George W. Bush and John Kerry

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Faith Lapidus.

And I’m Steve Ember. On November second, the United States will hold general elections. Americans will vote for national, state and local representatives. They also will choose a president, as they do every four years. Today we tell about the two major candidates for president.

President George W. Bush is seeking a second term in office. He is the Republican Party candidate. The Democratic Party candidate is John Kerry. He is a member of the United States Senate.

Americans in past elections sometimes objected that the major candidates seemed to agree about many issues. Clearly, that is not true this year. George W. Bush and John Kerry each say they can protect Americans from harm and improve the economy. But the two men have very different ideas about how the United States should be governed.

In some ways, the lives of both candidates are similar. Both were born into well-educated families. They had more wealth than average Americans. Mr. Kerry’s father was a Foreign Service officer for the State Department. Mr. Bush’s father served four years as President. He had been Vice President for eight years and held several other high-level positions in government.

George W. Bush and John Kerry attended some of the best schools in the United States. Both men are married and the fathers of two adult daughters. Mr. Bush’s wife Laura is a former teacher.

Mr. Kerry’s wife Teresa is chairman of two large aid organizations. She accepted the position after her first husband, Senator John Heinz, died in nineteen ninety-one.

George W. Bush was born in the state of Connecticut in nineteen forty-six. However, he grew up in Texas. He graduated from Yale University in Connecticut. During the Vietnam War, he was a fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard. This meant he did not have to fight in Vietnam.

Critics have said that Mr. Bush’s father helped his son get a position in the Air National Guard. There also are reports that George W. Bush did not complete all his requirements in the National Guard. But he left the service with honor when his term of duty ended. Then he studied business administration at Harvard Business School in Massachusetts.

Mr. Bush returned to Texas and worked in the energy business. He has said he became serious about Christianity during this period. Since then, he says religion has been important in his life. Mr. Bush worked for his father’s campaign for president in nineteen eighty-eight. Later, George W. Bush became part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. He was elected governor of Texas in nineteen ninety-four. Four years later, he won a second term in office.

Mr. Bush was the Republican candidate for President four years ago. He defeated Vice President Al Gore in an extremely close, disputed race.

George W. Bush was sworn in as America’s forty-third President on January twentieth, two thousand one. On September eleventh, militants linked to the al-Qaida terror group attacked the United States. Three thousand people were killed in the attacks.

President Bush said the United States would punish those responsible. He also announced what he called a war against terrorism. The Taleban government in Afghanistan had provided support for al-Qaida. The United States military ousted the Taleban and captured suspected al-Qaida supporters.

President Bush supported creation of the USA Patriot Act. This measure increases the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Critics say parts of the law violate Constitutional guarantees of privacy and fair treatment.

In early two thousand two, President Bush told Congress that the war against terrorism was just beginning. He said the United States must stop terrorists from possessing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The President criticized three nations – North Korea, Iran and Iraq. He said they were an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

The United States and Britain invaded Iraq and ousted its leader, Saddam Hussein, last year. Mr. Bush said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the United States. Recently, America’s chief weapons inspector reported that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. But Mr. Bush says intelligence reports showed enough of a threat to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

In June, an American-led coalition gave power to a temporary Iraqi government. Iraq is expected to hold elections in January.

In the United States, one of Mr. Bush’s most popular measures has been a temporary cut in federal income taxes. Now Mr. Bush wants Congress to make the tax cuts permanent.

At his urging, Congress passed a health care law for older adults. He says the new law helps forty million people buy medicines. Congress also approved his program meant to improve education in public schools. Mr. Bush signed an order lifting barriers to ties between the government and organizations established by religious groups. He supports a Constitutional amendment to bar marriages between people of the same sex.

Democratic Party candidate John Kerry was born in Colorado in nineteen forty-three. He completed studies at Yale University in nineteen sixty-six. That year, he joined the United States Navy.

Mr. Kerry was wounded and won honors for his service in the Vietnam War. But, like President Bush, Mr. Kerry’s military service has been criticized.

Some men who served in Vietnam say he lied about some of his actions. But the Navy says it acted correctly in approving and awarding the honors.

Mr. Kerry began to question the Vietnam War after his military service ended. He helped lead other former soldiers in opposing America’s part in the conflict. He asked Congress: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

John Kerry received a degree in law from Boston College in nineteen seventy-six. He became a lawyer for the Massachusetts state government. Then he served two years as lieutenant governor of the state.

Mr. Kerry was first elected to the United States Senate twenty years ago. He is now serving his fourth term. In the Senate, Mr. Kerry has become known for his interest in the environment. For example, he opposes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. President Bush supports it.

Mr. Kerry voted to give President Bush the power to declare war against Iraq. But the Senator criticizes the way the Iraqi conflict has been fought. More than one thousand Americans have died in Iraq since the war started in March of last year. Many Iraqi civilians also have been killed. Mr. Kerry talked about the war in Iraq:

KERRY: “You gotta be able to look in the eyes of families and say to those parents, ‘I tried to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of your son and daughter.’ I don’t believe the United States did that. And we pushed our allies aside.”

President Bush has defended American actions in Iraq. He says they are needed to fight the war against terrorism. The President also has expressed great satisfaction that Iraqis are free of a cruel dictator.

Mr. Kerry says the United States should be recovering faster from a period of weak economic activity. He denounces the growth of the national debt under Mr. Bush’s leadership.

President Bush talked about his economic record:

BUSH: “We delivered historic tax relief, and over the past three years, America has had the fastest growing economy in the industrialized world.”

President Bush also says he wants young workers to place some of the taxes on their pay in private retirement accounts. John Kerry opposes this idea. Mr. Bush opposes most operations to end pregnancies. Mr. Kerry supports a woman’s right to have such an abortion. His position is in disagreement with his religious group, the Roman Catholic Church.

Recent public opinion studies show that support is divided evenly between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Experts say the election in November will be very close. Some people say this will be the most important election in recent times.

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Faith Lapidus.

And I’m Steve Ember. Listen again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.