Rarely in our country's history has the electorate gone to the polls to choose a new president in such challenging times with more at stake for the nation.
The economy is tottering under the strains of a global financial crisis unleashed by the unregulated excesses of U.S. lending institutions. American soldiers continue to fight and die in two separate conflicts that remain open-ended.
At home affordable health care is unavailable to millions of citizens while measures to achieve energy independence and combat global warming sit on the legislative back burner. Fear pervades so many households under the threat of unemployment and mortgage foreclosures.
One must go back to the Great Depression, and the reshaping of American domestic policy to vanquish it, to find a comparable era when the demands for change were so urgent.
The incoming administration must immediately focus and engage on so many fronts. The tasks at hand will require stamina, creativity and leadership abilities to replace partisan gridlock with a national consensus on what is best for the American people. The new leadership team must have the intellect and temperament to tackle complex issues with equally sophisticated solutions. The current go-it-alone mentality in the White House on foreign policy must give way to an effort to work in concert with our allies while engaging our enemies at the negotiating table as well as on the battlefield.
After carefully observing the Democratic and Republican nominees in drawn-out primary struggles as well as in the general campaign, including three debates, the Chronicle strongly believes that the ticket of Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden offers the best choice to lead the United States on a new course into the second decade of the 21st century.
Obama appears to possess the tools to confront our myriad and daunting problems. He's thoughtful and analytical. He has met his opponents' attacks with calm and reasoned responses. Viewers of the debates saw a poised, well-prepared plausible president with well-articulated positions on the bread-and-butter issues that poll after poll indicate are the true concerns of voters. While Arizona Sen. John McCain and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have struck an increasingly personal and negative tone in their speeches, Obama has continued to talk about issues of substance.
It is true that Obama has served less than a term in the U.S. Senate and that his previous elective experience is confined to the Illinois Legislature. However, during that public service and his previous role as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago, he has developed an appreciation and understanding of the real-life concerns of middle- and low-income Americans.
On the Iraq war, Obama was an early voice of opposition to the initial invasion and his plan for a phased withdrawal of combat forces has been embraced by American and Iraqi policymakers. His partner on the ticket, Biden, is one of the leading foreign policy experts in Congress. They pledge to rebuild America's diminished standing in the world and restore our reputation as the leading defender of democracy and human rights.
Obama's health care plan mandates health insurance for all American children, an issue of vital importance to Harris County and Houston, which has the highest rate of uninsured youngsters in the nation. By contrast, the proposal by McCain to offer a tax credit to Americans to purchase insurance while taxing health benefits for the first time will further discourage small business owners from providing employee health insurance.
One weakness Obama has shown is a tendency to demonize the energy industry, which will be an indispensable ally in developing alternative fuel sources in the future. He would do well to rethink some of his positions and apply his consensus-building skills to an essential bulwark of the Texas economy. On another issue of vital importance to the Houston area, Obama supports the U.S. space program and has wisely backed off an earlier proposal to delay NASA's moon and Mars missions to save money.
McCain has an illustrious record of service to America, first as a pilot taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese, and then with a distinguished Senate career. To his credit, he has broken with his own party in the past to fight for campaign reform, oppose the sanctioning of torture and acknowledge the threat of human-induced global warming. However, in his bid for the presidency, he has aligned himself with a more conservative political base and disappointed moderates.
Perhaps the worst mistake McCain made in his campaign for the White House was the choice of the inexperienced and inflammatory Palin as his vice-presidential running mate. Had he selected a moderate, experienced Republican lawmaker such as Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison with a strong appeal to independents, the Chronicle's choice for an endorsement would have been far more difficult.
In comments to the Chronicle editorial board during his Texas primary fight against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama explained why he believed he would be the best choice for president.
"More than any other candidate, I could bridge some of the partisan, racial and religious divides in this country that prevent us from getting things done," said Obama. "I believe that I could attract independents and some disillusioned Republicans into a working majority to bring about change on critical issues."
Back in the spring, Obama's sentiments seemed more a hope than reality. Since then, we have watched him grow in the roles of candidate and leader, maintaining grace under fire without resorting to political expediency. He is by far the best choice to deliver the changes that Americans demand.