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William S. Becker Headshot

Season of the Bogeymen

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It makes sense that the presidential election is held so close to Halloween. It is a season when politicians wear disguises, strategists raise old issues from the dead, and the campaigns unleash armies of bogeymen to scare the wits out of us.

That's the case in this election. Since the last one, the party that lost the presidency has waged a battle of fear over hope. Its supporters have haunted us with scary false rumors: the president was not born in the United States; the president is a socialist; the president will take away our right to bear arms; our president is a Muslim like the terrorists who attack us. These bogeymen would be entertaining except the more paranoid and intellectually challenged members of the electorate believe they're real.

It is remarkable at this stage in the presidential campaign that the candidates are dead even. President Obama's opponents have called him the worst in history, but that title belongs to a president who digs the country into deep holes, not a president who struggles to get us out.

One of the basic requirements of a president is that we can trust him. Mitt Romney has made big promises, but he won't reveal the details of how he'll keep them. He has reversed his past positions and his tone on a wide array of important issues, from global climate change to foreign policy, and from health care reform to energy policy. He has shown himself to be a chameleon, a weather vane and a flip-flopper so often that we do not know who Mitt Romney is, what he really believes or what he'd do in office. For some voters, apparently, it is enough that he is not Barack Obama.

Romney leads a political party that has no qualms about engaging in character assassination with rumors that are unfounded, but that once launched cannot be recalled. They have become the Death Eaters of politics. Neither party is without sin here, but Republicans exhibit special viciousness. In recent elections, they branded John McCain, one of their own, as fathering a child out of wedlock and maligned John Kerry's courage as a Vietnam veteran.

Romney is the chosen son of a party whose practices in office cross the line into unethical and illegal. In the Bush Administration, for example, Dick Cheney invited the oil industry to write America's energy policy and refused to say who was involved. President Bush followed up by appointing oil company lobbyists to key government positions, turning the White House into a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Oil and allowing them to edit and weaken the findings of federal climate scientists.

Romney's energy policy is another homage to Big Oil and King Coal. It would help those industries to reap even bigger profits while emitting even more pollution. It completely ignores global climate change although 70 percent of Americans accept that global warming is real, 74 percent say it's affecting our weather, 57 percent believe it is a threat to the country and 72 percent say it should be a high priority for the president and Congress.

The Bush administration outed an active American intelligence agent in violation of the law and at great risk to other agents around the world. It sent our troops into Iraq to fight a war waged off-budget and justified with erroneous information. To prosecute the war in Iraq, it pulled troops from Afghanistan, allowing religious extremists and terrorists to regain power there. The result is America's longest war, a legacy that gives us a new generation of young Americans with severe physical and emotional wounds and with damaged families and careers.

The last Republican administration triggered the Great Recession. It stood by while Wall Street ripped off investors and became complicit in the collapse of the housing market, which eventually forced millions of Americans to lose their homes.

Voted out of the White House but into the majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans marched lock-step in a strategy of show-votes and no-votes meant not to solve America's problems, but to pander to the Tea Party and to win the next election. The party placed politics above the national interest.

Throughout all of this, honorable Republicans and the Rational Wing of the party have remained largely silent, failing to repudiate slimy politics and slander or its consistent service to moneyed special interests over the concerns of the electorate. The party's campaign to put orthodoxy ahead of climate science ranks up there with the trials of Galileo.

This is the party that is asking the American people to return to power.

Handed an awful legacy and inhibited by partisan obstructionism, Obama has been expected to fix in four years what took his predecessor eight years to break. Despite the intense demands of emergency repair work on the economy, Obama managed to make historic changes in health care and Wall Street reform. His administration established vehicle efficiency levels that will significantly reduce pollution across the nation. He ended a war we should not have fought, and he's well along in ending the other. While he has at times seemed aloof, his policies evidence a warm heart while his performance as Commander in Chief has proven that he has the requisite ice in his veins.

As Obama pointed out in the third presidential debate, he has shown he mean what he says and says what he means. He has not been the messiah that many voters expected in 2008, but he is trustworthy, steady, intelligent and, and as recent economic indicators show, capable of getting us back to a stable economy. His efforts to build a clean energy economy are the right direction for America's future.

At various difficult times in American politics, we have been admonished to stay the course and to not change horses in the middle of the stream. In this election, a Romney administration would pull Obama's economic recovery up by the roots just as it's beginning to bear fruit.

Whatever his other virtues, Mitt Romney's inconsistencies and lack of candor in this election indicate either that he doesn't want the American people to know what he stands for or he doesn't know himself.

I'm a avowed independent, not a Republican or a Democrat. From this perspective outside of party politics, I say again: It's incredible that the race is so close.

Bill Becker is a former official of the U.S. Department of Energy who served under Republican and Democratic presidents. His views in this post are his own, and do not necessary represent those of the organizations with which he now works.