“Never in living memory has an election been more critical than (this) — that’s the quadrennial cliché, as expected as the balloons and the bombast. And yet when has it ever felt so urgently true? When have so many Americans had so clear a sense that a presidency has — at levels of competence, vision and integrity — undermined the country and its ideals?”
That was the opening paragraph of The New Yorker’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama for president on Oct. 13. It continued: “The Presidency of George W. Bush is the worst since Reconstruction, so there is no mystery about why the Republican Party — which has held dominion over the executive branch of the federal government for the past eight years and the legislative branch for most that time — has little desire to defend its record, domestic or foreign … Meanwhile, the nominee, Sen. John McCain, (has) played the part of a vaudeville illusionist, asking to be regarded as an apostle of change after years of embracing the essentials of the Bush agenda with ever-increasing ardor.”
That this presidential election is the most critical of our times is a debate for historians decades hence, but certainly a record 93 percent of the American populace, according to recent polls, say we are going in the wrong direction. And certainly these two major party candidates offer stark differences in style and in the policies they would pursue.
It is no surprise to readers of this paper that we enthusiastically endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president. We are impressed with his coolness under fire; his thoughtful and deliberate approach when addressing difficult issues; his skills as a campaigner, organizer and director of a massive undertaking these past 18 months that delivered a consistent message of hope that has inspired tens of millions of supporters. And he has done it with honor, integrity and clarity of purpose.
As taken as we are with Obama’s character, we base our endorsement on his policies as contrasted with his Republican opponent.
First, the war in Iraq. We are currently spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. McCain has no plan for withdrawal, even though the Iraqis are going ahead with their own plans of limiting our engagement and exposing our soldiers to trial on Iraqi terms for alleged misdeeds. Nor is McCain willing to ask taxpayers to fund the war. Rather, like Bush, he would push the costs of the war onto our children and their children — further driving the nation into debt. Obama has laid out a plan for a phased withdrawal that has since been embraced by the Iraqi leaders. Admittedly, there are risks to troop withdrawal, but there are also substantial risks and costs to an endless war and occupation. Obama accepts that calculation, while McCain blithely ignores it.
Second, taxation and the economy. Obama’s tax plan would reinstate the income tax rate on the wealthiest among us that existed before Bush took office — back when the economy was healthy, jobs were abundant and budgets under President Clinton were posting surpluses.
That McCain and his vice-presidential running mate have suggested that Obama’s tax policy is any different than it has always been (Bush had a progressive policy as well) is absurd, and either shows how desperate McCain is or how little he knows about economic policies and history. More importantly, Obama’s plan would better address the growing gap between rich and poor, while McCain’s policies would continue to favor the rich and see the income disparities grow wider and wider. What we have seen under Bush’s tax policies is that the trickle-down theory is a failure. McCain would follow that failed approach.
Third, the environment. Thankfully, both candidates agree that this country has to take a more aggressive role in solving global warming. As a Democratic president leading a Democratic Congress, however, Obama would have an easier time moving the nation forward.
Fourth, health care. It is pointless to argue the details of either candidate’s plans. Both would make progress toward insuring more Americans if implemented; both will undoubtedly cost more than admitted. What’s important is the degree to which either candidate will tackle the issue. Health care reform is one of Obama’s primary goals, while it is a debate point for McCain. It is, after all, a cost to business and a benefit to laborers — neither of which fit the Republican sense of fairness. A vote for Obama and a Democratic majority, on the other hand, is a vote toward health care reform.
Fifth, foreign policy. A few months back, the Atlantic Monthly published an insightful profile of Sen. McCain from his youth to the present. It was titled, “Why War is McCain’s Answer.” The profile fit his voting record and his rhetoric to a T — not in a derogative way, but as explanation to his positions and his gut instinct. It quoted McCain extensively and with his blessing. It helps explain why he takes such a tough line on Iran (bomb-bomb-bomb Iran, to the tune of the Beach Boys hit song of the 60s), why he acted so aggressively toward Russian in defense of Georgia (even before all the facts were know); and why his administration would likely continue the Bush doctrine of preemptive strikes against terrorists or threats — even in defiance of international law. A McCain presidency would very likely send the message to the world that the disastrous Bush foreign policy would remain in effect.
Sen. Obama’s very presence, on the other hand, would send a message to the world that America would again work with allies in concert against terrorism, but not unilaterally in defiance of others. Obama is no dove, however. On the contrary, he supported the invasion of Afghanistan and has pledged more troops to that war to rout the Taliban and al Qaida — the very task that Bush prematurely abandoned. Obama has also pledged to continue to shore-up the defense of our borders by finishing the job at our shipping harbors that Bush also failed to complete.
Sixth, entitlements. The president who tackles the growing expense of entitlements — Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare — will need all the rhetorical skills he can muster to convince Americans that physical fitness must improve if we are to eliminate such huge expenses in health care (Medicare and Medicaid) and that curbing Social Security benefits is a shared sacrifice Americans must willingly make. This issue, and balancing the budget, will likely be addressed in the second term, and will be one of the most challenging domestic issues this president will face. Obama has the political will and charisma to make it happen.
Seventh, the courts: For eight years Bush has used his rightwing ideological compass to place judges not just in the Supreme Court, but throughout the judicial system. It has been a travesty that desperately needs rebalancing.
Eighth, uniting the country. Bush, who has been one of the most divisive presidents in history, will leave the country in a near state of collapse. The next president will need to soothe those divisions and unite us all behind common goals for this country to reverse its ill fortunes. No American can expect all wounds to be healed in a single term, but Obama has proven through this campaign that he has the strength of character and the needed integrity to unite blue states and red states into a single republic to address these most pressing issues — and to instill hope among us all in the process.
Sen. Obama is on the right side of the issues and has the qualities of leadership that are required for these demanding times. Consequently, he has our vote for president and our blessing.
Angelo S. Lynn