Obama for president
COME JANUARY, a new president will take charge of a nation diminished, an America that is far shakier economically, less secure militarily, and less respected internationally than it was eight years before. The nation needs a chief executive who has the temperament and the nerves to shepherd Americans through what promises to be a grueling period and who has the vision to restore this country to its place of leadership in the world.
Such a leader is at hand. With great enthusiasm, the Globe endorses Senator Barack Obama for president. The charismatic Democrat from Illinois has the ability to channel Americans hopes and rally the public together, at a time when the winds are picking up and the clouds keep on darkening.
Unlike many of his rivals this year of either party, Obama isnt refighting the political or cultural battles of the 1960s. Instead, he is asking Americans to take responsibility for the nations problems now; no one else will take care of them, and the consequences of years of disunity and profligacy should not be visited upon future generations.
Obama shows great faith in the possibility of persuasion overseas and in the ingenuity of the American economy. While intransigent rogue states cant be finger-wagged into giving up on nuclear weapons, perhaps they can be talked back from the brink. As fossil fuels become scarcer, and the ecological damage more evident, Americans can put up windmills and solar panels and drive more efficient cars.
Encouragingly, Obama has assembled an impressive economic team that understands both the power of the market and the need to discourage recklessness and promote social equity. He would broaden access to health insurance, using a mechanism akin to this states Commonwealth Connector. And he offers a tax plan that, in offering modest cuts to most taxpayers and taking back some past cuts for the highest earners, acknowledges the widening gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else.
The question, of course, is whether Obama can make good on his promises under the circumstances. For George W. Bush will leave a woeful legacy. The Iraq war, which was sold to Congress and the public on false pretenses, continues to consume billions upon billions of dollars, even as many of the plotters of Sept. 11 are still at large. In his efforts to cultivate democracy abroad, Bush has hacked away at its roots here: due process, the separation of powers, the conviction that there are some things that government must not do. Waterboarding and secret prisons abroad, warrantless wiretapping at home these acts belie Americas image of forthrightness, the nations greatest asset in world affairs.
Meanwhile, as the planet gets warmer, its top energy consumer has no plan to wean itself from fossil fuels. Healthcare costs are strangling businesses. Real wages have declined for the average worker, even as the cost of food and fuel has skyrocketed. Vague unease about the economy has turned into outright fear as the financial system sank into quicksand and 500-point-plus plunges on the stock market have become a near-daily occurrence. Obamas opponent, Senator John McCain, would try to solve all these problems by going back to the same Republican set of tools: tough talk abroad, tax cuts for the richest at home. In contrast, Obamas presidency would benefit from the Illinois senators formidable political gifts. A graduate of Harvard Law School and a former community organizer on Chicagos South Side, Obama debuted on the national political scene with a dazzling speech at the Democratic National Convention four years ago. Since then, every word of his books and his speeches has been closely parsed. Evident from all that scrutiny is a nimble mind, an ever more impressive grasp of policy detail, and an ability to listen to contradictory viewpoints. Obama is clearly a liberal. But when he led the Harvard Law Review, he won praise from conservative thinkers because he genuinely wanted to hear what they had to say.
Obama is hardly immune to political calculation. Though he has positioned himself as a supporter of campaign finance reform, he backed out of the public financing system after his ability to raise jaw-dropping sums over the Internet became apparent. In the general election campaign, he has been slow to admit how much the financial crisis would limit his policy options come January.
Even so, the way Obama has run his campaign has been a marvel of sound management: He laid down principles, put the right people in positions of authority, and spent money strategically. And he has shown a remarkable steadiness. Whether he was far behind Hillary Clinton before the Iowa caucuses or on the verge of locking up the Democratic nomination, whether he was leading or trailing McCain in the general election contest, Obama made the same forward-looking appeal to voters best instincts.
As the first black major-party presidential nominee, Obama has strived to make voters comfortable with a skinny kid with a funny name. And yet the historical significance of his bid is impossible to ignore. Voters can make no more powerful statement about Americas commitment to inclusion and opportunity than to put forward this man Barack Hussein Obama, son of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas as the nations representative to the world.
An early Obama campaign slogan declared, We are the ones weve been waiting for. His critics deemed such rhetoric too ethereal. Now it seems prescient, as the nation confronts a financial crisis of historic proportions, as well as all the other policy failures and debt-fueled excesses of the last eight years. The United States has to dig itself out. Barack Obama is the one to lead the way.