With the close presidential election coming up in less than a week, the Cornell College Republicans held a rally on Ho Plaza yesterday afternoon to drum up support for President George W. Bush as he campaigns for re-election. In between loud chants of “Four More Years,” a parade of student speakers took to the podium to tout Bush’s record and attack his challenger, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
“Bush has led us with courage and conviction in the fight against terrorism,” said Jamie Weinstein ’06, a Sun columnist, who began the rally with a passionate speech that fired up the crowd. “The world is a safer place and better off now that Saddam Hussein is behind bars,” he added.
Weinstein’s speech set the pattern for the remainder of the rally, combining strong and enthusiastic praise for Bush’s handling of the economy and the war on terror with blistering attacks on Kerry.
Following Weinstein, Mike Lepage ’05, chair of the College Republicans, explained why he opposed Kerry.
“John Kerry has a record of being wrong on every major foreign policy question of the last twenty years,” he said.
Lepage cited Kerry’s vote against the 1991 Gulf War — a war that enjoyed wide international support — as proof that he could not be trusted to make the right decision on foreign policy issues.
Lepage also repeated a frequent claim of the Bush campaign that, “John Kerry has the most liberal voting record in the Senate.”
Kerry, he said, had often voted for tax increases, against defense spending and against being tough on crime.
Lila Ontiveros ’06 addressed concerns that women might have about Bush’s pro-life positions. She implored women to vote based on what was best for “the safety of the country” rather than how they felt about abortion.
About a dozen people protested the message of the rally from across Ho Plaza. Holding up large hand-painted signs, they shouted questions at many of the Republican speakers. When Brett Greenburg ’08 told the assembled students that, “I’m confident that Bush is going to take this election on Tuesday,” one of the protesters shot back, “Take it or win it?”
Jamie Gullen ’07, one of the protesters, vigorously defended Kerry from the Republican attacks.
“Kerry’s record is being manipulated and distorted by the Republicans,” she said. Unlike Bush, she added, Kerry “is a thoughtful and intelligent man with enough experience and judgment to understand that the challenges facing America are complex.”
Another protestor, Hyo Park ’07, attacked Bush’s support for a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
“Bush can’t represent the country without paying attention to the LGBT community,” she said.
The harshest attacks on Kerry came in speeches by Paul Ibrahim ’06, president of the Cornell Coalition For Life; Eric Shive ’07, editor-in-chief of the Cornell American; and Caitlin Shetter ’07.
Ibrahim said that he had spoken with one of the men who was featured in the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” commercials that aired this August. The commercials, which accused Kerry of lies and cowardice relating to his service in Vietnam, are contradicted by the official navy documents dealing with Kerry’s service. However, Ibrahim said that his discussion with a man who claimed to have treated one of Kerry’s wounds in Vietnam convinced him that Kerry was lying about his service.
Shive used his speech to condemn Kerry’s values and accuse him of wanting to leave America unprotected against terrorism.
“Bush supports the values of this country, Kerry shares the values of the elite,” he said. “A vote for Kerry is a vote to arm our troops with spitballs,” Shive added, quoting from Sen. Zell Miller’s (D-Ga.) angry speech at the Republican National Convention.
Shetter attacked Kerry’s religious faith and moral values, while praising Bush as a “very, very good man.”
Kerry claims to be a Catholic, she said “but who is he, a senator from Massachusetts, to quote the Bible?”
According to the CCR, one purpose of the rally was to encourage undecided students to cast their ballots for Bush, while the Democratic protesters said they wanted to make sure undecided students knew the truth about Bush’s record. Yet Steve Kurz ’07, a self-proclaimed undecided voter, remained unconvinced by the arguments of both sides.
“This is my first election, and it’s really a shame to have two unimpressive candidates,” he said. “There should be more to presidential elections than sound-bite campaigning” like what he saw at the rally, Kurz said.
Kurz said he was leaning towards voting for Independent candidate Ralph Nader or Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik, both of whom impressed him with their “honesty and integrity.”
After the rally was over, Lepage explained what he felt was the biggest misconception Cornell students have about President Bush.
“People think that he’s some dumb Texas cowboy. That’s just wrong,” he said.
Archived article by Elijah Reichlin-Melnick
Sun Staff Writer