Colleen Graffy: I tremble to admit it in group-think Britain, but I will be voting Bush

People can't believe there is any alternative to the idea that Bush is bad
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The Independent Online

Group Think has taken hold of Britain. Bush is bad and any facts to the contrary are unacceptable. To open one's mouth to contradict the Group Think clears a party by 15 feet. Supporters of Bush are wary of being too public with their views in case it affects their business or relationships. To my knowledge there is only one person in this country who dares to display a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker and his car is subjected to almost daily doses of unmentionable items representing disapproval.

Clearly many individuals have arrived at their views thoughtfully and carefully. Even if passions rise they are genuinely interested in intelligent discussion and testing their perceptions. But for many, and who can blame them, the information is so one-sided that they find it difficult to believe there can be any alternative but that Bush is bad. As the Group Think takes hold and alternative opinions become scarce, the Group Think is reinforced.

How often have we heard that Bush had never or rarely travelled outside of the US before becoming President? Not true. That he doesn't read? Not true. That he "doesn't believe" in climate change? Not true. That he is dumb? Recent news puts his IQ higher than Kerry's. And the list goes on.

Yet how many times have we heard about Bush's commitment to Africa? That he has met more African heads of state than any other president in US history? That during the past three years America has given more international Aids assistance than the rest of the world's donor governments combined? That he has committed an unprecedented $15bn to fight HIV/Aids, $1bn for clean drinking water, and millions to stop human trafficking, particularly affecting woman and children caught in slave trade and sexual slavery? Rarely.

How many dinner parties are discussing Bush's intelligent Millennium Challenge Account that provides the largest increase in US development assistance since the Marshall Plan? Or the Proliferation Security Initiative, a successful multilateral effort to stop WMD proliferation? Or that, as opposed to the Clinton administration's dithering as 800,000 people died in Rwanda, the Bush administration has been working with Sudan for more than two years calling the actions in Darfur genocide, while the UN has not yet made up its mind?

Group Think is not unknown here. President Reagan was viewed as stupid and inarticulate. There were protests across the world against the warmonger president who placed Pershing II missiles against the Soviet Union's SS 20s. He was seen as a cowboy who used unsophisticated and embarrassing language like "evil empire" and "Mr Gorbachev, tear down that wall." He was mocked and derided because he had the vision and will to see that communism could and should be defeated.

President Bush has jolted the international community by daring to believe that liberty can and should be spread to the Middle East. It's seismic. It's scary. But the idea that there should be fundamental freedom for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion is not a US ideal. It is embodied in the United Nations Charter.

The security of our world is not found merely in spheres of influence, or some balance of power. The security of our world is found in advancing the rights of mankind. And that requires leadership. The sort of leadership that has changed Afghanistan from a failed state to a fledgling democracy. That has changed Iraq - despite the daily tragedies, uncertainties and setbacks - from a rogue state to a recovering state.

John Kerry's leadership includes voting against the first Gulf War even though there was an invasion of Kuwait, multilateral backing by allies and a UN resolution.

Bush's vision is to spread liberty and freedoms in the Middle East. It is as difficult and challenging a vision as it is hopeful and exciting.

Kerry's vision, beginning from his days at Yale to his "which way does the wind blow" leadership in the Senate, was and is to become president. I know which vision I prefer and those able to rise above the Group Think may find that they actually agree.

Prof Colleen Graffy of Pepperdine University is former chairman of Republicans Abroad UK

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