Mercifully the conventions are over, having left in their wake new records for incivility, innuendo, distortion, obfuscation and in a few cases outright perjury.

Neither party shows any willingness to get beyond memorable catch phrases and actually discuss achievable solutions for the major problems which confront our country.

Perhaps we were right in taking out Saddam, maybe wrong. The real issue now is how do we convince others to share the staggering cost in both financial and human terms which today is virtually all borne by U.S. taxpayers and troops?

Is there any reason to believe that democracy will ever flourish in the Middle East with thousands of years of ethnic and religious hatred and intolerance? If you believe that the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds will unite under one freely elected leader and accept the long term presence of the U.S. military than the tooth fairy lives, breathes and supports Bush/Cheney. In the scheme of things who really cares how badly wounded Kerry was 30 years ago, or whether “W” ever showed up for Air National Guard duty?

If you really believe that John Kerry can balance the budget, provide universal healthcare and maintain our military superiority by simply repealing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, then Santa Claus will be riding a donkey in November.

Bush claims to want government out of our lives so we can make free choices, yet supports a platform which advocates repeal of Roe v. Wade and a constitutional ban on any same sex union. This is perhaps the least compassionate administration in our history whether it be for the environment, the oppressed, or the underprivileged. Guys like Giuliani, McCain and Schwarzenegger were simply window dressing in an effort to balance the really mean spirited and nasty hyperbole of Cheney and Zell Miller.

Does anyone really believe the egomaniacal Giuliani moments after 9/11 turned to his chief of police and said, “Thank God George W. Bush is president.” It is more likely that he saw what has proved to have been a multimillion dollar speaking and consulting opportunity and an outside shot at the top job a few years down the road.

Neither Bush nor Kerry has enough guts to stand up to the gun lobby/NRA and their rabid reactionary constituents to support all law enforcement and the majority of Americans in renewing the assault weapons ban which has been law for over a decade.

For John Kerry to ridicule Bush for the military decision to send Afghan troops into the caves to find Bin Laden, with no direct knowledge of the thought process or recommendations of the U.S. senior officers, is as inappropriate and misleading as Dick Cheney’s and Zell Miller’s distortion of Kerry’s 20-year Senate voting record.

Everyone knows that without a major overhaul, and absolute fiscal responsibility (revenues = expenditures), the Social Security system will be bankrupt by 2040. As it is unlikely that either guy will be around by then and as members of the wealthiest power elite have no need for benefits, this is an issue on which both remain silent.

It is questionable whether Kerry would be any more likely than Bush to actually confront the energy, timber, drug, insurance, gun lobbyists and power brokers who provide the money to develop the attack ads which apparently decide elections.

In spite of the enormously costly Boston and New York City-based political spectacles, at present, according to most polls, about half of the likely voters in the upcoming presidential election support the incumbent, from the writer’s point of view a miracle comparable to the Parting of the Red Sea, or perhaps a sad commentary on the strength of the opposition or the intellectual acumen of the voting public.

Since taking office Bush has squandered a $6 trillion dollar budget surplus, alienated many of our most important allies, weakened or abrogated vital long standing treaty commitments and by prematurely invading Iraq clearly made the world more vulnerable to terrorism.

Kerry supported the decision to invade Iraq and for inexplicable reasons recently confirmed in spite of the fact there was no basis for assuming Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs, nuclear proliferation, links to Al Qaeda or 9/11, he still would have supported the president’s decision. We may never know if members of the Bush administration deliberately manufactured bad intelligence or attempted to invent facts to validate a predetermined invasion until after the election.

Save Bush, the overwhelming preponderance of knowledgeable people believe the war has significantly galvanized anti-American extremists and substantially increased the likelihood of another terrorist incident on our soil.

In spite of the fact that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have begun to question their support for invasion had they known the extent of the weakness in our intelligence, to the man the Republicans are unified behind the president who treats Iraq and the war on terror as the centerpiece of his accomplishments during his first term in office.

The Supreme Court has recently decided we aren’t entitled to know what Ken Lay and his cronies felt was the proper course of action for Cheney to follow with his energy task force, and we are asked to believe that W’s military records were accidentally destroyed making it impossible to know when or if he served.

The ongoing investigation of the Abu Grahib scandal now reveals a situation totally out of control for thousands of prisoners housed inhumanely, surviving tainted, rat-infested food, subject to intimidation and torture.

Fahrenheit 9/11 for all of its anti-Bush bias reveals in the president an indisputable shallowness and insensitivity, particularly when he addresses a black tie dinner by welcoming the “haves, the have mores, not the elite, but his core.” This at a time when poor rural Americans are dying killing Iraqi civilians who never have or could have posed a threat to the U.S. The arrogance of the Saudis whose people were largely responsible for 9/11, and the rapaciousness of the firms like Halliburton who have profiteered obscenely on the backs of the U.S. taxpayers, reflects unfavorably on the Bush/Cheney team.

As each candidate supports full funding of our military effort in Iraq, it is unclear that either will have a solution to help the million more people who have achieved poverty levels under the Bush doctrine, while over $200 billion dollars has been shifted into the Iraqi quagmire.

Both candidates and their parties claim to represent the best of our family values. Compassion, fiscal responsibility, social justice, leveling the playing field, equal opportunity, fairness – these should not be partisan qualifiers, but rather the core values for all Americans. What this country really needs are effective bipartisan programs to improve the quality of people’s lives, not endless platitudes and vicious verbiage designed to impugn the integrity and the intentions of their respective competitors. In the 21st Century America doesn’t need a liberal or conservative court, it needs a court whose decisions protect every American’s fundamental rights and enhance their opportunity to fully participate in the American dream.

It is this issue, and perhaps this issue only, which in the next 60 days is likely to have the most profound effect as a result of the outcome of the election. While it is possible during a second term that Bush would resist the temptation to appoint another Thomas/Scalia-type Supreme Court justice, it is unlikely he could resist his mean-spirited core constituents. With a Republican congress it is unlikely that Kerry would have any luck in appointing ultraliberal justices and with three or four likely openings imminent, would probably sustain for the foreseeable future a rather moderate and even- handed court.

While it’s possible that events will conspire to change the dynamics of what has been a pretty ugly and discouraging process, it is not likely that any change will be for the better.