion in just 3 years!

Granted, Bush was unfortunate to have entered office in the midst of the great IT bust.

Yet, it is this administration's fiscal policies and the Iraq War that are chiefly responsible for such spectacular a reversal. This administration has burdened us with a budget deficit, the magnitude of which has the potential to turn the "American Dream" into a nightmare.

This is therefore not just another presidential election. It is one that will, proverbially speaking, chart the course of America's future. Allowing lame issues, personal agenda, or special interests to win in the face of our physical and fiscal survival... is like worrying about a choked toilet while the house is burning down.

Whether it is teachers or mill workers, gays or straight? or an ethnic community such as ours, this is an election which begs to consider the bigger picture. Outsourcing and the various other issues that are Indian-American hot buttons must take a back seat if we are at all interested in the health of the whole, rather than the part that interests us.

Moot too, are the so-called traditional affinities that the GOP claims it shares with Indian-Americans. The reality is that this administration is the poster boy for exclusivity. It has pushed for State funding of faith-based (read "Christian") organizations. It is a Party given to ultra-conservative thoughts such as teaching Christian theories in public schools.

Minimal taxation and a pro-business platform are indeed Republican leanings that should be a Godsend to a community such as ours which ranks high in personal wealth and business ownership. But, in this election, we would be well advised not to worry about that choked toilet while the house is burning down. What good is the best of tax breaks in the face of the massive Iraq bill, which is now at $200 billion and climbing? The giant sucking sound you hear is the rapid vaporization of wealth draining from American taxpayers.

More importantly, what good are these financial considerations if the very peace and survival of Americans are threatened?

This brings us to the signature selling point of the Bush camp. Many Americans who might differ with him on other issues, may yet tilt in his favor because they see him as tough on terrorism.

However, is being tough the same as being effective? Some of the toughest, most punitive parents end up with kids who grow up to be monsters. Similar are the results we are reaping from the current "tough" doctrine of preemptive, and practically unilateral, action against Iraq.

Ironically, and against all evidence, half of America (judging from polls), sees invading Iraq as fighting terrorism. They credit the President for taking this fight to "their" shores. Is terrorism a packaged that can be shipped around? Who exactly are "they"? Were Iraqis a part of "them" ? those who rammed into our towers? Attacking Iraq for 9/11 is no different than, for example, attacking the U.S. for crimes committed by French nationals. Both fit the labels of "Christian," "Caucasian," and "Western" ? not unlike the labels we used to justify our action in the absence of WMDs: "Muslim", "Arab", and "Middle Eastern". It is true that Islam is disproportionately tainted with violent fundamentalism. But unless Americans learn to distinguish the masses of that region from the terrorists, we will only feed the later.

The decision to attack Iraq is further mind boggling because of its monumental counter-productivity. As bad as Saddam was, he had managed to keep Iraq the most secular of countries in that region, and hence free from the jihadi passion that is the trademark of Islamic fundamentalists. Sadly, that is not what can be said of the country today. Thanks to the rich manure provided by our invasion, Iraq is now robustly fertile to produce anti-American terror ? as is evident daily. What is not evident, are the dangerous plans that are likely shaping up against us on our own soil, thanks to the many new recruits to the likes of al-Qaeda.

Iraq epitomizes the criminal lack of prudence, foresight, and effective execution that this administration is endlessly riddled with. Rank immaturity bordering on the juvenile, crude power plays and misguided bravado are its hallmark. Substance, synergy, tact, nuance, and yes?sensitivity ? some of the strengths of leadership ? are alien to it. While leading a country that is a beacon for democracy, it has favored a style that is largely authoritarian, whether internationally or nationally. Simplistic, comic-book phrases like "The axis of evil", "Old Europe," and "You are either with us or against us," go against the sagely advice of President Theodore Roosevelt: "Speak softly but carry a big stick." The blatant aggression over Iraq goes against the tenets of every major religion as well as of philosophy, psychology, and corporate acumen known to mankind. Whether one references the Bible or Mahatma Gandhi or a modern day guru such as Stephen Covey, none can help sustain its validity. Everything from why we did it, to how we went into it, to how we have bungled it past the childish euphoria of "mission accomplished," would be an embarrassment even to a tin-pot dictator.

Still, it matters little if one wishes to believe that the Iraq invasion was the most prudent course of action in our fight against terrorism; that Bush's fiscal policies are the most brilliant ever; and that Bush is the most principled and strongest leader ever. What matters are the hardcore facts; the ground realities that are beyond dispute. Such as, on Bush's watch:

� By the government's own admission, a nuclear attack on America is very likely in the near future.

� Independent bipartisan panels have concluded that there was no link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. The conclusion being that invading Iraq has actually made us more vulnerable, not less, to a nuclear attack.

� The number of poor, unemployed and uninsured has gone up, despite claims of an economic rebound.

� Doctrines such as "Separation of State and Church" which were cherished American ideals for two centuries have been defied, as Christian fundamentalism has colored the Presidency.

� Abuse of the considerations rightly given to the government in the wake of September 11, has resulted in a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. The spirit of America was its pride that it was the polar opposite of police states such as Russia. Now our government is tainted with such behavior ? even where matters have not been directly relevant to fighting terrorism.

� The institutions that need to work collectively in protecting us, such as the Oval Office, the FBI, the CIA, and the office of the Secretary of the State are caught up in passing the buck and poor team morale.

� Globally, America is now broadly perceived as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Does that help or hurt our fight against terrorism?

� Thanks to Abu Ghraib, America's moral superiority has been shattered. [When the administration tries to distance itself from this, one wonders: If we were unable to spot this right under our noses, how are we ever going to be able to protect ourselves from terrorists who will be many notches sneakier? They will certainly not be taking prolific photos of themselves in the act!]

� Thanks to our crying wolf about, and entanglement with Iraq, we are now reduced to spectators while both North Korea and Iran boldly proceed with their nuclear ambition. Militarily and diplomatically we have reduced ourselves to impotentency.

JOHN KERRY MAY AS WELL BE A NON-ENTITY

With such a tract record, sadly, the "Anyone but Bush" mantra is not a knee-jerk reaction motivated by a personal judgment, but rather, makes for a sound national policy in the best interests of America.

Kerry may well be a non-entity. Thankfully, he appears to be more. He surely must have his share of warts; and we will certainly come to know of them more if he becomes the next president.

But for now, we may need to get down on our knees and pray for a "flip-flopper" rather than a kamikaze pilot who will "stay the course".

To his credit, Kerry appears to be nuanced enough to understand that fighting the slimy and slippery problem of terrorism with brute power is like placing a wooden block against the foundation of a home in order to cut off a trail of termites. Instead of protecting the home, it adds fuel to the problem.

Kerry seems one to know that leading America is not about the stubbornness of a mule, but rather about the strategy and resolve of a chess player. And that protection against terrorism has more to do with impenetrable defenses (an area that this administration has largely ignored) combined with a responsible international conduct (No, this does not mean routing our national security through the UN).

Incredible as it may seem to Dick Cheney, Kerry seems sensitivity enough to ask questions: Who really are the "evil-doers"? Were the 20,000 Iraqi civilians who died evil? Could the following observation about terrorists, by author William Blum, be true ? "A ?terrorist' is someone who has a bomb but doesn't have an Air Force"?

The purpose here is not to demoralize us. Al Qaeda is indeed a group of murderers. America is indeed beautiful. But that does not give us a blanket stamp of superiority and righteousness in all our global interactions.

With Bush, we are heavily overdrawn on our righteousness. It is time to retrace our steps and balance our checkbooks? in more ways than one.

Finally, if such "abstract nonsense" is not for you, maybe you are concerned with just self-survival. If so, I leave you with the wise words of the Vice President, "It's absolutely essential that? we make the right choice because, if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we will get hit again."


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