Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Oregonian endorses Barack Obama

The Oregonian has endorsed Barack Obama as Democratic nominee.

The Oregonian

Einstein said time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once. It's clear now why he never claimed much expertise in presidential politics.

Some of us hoped that the emergence of the first woman and the emergence of the first African American as leading candidates for president would come at slightly different times.

Maybe in a more just universe.

In ours, though, Democratic voters facing the crucial Super Tuesday primaries this week must choose between the greater of two goods, which isn't the way it usually happens. A system that all too often seems to produce mediocre candidates and visionless campaigns ground out a diamond this time.

There are few, if any, limits to what a candidate will do to woo the electorate, of course, and the night is still young; but the debates in both parties have been substantive. Even if you count the brief distraction offered by a certain former president, this election year has been light on the made-up service records, swift boaters and other subterranean smear mongers. It's too much to hope that they'll stay in their mothers' basements for the duration, but so far, so good.

This is the week when the primary campaigns shed the dominance of local quirks, customs and weather and switch to mass-market politics. Considering that Oregon's primary is nearly four months away, this seemed the best time to declare our own preferences.


Hillary Clinton's campaign benefits by formulating the race with Barack Obama as a contest between similar candidates who differ in experience.

If this were a normal year and Barack Obama were a normal candidate, that might be true. But millions of Americans have responded to the broad themes of Obama's campaign. They hunger for real political change, and they see Obama as the candidate who can deliver it. With that ability to get people to listen to his message, Obama can be a transformational president.

On the issues, Obama and Clinton are hard to distinguish from each other. Obama opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, for example, and Clinton came to that view over time. As president, though, each would put the United States in pretty much the same place. Health care? Clinton understands the issue deeply and would push a promising agenda. But Obama's plan resembles Clinton's -- and in the contentious arena where this will be decided, nobody's plan will come out the way it went in.

In the nonissue part of the campaign, we happen to think that Sen. Clinton gets a great deal of undeserved criticism over the fact that she stood by her husband during his self-inflicted travails. Being a faithful spouse is a virtue. So is forgiveness. Clinton is living proof that sex discrimination and misogyny are alive and well in America, and she has been confronted daily by both, as are most women. These are not arguments for her candidacy, but they should not be arguments against it, either.

As for Obama, the case for his candidacy seems to grow stronger every day. It seems to us that his approach to politics and, especially, leadership offers the cleanest and clearest break from the direction that the Bush presidency took the United States.

Obama's political gift is often described as charisma, but there is a better word for it: authenticity. Americans yearn for it in their leaders and rarely find it. Obama has it, and because of that, he displays the potential to restore Americans' faith in their own national ideals and perhaps even renew the belief that service to one's fellow citizens is a high calling, not a reward for political support.

The mere election of Obama would advance the crumbling credibility of and restore international respect for the United States in the wider world, where symbolism is a potent force.

Obama has not yet been tempered in the fires of world conflict or tested in the snares and traps of Washington insider politics. But as any number of former presidents tell us: Everyone's an amateur when they first set foot in the Oval Office.

What we see in Obama is strength and personal integrity to overcome these obstacles and others. What we see in him is not just the ability to lead a government, but the ability to lead a nation.

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