By BERNARD KERIK
November 1, 2004 -- TOMORROW, America will decide who will lead our nation for the next four years. For the future of my family, my country and the principles I have based my life upon, I'm walking into the voting booth and pulling the lever for President Bush.
I am voting for George W. Bush because he has shown me that he has the resolve and the strength to fight and win the war against terrorism. In this year's presidential election, the first held since the attacks of 9/11, the most important election in our lifetime, these qualities have never been more critical.
I'm voting for President Bush because I was the commissioner of the New York City Police Department on 9/11 and I watched the planes crash into the World Trade Center, and take the lives of 23 of my cops, 37 Port Authority officers, 343 firefighters and almost 2,400 innocent civilians. And three days later, George Bush was at my side, and standing shoulder to shoulder with the grief stricken heroes still searching for survivors. He stood with us at the site of the worst attack in U.S. history and delivered a promise we desperately needed to hear — that the madmen responsible for this evil "would hear from us."
I'm voting for President Bush because he fulfilled that promise in three months, breaking the Taliban and al Qaeda's hold on Afghanistan and turning a terrorist breeding ground, responsible for training more than 20,000 fanatics, into a democracy, where the first presidential vote in Afghan history was cast by a 19-year-old woman.
I am voting for President Bush because he understands that there will be no easy victories in the war against terror.
Someone guided only by political winds, someone whose vision is narrowed by the fear of controversy and criticism — someone like John Kerry — might have closed the book with the fall of the Taliban. After all, Sen. Kerry has shown as much in his votes against liberating Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War, his vote to reduce our nation's intelligence budget one year after the first bombing of the World Trade Center, his repeated votes to slash our military and weapons systems.
But the president stood at the gravesite known as Ground Zero and saw with his own eyes the death and devastation that terrorism leaves in its wake, the children whose fathers and mothers would never come home, the parents that now had to bury their sons and daughters. And in that moment he understood what John Kerry cannot grasp — that our nation cannot endure another 9/11, that we can't afford to be defensive in the War on Terror, that the next plot might not be against our skyscrapers but our schools, that the next Madrid could be Penn Station and the next Beslan, Russia could be Bayonne, New Jersey.
I am voting for President Bush because he understands this threat, and he has responded, building from the ground up a Department of Homeland Security that links 22 agencies and 180,000 federal employees together into a single, unified effort, and an Information Network that puts them in direct contact with another 700,000 law enforcement officers nationwide.
For the first time, these brave men and women were given a national strategy to follow, one that is focused on intelligence and warning, transportation security, and defending against catastrophic events. And to make sure they had the tools to do the job, President Bush tripled the Homeland Security budget and delivered the Patriot Act, which allowed these officers to share information in a way they had never been able to before, to uncover terror cells in Lackawanna New York, and foil terrorist plots against the Brooklyn Bridge.
I am voting for President Bush because he understands that if we don't fight the enemy at their source with soldiers and tanks we will end up fighting them in our cities with cops and firefighters. John Kerry says wrong war, wrong time, but forgets to mention the thousands that Saddam Hussein murdered, the rewards he paid to the families of suicide bombers, the terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi he sponsored and harbored.
I spent four months in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, I saw the brutality he left behind, the hatred for America he cultivated, the threat he was building. I know our world is safer now that he is gone.
When I cast my vote, I am going to remember these moments. I am going to remember what I lost on 9/11, and how I felt on that morning. I'm going to reflect on what I would have thought on that day if I had heard someone like John Kerry speak to me about global tests, about nuisances, about how this day "didn't change me much at all."
And then I am going to vote for President George W. Bush.
Bernard B. Kerik served as the 40th Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department and as Interim Minister of the Interior and Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Presidential Envoy in Iraq.