From where I was sitting, John Kerry's performance at last week's Democratic Convention was the most powerful argument yet offered for voting for Ralph Nader. And the fact that Michael Moore dropped to his knees over the weekend in the company of Bill Maher begging Nader to withdraw only fuels my certainty. Across this year Moore has swiveled from Wesley Clark to Kerry, denied to Jay Leno that he supports the Democrats and fibbed about his advice to Nader in 2000, so who wants to be in the same corner as him, assuming he stayed in one corner long enough for anyone to identify it? Here's John Kerry, offering himself as a man of war, as a former prosecutor, as a candidate who hasn't got one single substantive, useful idea about turning the U.S. economy around and improving the overall state of the world. The only difference from Bush he can identify is that he went to Vietnam, killed Vietnamese and collected a bunch of medals, which some of his Navy colleagues who fought there at the same time say he didn't deserve.

        So when it comes to war-fighting in the service of Empire, he's far more bloodthirsty. Come next January, the Anyone behind the desk in the Oval Office may be a bit taller. There'll be those medals on the bookshelf he prudently didn't throw away. Most everything else will stay the same. Kerry's been pretty clear about that, letting his core constituencies know that as President Anyone he's not going to cut them any favors.

        The nation's hungry, its underemployed, its jobless? In April, Kerry announced that his economic strategy will be to wage war on the deficit, which means he'll do nothing to alleviate problem No. 1 in American today, which is the lack of jobs and the rotten pay for those lucky enough to have some form of work.

        Women? Kerry, the man who voted for Bill Clinton's savage assault (labeled "welfare reform") on poor women, said he might well appoint anti-abortion judges, adding magnanimously that he wouldn't want such appointments to lead to the overturning of Roe v Wade.

        Kerry vows to put more cops on the streets, and there'll be no intermission in the war on drugs, which has played a large part in producing the memorable statistic issued by the Justice Department last week, to the effect that the number of people caught in the toils of the criminal justice system grew by 130,700 last year. The grand total is now nearly 6.9 million, either in jail in prison, on probation and on parole, amounting to 3.2 percent of the adult population in the United States. In many cities in the United States a young black man faces a far better chance of getting locked up than of getting a job, since the lock-up is the definitive bipartisan response of both Democrats and Republicans to the theories of John Maynard Keynes. Blacks have got less than nothing from Kerry, aside from his wife's declaration that she, too, is an African American, yet the Congressional Black Caucus cheers the man who voted for welfare reform and devotes its time to flaying Ralph Nader.

        The "Anyone But" strategy favored by most progressives has meant that Kerry has never had his feet held to the fire by any faction of the Democratic Party. This has been the year of surrendering quietly.

        War in Iraq? A majority of the country wants out, certainly most Democrats. Kerry wants in, even more than Bush. When the DNC told Kucinich to stuff his peace plank, Kucinich tugged his forelock and told his followers to shuffle back in under the Big Tent and help elect a man who pledges to fight the war in Iraq better and longer than Bush. Feminist leaders kept their mouths shut when Kerry flew his kite about nominating anti-choice judges. Gay leaders didn't open their lips to utter so much as a squeak when Kerry declared his opposition to same-sex marriages and to civil unions. Did we hear from Norman Lear and People for the American Way as Kerry, the man who voted for the Patriot Act, revived his Tipper Gore-ish posturing about the evils of popular culture? Of course we didn't, even though Kerry voted for the unconstitutional Communications Decency, a piece of legislation that even the prudish Joe Lieberman couldn't stomach.

        Kerry told James Hoffa of the Teamsters this spring that he wouldn't touch the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but would "drill everywhere else like never before." There wasn't a bleat from the big environmental groups. He pledged the same policy again to the American Gas Association a couple of months later, throwing in the prospect of a new trans-Alaska-Canada pipeline for natural gas from the Arctic. Once again the big environmental groups held their tongues.

        True, Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees threw a gobbet of red meat onto the Convention floor by confiding to the Washington Post's David Broder that another four years of Bush might be less damaging than the stifling of needed reform within the party and the labor movement that would occur if Kerry becomes president. After a couple hours of being forced to stand on a milk crate with a copy of the party platform over his head and electrodes attached to his groin Stern recanted and said he was "a hundred percent" for Kerry. Thus ended labor's great revolt against a candidate who has cast his share of votes in U.S. Congress to ensure job flight from America and whose commitment to the living standards of working people is aptly resumed in his pledge to raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour by 2007, which is still far, far below what the minimum wage was worth in purchasing power when it peaked in the late 1960s.

        Contrast the liberal-progressive refusal to raise any sort of trouble with the robust comment of the conservative organizer Paul Weyrich, who recently remarked, "For all of their brilliance, (Ken) and Mehlman and Karl Rove … made a very serious mistake with this (Republican) Convention's line-up. It is one that the rank and file should not tolerate. If the president is embarrassed to be seen with conservatives at the convention, maybe conservatives will be embarrassed to be seen with the president on Election Day."

        For all the interminable thundering about the evils of George Bush, the man has done a very respectable job of sabotaging the American Empire, which is probably why so many liberals hate him. They think he's a national embarrassment, hurling Imperial America over his handlebars, landing on its ass amid world derision. But as Gabriel Kolko remarks in his contribution to Dime's Worth of Difference, the new collection edited by Jeffrey St. Clair and myself (details on our CounterPunch Website, "the United States will be more prudent, and the world will be far safer, only if it is constrained by a lack of allies and isolated. And that is happening. ... Inadvertently, the Bush Administration has begun to destroy an alliance system that for the world's peace should have been abolished long ago. The Democrats are far less likely to continue that process. ... As dangerous as he is, Bush's reelection is much more likely to produce the continued destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to American power in the long run. ... "

        Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.