Friday, January 25, 2008

Sun-Sentinel endorses Barack Obama

The Sun-Sentinel of South Florida endorsed Barack Obama today.

Obama: A worthy choice

Disappointingly, the Democrat presidential candidates kept their pledge to not campaign in Florida. The Democratic National Committee has also warned that Florida's primary this Tuesday won't count toward assignment of delegates to this summer's national convention.'

Nonetheless, there is a vote, and it's an important one for a host of reasons. Not least of which is that whoever wins the popular vote in the Sunshine State, a place that has been a house of horrors for the party in the past two presidential elections, can claim to be the popular front-runner headed into Super Tuesday.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board recommends voters choose Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.Obama is in his first term in the U.S. Senate. He splashed onto the national political stage with a stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a speech that catapulted him from being an obscure state senator to what is now a historic and inspiring presidential candidacy.

Obama, 46, is characteristically a cool-headed yet passionate politician who could transform the mood of the country with his message of hope and change. He and his opponents - U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and John Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina and the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee - have all pledged to end the Iraq war, reform health care and bridge the gap between the rich and poor. They are all well-versed on government policy and international affairs. But what sets Obama apart is his ability to spark passion in the American people, who are ultimately the ones with the power to make real change.

Clinton, a two-term senator and wife of former President Bill Clinton, has proven her ability to win among Democrats through victories in New Hampshire and Nevada. But she is also a polarizing figure, based on baggage from her husband's presidency, and would have difficulty gaining the support of Republicans and Independents. Edwards, a former trial lawyer, trails far behind the two other candidates in the polls and has yet to win a primary.

Campaign transcends race

The three are in a competitive race that's been brutal at times, but it hasn't diminished Obama's image as a reconciling figure who can bring the country together.

Instead of relying on racial politics, the bi-racial son of a black Kenyan father and white Kansas mother, Obama has chosen to transcend race. His strong victory in predominantly white Iowa turned the election on its head, due to support from voters of both genders and all political persuasions. Turnout among new and young voters was phenomenal.

Obama is not only a man of lofty ideas and eloquent speech; he is also a leader with good judgment as the only candidate among the three contenders who publicly opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. As a state senator he called it "a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost with undetermined consequences."

If elected, Obama has pledged to pull all U.S. combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months of his administration, while keeping some troops in the country to protect our embassy and diplomats and strike against al-Qaida if necessary.

To tackle the immigration problem, he would secure the borders, remove incentives to enter illegally and create a system to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship after paying a fine and learning English. He pledges to make health care more affordable for everyone and require mandatory coverage for all children.

To address the current economic crisis, he proposes a $75 billion stimulus package to provide workers with an immediate $250 tax credit and Social Security recipients with a one-time $250 supplement. It would also include a $10 billion fund to help homeowners facing foreclosures and a $10 billion fund for states dealing with lower tax revenues.

Level of experience a concern

Some legitimately question Obama's level of experience. That's a concern in foreign policy issues, particularly. Obama's suggestion that he'd be willing to talk to U.S. rivals and foes is refreshing - to a point.

Sure, U.S. policy toward some countries, like Cuba, needs a new approach. But it's naive to think the diplomacy of talk would work magic on its own in other places, such as Tehran.

Obama's plan to pull all combat brigades out of Iraq within less than two years of his administration may also be a little too ambitious. The last thing we need is a failed state in Iraq, and every effort should be made to leave the country as stable as possible.

Obama unquestionably has the wherewithal to match the presidency's intellectual demands. He has a solid resume as a Harvard Law School graduate and was the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. His background also includes work as a constitutional law professor, community organizer, Illinois state senator and now a U.S. senator. His background may be different to many politicians in Washington, but that's part of what makes him so appealing. He could bring a fresh approach to the presidency as we face challenges of the 21st century.

Obama also has a multiethnic background that reflects America's diversity, and could project a more tolerant and progressive image to the rest of the world. He has already proven his ability to bring people of all walks of life together; imagine what he could do on an international stage.

What the nation needs most is someone with a good mix of experience, sound judgment and a potent dose of inspiration to move the country forward. Obama has what it takes.

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