Link: Barack Obama for President.
THE NOMINATING process this year produced two unusually talented and qualified presidential candidates. There are few public figures we have respected more over the years than Sen. John McCain. Yet it is without ambivalence that we endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president.
The choice is made easy in part by Mr. McCain’s disappointing campaign, above all his irresponsible selection of a running mate who is not ready to be president. It is made easy in larger part, though, because of our admiration for Mr. Obama and the impressive qualities he has shown during this long race. Yes, we have reservations and concerns, almost inevitably, given Mr. Obama’s relatively brief experience in national politics. But we also have enormous hopes.
Mr. Obama is a man of supple intelligence, with a nuanced grasp of complex issues and evident skill at conciliation and consensus-building. At home, we believe, he would respond to the economic crisis with a healthy respect for markets tempered by justified dismay over rising inequality and an understanding of the need for focused regulation. Abroad, the best evidence suggests that he would seek to maintain U.S. leadership and engagement, continue the fight against terrorists, and wage vigorous diplomacy on behalf of U.S. values and interests. Mr. Obama has the potential to become a great president. Given the enormous problems he would confront from his first day in office, and the damage wrought over the past eight years, we would settle for very good.
The first question, in fact, might be why either man wants the job. Start with two ongoing wars, both far from being won; an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan; a resurgent Russia menacing its neighbors; a terrorist-supporting Iran racing toward nuclear status; a roiling Middle East; a rising China seeking its place in the world. Stir in the threat of nuclear or biological terrorism, the burdens of global poverty and disease, and accelerating climate change. Domestically, wages have stagnated while public education is failing a generation of urban, mostly minority children. Now add the possibility of the deepest economic trough since the Great Depression.
Not even his fiercest critics would blame President Bush for all of these problems, and we are far from being his fiercest critic. But for the past eight years, his administration, while pursuing some worthy policies (accountability in education, homeland security, the promotion of freedom abroad), has also championed some stunningly wrongheaded ones (fiscal recklessness, torture, utter disregard for the planet’s ecological health) and has acted too often with incompetence, arrogance or both. A McCain presidency would not equal four more years, but outside of his inner circle, Mr. McCain would draw on many of the same policymakers who have brought us to our current state. We believe they have richly earned, and might even benefit from, some years in the political wilderness.
OF COURSE, Mr. Obama offers a great deal more than being not a Republican. There are two sets of issues that matter most in judging these candidacies. The first has to do with restoring and promoting prosperity and sharing its fruits more evenly in a globalizing era that has suppressed wages and heightened inequality. Here the choice is not a close call. Mr. McCain has little interest in economics and no apparent feel for the topic. His principal proposal, doubling down on the Bush tax cuts, would exacerbate the fiscal wreckage and the inequality simultaneously. Mr. Obama’s economic plan contains its share of unaffordable promises, but it pushes more in the direction of fairness and fiscal health. Both men have pledged to tackle climate change.
Mr. Obama also understands that the most important single counter to inequality, and the best way to maintain American competitiveness, is improved education, another subject of only modest interest to Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama would focus attention on early education and on helping families so that another generation of poor children doesn’t lose out. His budgets would be less likely to squeeze out important programs such as Head Start and Pell grants. Though he has been less definitive than we would like, he supports accountability measures for public schools and providing parents choices by means of charter schools.
A better health-care system also is crucial to bolstering U.S. competitiveness and relieving worker insecurity. Mr. McCain is right to advocate an end to the tax favoritism showed to employer plans. This system works against lower-income people, and Mr. Obama has disparaged the McCain proposal in deceptive ways. But Mr. McCain’s health plan doesn’t do enough to protect those who cannot afford health insurance. Mr. Obama hopes to steer the country toward universal coverage by charting a course between government mandates and individual choice, though we question whether his plan is affordable or does enough to contain costs.
The next president is apt to have the chance to nominate one or more Supreme Court justices. Given the court’s current precarious balance, we think Obama appointees could have a positive impact on issues from detention policy and executive power to privacy protections and civil rights.
There is lots more… It’s clear… Barack Obama is ready for the presidency… McCain is not.