Obama for president

Our view : Sen. Barack Obama has the character, judgment and temperament to lead the nation wisely through difficult times and restore America's standing in the world

October 26, 2008

Today, America finds itself beset by challenges on all sides. At home, a faltering economy teeters on the edge of financial collapse. Abroad, some 175,000 U.S. troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet victory in the war on terror remains elusive. Russia and China vie for world leadership, while rogue states North Korea and Iran destabilize their regions with the threat of nuclear proliferation.

But Americans, many of whom have felt profoundly the heartache and anxiety of these uncertain times, have been energized by the historic, hard-fought campaign for president.

Both Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois have demonstrated admirable qualities that could qualify them for the nation's highest office. Senator McCain is the resolute warrior who has served his country honorably in peace and war and would move decisively to combat America's domestic and foreign ills. Senator Obama is the cerebral strategist and savvy coalition-builder who would harness the collective efforts of the nation and its allies to counter domestic and global threats. They are candidates who honor the country's past and recognize that America's future depends on its ability to reinvent itself.

But after considering each man's domestic and foreign policy agendas, his judgment and temperament, we believe that Senator Obama is the best choice for voters on Nov. 4.

Senator Obama's campaign has been extraordinarily open - inclusive across generational, ethnic and class lines. His top advisers include Democrats and Republicans, giving substance to his promise of bipartisan leadership. He created a disciplined organization that raised record sums yet stayed within budget. Senator Obama's campaign testifies to his managerial skill and talent for surrounding himself with smart, hard-working people.

In his first term in Congress, Senator Obama cannot claim decades of Washington experience. But his steadiness and thoughtful approach to issues show he has the judgment and depth of knowledge to lead the country. His first major decision after winning the nomination was to name Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, a proven foreign policy hand, as his running mate. By contrast, Senator McCain's choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska called his judgment into question and has proved to be an unsettling distraction as she is woefully unprepared for the presidency.

On the wars, Senator Obama's pledge to withdraw combat forces from Iraq by 2010 reflects a reasoned appraisal of the still fragile situation there. Senator McCain's insistence on maintaining current troop levels until "victory" - without specifying what such a victory might be - reveals a lack of strategic clarity that easily could produce an indefinite occupation and hobble the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

On the economy, Senator Obama would augment the government's trillion-dollar Wall Street rescue plan with an economic stimulus package aimed at keeping Main Street afloat. Senator McCain relies on broadening the Bush administration tax cuts and freezing spending, which recalls President Herbert Hoover's inept response to the 1929 stock market crash that helped push the country into the Great Depression.

Senator Obama would let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans expire to give tax relief to the middle class. He would invest in health care, education and clean energy technologies that reduce America's dependence on oil, all measures vital to the nation's long-term security and global competitiveness.

With the likelihood of vacancies on the Supreme Court in coming years, the next president will have an opportunity to shape the judicial branch's liberal-conservative balance for a generation on such crucial questions as abortion, civil liberties and civil rights. We believe that unlike Senator McCain, who has said he would name justices sympathetic to the views of the court's most conservative members, Senator Obama would avoid ideologically driven appointments that further polarize the country on contentious social issues.

Senator Obama is a relative newcomer on the national stage. But he has proved to be that rarest of public servants, an inspirational leader who would transcend any enduring racial barriers and call upon the best in the American character, a public servant who also possesses the finely honed political skills necessary to turn the nation's highest ideals into practical policies that benefit citizens.

That is why The Baltimore Sun endorses Barack Obama for president.

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