This year may be an off-year election, but it is surely one of the most important in recent history. The Bush administration has done incalculable damage in its first six years, and the nation will have to endure two more years with the Bush team in charge. Only Congress can begin to put an end to the madness.
The tragedy in Iraq has killed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and whether we stay or leave, there will be great suffering. The situation in Afghanistan worsens, and the Taliban is back, in fine form. And as the danger builds in North Korea and Iran, the country is ruled by an administration that has turned belligerence into a foreign-policy art form -- and that has thumbed its nose at nations whose cooperation we badly need.
The administration has protected and handed out big favors to its corporate friends. It has turned a budget surplus into a megadeficit. Masquerading as the friend of the working class, it has given tax cuts to the rich while the costs of the war in Iraq have mushroomed.
It has turned important institutions like the FDA over to anti-science conservatives. It values the interests of the pharmaceutical industry above those of ordinary Americans. Among the results: blocking funding for stem-cell research and continued high prices for prescription drugs.
Then there are the principles this nation once stood for. There, last week, was the president of the United States, grinning as he signed a bill that legalizes torture and denies the crucial right of habeas corpus to detainees at Guantanamo.
Through all of this, Republicans in Congress --- including the three representing the Greater Rochester area --- have supported the administration. In fact, in their voting all three --- Tom Reynolds, Randy Kuhl, and Jim Walsh --- have been among the president's strongest supporters.
On November 7, voters in the Greater Rochester area can help put the breaks on the Bush administration. Senator Hillary Clinton and longtime Democratic incumbent Louise Slaughter should be re-elected. And voters should replace Kuhl, Reynolds, and Walsh with Democrats Eric Massa, Jack Davis, and Dan Maffei. They have strengths in their own right, and together they can form a coalition to block the Bush agenda.
(We'll have coverage of the Congressional races in our November 1 issue.)
Reform the state
In this state this year, there are certainly plenty of issues: the Upstate economy, education, the state debt, public-authority reform, stem-cell research, health care. But one issue overshadows all the others: governmental reform.
The Brennan Center at New York University's law school has spelled out the need for reform, as have numerous articles by media throughout the state, including this newspaper. None of the other issues will be dealt with adequately until we have reform in Albany. And New Yorkers will not have a real democracy until we have reform.
In the state legislature races in the Greater Rochester area, there are a number of strong candidates --- candidates we would endorse, in an ordinary year. But until there is reform, with few exceptions, it won't make much difference who goes to Albany to represent us.
In place of endorsements, then, for the State Assembly and State Senate we suggest that voters join the citizen reform movement and write in the word "reform" on the ballot. It's easy to do that on voting machines. There's a tab above individual offices at the top of the machine; push that up to expose paper for the write-in vote. The slot will close automatically when you pull the red lever to record all of your votes.
A pencil should be in the voting machine. And if you have questions or need assistance, ask an elections inspector before you close the curtain.
For governor, we endorse --- with hope and concern --- Eliot Spitzer. There's been way too much "trust me" in this campaign. But he has been more specific in his campaign than he has been given credit for. And he has the strength, the political savvy, and the experience to lead the state in the kinds of reform we need.
Spitzer has plenty of insider contacts, and our fear is that he will not be interested in doing the head-knocking necessary to break Albany out of the lethargy, power-grabbing, and political partisanship that gotten this state into the mess it's in. Our hope is that, backed by voters' cry for reform, he'll be able to pull Assembly and Senate leaders together to work on behalf of the interests of the people of New York.
About all voters can do at this point is give Spitzer a strong endorsement, and hope that other state leaders will recognize that as an insistence on change.
As for the comptroller's race: We've been a fan of Alan Hevesi, but no more. There is no excuse for his using taxpayer money to provide a chauffeur for his wife. There is no excuse for his not knowing it was wrong --- particularly since he had done the same thing when he was comptroller of New York City, and had been criticized for it then. And his insistence that he meant to repay the state is shallow; he kept no records so that he could do that properly.
He ought to resign. Now.
Want to respond to our endorsements? Our last issue before the election is November 7. We'll need your comments --- 350 words max --- by the end of the day Friday, October 27. Write us at themail@Rochester-citynews.com.