Now, I will be the first to say that Kerry isn’t the first candidate that comes to my mind as the fellow I want as the next president. I am entirely unimpressed by his vote on the Iraq war. I’m not talking about the second vote on funding—-I agree with his stance there, and I don’t know if he voted against the second iteration of the bill on principle or not, but it doesn’t matter to me, because he proposed the first iteration of the bill (read: the version that actually made sense, in that it funded the war by repealing tax cuts for the wealthy). What I’m unimpressed with is his vote to authorize the president to use force in Iraq, combined with his explanation for it and subsequent distaste for the war. Either he’s deluding himself, or he changed his mind, or he’s a political opportunist. Did he really think that giving Bush the authority to use force in Iraq if he felt like it meant that Bush would only use it as a threat? Like hell. I see his point, and I raise him a baloney.
On the other hand, I despise Bush. I think he encourages unthinking, uninformed, blind followers with his unthinking, uninformed, blind leadership. He’s been a dick about education, stem cell research, science, and the environment, to name just a few things.
The Bush White House has always given us the worst aspects of the American right without any of the advantages. We get the radical goals but not the efficient management. The Department of Education’s handling of the No Child Left Behind Act has been heavily politicized and inept. The Department of Homeland Security is famous for its useless alerts and its inability to distribute antiterrorism aid according to actual threats. Without providing enough troops to properly secure Iraq, the administration has managed to so strain the resources of our armed forces that the nation is unprepared to respond to a crisis anywhere else in the world. 
On the third hand, I’m impressed with Kerry’s performance in the debates, and I appreciate that he was one of the first politicos to recognize the potential for trouble in international organizations without country bonds—-he saw it in the drug war, and wrote a book about it in 1992 or so.
Mr. Kerry has an aggressive and in some cases innovative package of ideas about energy, aimed at addressing global warming and oil dependency. He is a longtime advocate of deficit reduction. In the Senate, he worked with John McCain in restoring relations between the United States and Vietnam, and led investigations of the way the international financial system has been gamed to permit the laundering of drug and terror money. He has always understood that America’s appropriate role in world affairs is as leader of a willing community of nations, not in my-way-or-the-highway domination. 
And, on top of that, I have a generally liberal social view, and Bush irritates the hell out of me on that front (gays, women, education, separation of church & state, etc.).
(NOTE: I am ignoring the war here. I despise the invasion of Iraq, always have, but now that we’ve gone and done the stupid invading we need to clean it up and not jump ship as soon as they have elections.)
I heard a while ago that the New York Times had endorsed Kerry for president, but I just recently found the text of the endorsement. I think they phrase it exactly the way I was thinking, and more. Go NYT!
This is the second-to-last paragraph, which I particularly like:
We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better.