Byline: John Patterson Daily Herald State Government Editor
Editor's note: This is the fifth in a six-part series of Sunday stories looking at where the major presidential candidates stand on key issues.
SPRINGFIELD - Joy Syverson lost her son to the war in Iraq, but she still plans to vote for President Bush.
A change in leadership, the Lake Zurich resident fears, could demoralize troops and result in chaos in Iraq. Pulling troops out, she said, would dishonor those like her son Paul, a 32-year-old Army major, who paid the ultimate price for freedom there.
"I think we probably should stay the course," Syverson said.
Paul Vogel doesn't want his son, or anyone else's child, to ever go back to Iraq.
"When your son gets shipped out and you realize all the excuses for the war ... when that all crumbles under the weight of no evidence, you start getting really angry as a parent," said Vogel, a Barrington resident whose 24-year-old son Aaron spent nearly a year in Iraq as a sergeant in the Army reserves.
He's voting for John Kerry even though the Democratic nominee plans to keep troops in Iraq if elected.
"Something's got to change," Vogel said of his presidential pick. "More of the same is not an option."
The opinions and emotions of these suburban parents illustrate the divide not only among the candidates but in the country over the decision to send U.S. forces to invade Iraq. That decision has cost taxpayers billions of dollars and more than a thousand lives thus far and has become the central issue in this campaign.
Yet slicing through the heated debate rhetoric, there is little difference between the candidates' foreign policy stances. President Bush asked for authority to send troops to Iraq, and Kerry and other lawmakers granted it.
Both want other countries to play a larger role in Iraq. Both consider nuclear proliferation a major threat to the country. Both support creating a Palestinian state. Neither supports the draft, and neither wants to send U.S. troops to the embattled African nation Sudan.
On the issues, the only clear disagreement of policy is how to proceed with North Korea.
Instead, the debate has been raged over personality and management style. It is here where the disagreements have been vociferous, epitomized by Kerry's blunt and profane assessment last December of Bush's Iraq performance.
"When I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country," Kerry said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. "Did I expect George Bush to (mess) it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did."
In turn, Bush has ridiculed Kerry's on-again, off-again support of the war.
"You can't have it both ways. You can't be for getting rid of Saddam Hussein when things look good and against it when times are hard," Bush said earlier this month during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania.
Such exchanges have set the tone for the presidential campaign. The candidates' views on foreign policy were compiled from public debates, policy positions, news accounts and speeches.