Time for a change
In the Democratic primary, we recommend Obama
Do the Democrats need a restoration of the past, or is it time for a change? We think it's time for a change. We recommend a vote for Barack Obama in Tuesday's primary.
The choice between Sen. Obama and Hillary Clinton is not easy. She is indeed ready to be president on day one. After two terms with her husband in the White House and almost eight years in the Senate, she knows how things work. Smart and tenacious, she offers a progressive agenda. There are many reasons to think she'd be a good president.
There are arguments against her as well. For example, many Democrats won't forgive her for voting to authorize President Bush to use force against Iraq. We don't fault her on that. She understood the need for firmness to force Saddam Hussein to admit UN inspectors to ensure Iraq wasn't building weapons of mass destruction. She received assurances that force would be used only as a last resort. She isn't responsible for the debacle in Iraq; President Bush is.
Concerns about Clinton
Yet we're troubled by, to cite a few examples, these aspects of her presidential campaign:• Many of her supporters seem intent on depicting Sen. Obama as the Jesse Jackson of 2008, a leader who appeals to an ethnic minority but not to the broader electorate needed to win.
• She sometimes exaggerates her influence and experiences, as when she claimed she "helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland" and said she ducked under sniper fire in Bosnia.
• Florida and Michigan were stripped of national convention delegates after breaking party rules by scheduling their primaries too early. The candidates didn't campaign in them. Yet after Sen. Clinton did well in those states, she pushed to change the rules and count the votes. That's a cynical, self-serving effort to corrupt the selection process.
• Her tendency to tell voters what they want to hear is disturbing. Her proposal to suspend the federal tax on gasoline this summer is campaign gimmickry, not leadership. Her assertion that she was a critic of NAFTA from the beginning is simply unbelievable. The record shows she was an ardent advocate of the trade deal.
Some Democrats accept that as just the way the political game always has been played. Perhaps it is. But is that the best Americans can expect? We think not.
Is Obama ready for the job?
As to Sen. Obama, he's one of the most powerful, effective speakers to seek the presidency in years. He offers a different vision of politics. Is he ready for to be president? His relative inexperience is reason for concern. He has been a U.S. senator for three years, an Illinois state senator for eight. He has no executive experience.
Experience is important, but it's no substitute for good judgment and the ability to assemble and wisely use capable advisers. George W. Bush had six years' experience as governor of a big, complex state, yet his administration has made some of the worst decisions in recent history.
Sen. Obama is a man of uncommon intelligence. He's a graduate of Columbia University with a law degree from Harvard, where he was editor of the law review. He bypassed lucrative job opportunities to become a community organizer with a church-based group seeking to improve living conditions in poor Chicago neighborhoods plagued with crime and joblessness.
In 2004, he became the third African American since Reconstruction to win a Senate seat. His record there is not extensive. It is impressive.
His first law -- cosponsored with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. -- ensured greater citizen access to information by creating a searchable online database on federal spending.
Early in his term he attracted the attention of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who at the time chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Lugar invited him on a trip through the former Soviet Union, inspecting projects to decommission Cold War-era weapons. The two worked together to pass legislation to control the spread of weapons. Sen. Lugar later observed that Sen. Obama has "a sense of idealism and principled leadership, a vision of the future. At certain points in history, certain people are the ones that are most likely to have the vision or imagination or be able to identify talent and to manage other people's ideas. And I think he does this well."
Sen. Obama's legislative achievements are few, but that's no surprise. He's near the bottom in seniority. Republicans ran the Senate his first two years there, so Democratic proposals rarely went anywhere. Nevertheless he has helped shape the national debate on immigration, energy and some other important issues. He sponsored or co-sponsored the bills that made up what the Washington Post called "the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet."
A change for the better
He has made missteps in his first national campaign, such as failing to quickly and firmly reject radical statements by his former pastor. But in the campaign, as in the Senate, he has shown the ability to learn.