IN OUR OPINION: Nation yearning for significant change
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Presidential campaigns are, in a sense, auditions for the highest public office. Candidates not only tell voters what they intend to do if elected, but they also give a sense of the kind of leader they would be.
Over the past year - especially in recent months - Barack Obama has presented a compelling message and presence, and the Standard-Times editorial board believes he is the right choice for president.
This was not an easy decision.
John McCain has a long and distinguished record, and we do not doubt that he could serve ably in the White House. However, he has run a disappointing campaign - his audition for the presidency - most notably at the start of the financial meltdown. His Democratic opponents did not exaggerate in labeling his actions as "erratic" and "lurching."
Equally confounding was McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. While the Alaska governor may develop into one of the Republican Party's leaders, so many Americans doubt her readiness to step into the presidency if necessary that McCain's judgment has come into question.
Even though Palin has done what McCain couldn't - energize the Republican base - that does not mean she is ready to lead the nation as president.
Critics point to Obama's relative lack of experience as a disqualifier for the highest office, and that is a legitimate argument. However, during three debates, voters saw a candidate who not only had an exceptional command of the issues but also one who demonstrated the steadiness and temperament that Americans want to see in the Oval Office.
Those are the attributes that led Colin Powell, one of the most respected people in the country, to endorse Obama's candidacy. Obama also has endured months of rumors and scurrilous attacks on everything from his race and religion to his patriotism and family history.
From the beginning, Obama's campaign has been about change. That's an easy position to take when things aren't going well, yet Obama gives reason to believe he truly understands what's needed - a new tone in Washington and leadership that will seek common ground and dramatic change.
The next president faces enormous challenges - including frightening economic conditions, overseeing two wars and ensuring the nation's security.
Even if Obama were inclined to spend as liberally as his opponents warn, the reality of a staggering $10 trillion federal debt will require extraordinary budget discipline no matter who wins on Nov. 4.
Each of those issues and many others can't be adequately addressed without a bipartisan approach that rejects Washington's tendencies to divide politicians and the people they represent for cynical purposes.
Of the two candidates, Obama has shown himself to be the most committed to more inclusive governance. His message has been especially inspirational to young people, whom he has drawn to the political process in phenomenal numbers.
The historical significance of Obama's candidacy - a black person seeking the presidency of the nation that only a few years ago allowed much of the country to effectively exclude blacks from public life - can't be denied. Yet the stakes are so high this year that the racial implications are nearly incidental.
Obama's vision for the future of the United States is the right one. We believe he has the commitment and political skills to make it a reality.