Keeping our eye on the ball

Unending debates about who has the best military record provide little guidance.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has charged repeatedly that President George W. Bush took his eye off the ball when he shifted attention from al-Qaida terrorists to Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The same could be said when it comes to this fall’s election.

Keeping our eye on the ball means focusing on the issues that pose the greatest challenges to U.S. peace and prosperity in the coming years. We shirk our democratic responsibilities when we distract ourselves with never-ending polls and negative campaigning.

With that in mind, today we begin a series highlighting the issues that matter most in this election. Every Monday and Thursday we’ll cover a different issue in depth, including where the candidates stand. We hope this series will remind students what’s at stake this Nov. 2, and help them make an informed choice.

The 2004 race for president is the most momentous election in recent U.S. history. Serious differences divide Bush and Kerry on issues varying from reforming the health-care system to the United States’ role in the international community.

Moving our country forward in the face of a jobless economic recovery, preventing another terrorist attack and ending the violence in Iraq will require sound policies and the right approach. As voters, we have a responsibility to make our choices for president on the merits of the candidates. That means paying attention to real issues rather than the latest polls or what happened 35 years ago.

Polling results are notoriously volatile and unreliable. Tweak the methodology of a poll and a winner turns into a loser. Include the margin of error, and a gaping lead becomes a dead heat. Follow the polls too closely, and you might just give up on the candidate who’s behind or throw your support behind the projected winner.

Bitter allegations over 35-year-old events are equally distracting. Few deny that character is an important quality in a president. But unending debates about who has the best military record provide little guidance on which candidate will make the best president.

This election season, there are simply better things to talk about, and Thursday we’ll begin that conversation.