The next U.S. president will lead a nation that remains embroiled in two wars and is beset by an economic meltdown more severe than any since the Great Depression.
By necessity, the country's next commander in chief must also be its mender in chief, capable of inspiring his angry and divided constituents to join together in a recovery project to restore the peace, prosperity, and self-confidence we once knew.
We fear that a lesser effort may be insufficient to reverse America's slide toward economic, political and societal chaos. The times require dramatic and comprehensive change.
The presidential candidates know it, and have made it their mantra.
Most Americans know it, and, in growing numbers, are demanding it.
The countries that have long depended upon the United States for enlightened global leadership long for it.
For the sake of all, and for those who follow us, we must have it.
The editorial board of The Salt Lake Tribune believes that Barack Obama can deliver it.
Over the 22 months since announcing his improbable candidacy, Obama has transcended his image as a mere political and racial phenomenon. Though blessed with uncommon skills as a writer and orator, he was mistakenly thought to possess too little political experience, too little backbone, and too little evidence of the tangible, and intangible, qualities we ascribe to the best of our leaders. Democrats and Republicans alike thought Hillary Clinton would make short work of him.
Admittedly, we thought so too, and endorsed Clinton, not Obama, for the party's nomination.
Yet, Obama mounted an extraordinary grass-roots campaign, raised gobs of cash, and showed great fortitude and equanimity in the face of the Clinton juggernaut. He endured, and once the nomination was his, he set about uniting his divided party with an impressive display of magnanimity and diplomacy.
John McCain, meanwhile, crushed Mitt Romney to gain his party's nomination, but then blundered badly by not bringing the business-savvy Romney onto the ticket. Romney would have shored up McCain's poor grasp of economic policy.
Then, out of nowhere, and without proper vetting, the impetuous McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. She quickly proved grievously underequipped to step into the presidency should McCain, at 72 and with a history of health problems, die in office. More than any single factor, McCain's bad judgment in choosing the inarticulate, insular and ethically challenged Palin disqualifies him for the presidency.
Still, we have compelling reasons for endorsing Obama on his merits alone. Under the most intense scrutiny and attacks from both parties, Obama has shown the temperament, judgment, intellect and political acumen that are essential in a president that would lead the United States out of the crises created by President Bush, a complicit Congress and our own apathy.
The candidates' positions on issues are, in most cases, distinctly different, and no more so than in health care reform. McCain would make a bad system worse by deregulating an insurance industry that is the root of the problem. He would give every family a $5,000 refundable tax credit for purchasing the insurance of their choice, but would tax employer-provided health benefits. Obama's plan would require large employers to offer insurance, or contribute a percentage of payroll to offset the cost of taxpayer subsidies. People could buy into a private or a government-run plan, and the premiums would be subsidized by tax credits based on income.
On tax policy, Obama would sensibly increase taxes for individuals making more than $250,000 a year, while cutting taxes for everyone else. He also would send money to the states for public works improvements that would generate jobs. His intent to increase the capital gains tax, however, is foolhardy while businesses struggle to weather the economic meltdown.
McCain would cut taxes for people in all income brackets, as well as mandate big reductions in corporate income taxes. It is a trickle-down plan that would do little to reduce the deficit.
McCain's foreign policy objectives virtually replicate Bush's disastrous course. His disdain for diplomacy is troubling, and his faith in eventual U.S. "victory" in Iraq is ill-defined. We simply cannot afford perpetual war. Obama knows this. And his nuanced approach would help America recover it's global prestige.
Indeed, we see too many of Bush's failed policies in McCain's recipe for recovery. The country desperately needs a new and well-defined road map for the 21st century and leadership that can unite the country behind it.
We believe that Barack Obama can give us both.