Mason Experts Address Key Issues in Presidential Election

Posted: October 27, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Election Day 2004 is just six days away. Pundits and polls are still predicting a tight race. All indications are that voters have had a difficult time deciding between candidates on national security, health care policies, and the environment. In an effort to provide our readers with additional clarification on these key issues, the Gazette asked George Mason’s experts to provide their analysis. Beginning with national security, each day between now and the election we will offer a brief summary of where each candidate stands. Comments on the series can be e-mailed to

National Security: Where the Candidates Stand

By James Pfiffner, professor of public policy

James Pfiffner
James Pfiffner
Photo by Evan Cantwell

President Bush campaigned for office in 2000 arguing that the United States should take a “humble” approach to foreign policy, and should not engage in nation building. Sen. John Kerry shared a similar view of the role of the United States. However, the atrocities of 9/11 transformed the political landscape and drew the United States into a war in Afghanistan—a war that, at the time, was also supported by Sen. Kerry. President Bush’s actions immediately after 9/11 won him very high levels of public support. The country, still stunned at the thought of more terror attacks, was unified under his leadership, and the president enjoyed broad support throughout the world in its reaction.

Yet, three years later, as Bush ran for reelection, the nation was deeply divided over his presidency and the war in Iraq, and international support had melted away. President Bush framed the 2004 election as a referendum on his national security policy. Although initially Sen. Kerry supported the war for the reasons President Bush presented to Congress, he later criticized the way that President Bush conducted the war.

Both Bush and Kerry have promised to continue military efforts in Iraq; both support persevering until a democratically elected Iraqi government can take over.

If Bush is reelected, the country can expect the president to continue an aggressive national security policy, including military involvement in the Middle East. Kerry, in contrast, will favor strong coalition-building and a gradual build-down of military involvement in Iraq.

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