Oregonians won't be able to vote for the presidential nominees of our choice until May – possibly too late to make a difference. Yet most of us watching the primaries with interest.
At first glance, the Democrats seem to have the stronger field. And in the wake of an unpopular Republican president, they may have a better chance of winning the confidence of the country. So this week The Skanner will offer observations on the Democratic frontrunners. (We'll look at the Republicans later.)
We are pleased to see the Democrats have more than one contender with both the skills and the policies to effectively lead the United States of America.
Take Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is mid-way through her second term in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Clinton knows her way around Washington. She has the ability to work with a people from across the political spectrum– evidenced by her success as the senator for New York. She has pledged to make health care affordable for everyone, to begin a strategic troop withdrawal from Iraq and to lower taxes for middle-income earners. Sen. Clinton could do the job.
Or take Sen. John Edwards, who won his reputation as a lawyer fighting corporate misdeeds. Sen. Edwards was first in this primary season to propose a universal health care plan. He has pledged a complete withdrawal from Iraq in nine or ten months. He proposes a plan to end poverty in one generation, similar to a plan that has cut poverty in England. Sen. Edwards could do the job.
Yet at The Skanner, we have been most impressed by Sen. Barack Obama. Not because he is Black – if we didn't like his policies, his color wouldn't change our views — but because we believe Sen. Obama could be the right man at the right time.
Like senators Clinton and Edwards, Obama would make affordable health care available to low- and middle-income families. He too is committed to withdrawing troops from Iraq: under his plan all combat brigades would be withdrawn within 16 months. His economic plan includes a tax cut for working families that would help 10 million people, expanding the earned income tax credit that helps the lowest income families, and removing income taxes for senior citizens who make under $50,000 a year. Strong policies, but as we said, all three of the Democratic frontrunners have those.
What does Obama have that the other two don't? Obama consistently delivers a positive message of hope. And, as we saw in Portland last fall, he projects an integrity and honesty that inspires confidence in people of all ages across the political spectrum.
To those who claim his experience somehow falls short of the mark, we say a highly intelligent and compassionate person can learn more in two terms as state senator and a term in the U.S. Senate than other people learn in their entire lives. Sen. Obama knows how to get things done. And his message is engaging more young people than any other candidate. He seems able to reach people across party lines, across social groups and across racial and cultural divides.
For the last eight years, the people of the United States have endured a militant agenda that has divided the country more than ever before. Early on President Bush rejected any ideas of compromise and negotiation. Whatever the president wanted to do, he did. Up to and including ignoring laws passed by Congress.
Meanwhile too many Americans have done without health care. Jobs have disappeared to other countries. A war waged on false information in a distant country has claimed more than 3,000 American lives, and many more Iraqi lives. The national debt just keeps growing.
But President Bush is on his way out. And the next president will have an opportunity to restore faith in American democracy. Our country needs to move beyond the old divisions rooted in the 60s and the Vietnam war. It needs to regain its standing as a country with a conscience. It needs to build global alliances. And it needs young people to play a part in creating that future.
Clinton, Edwards and Obama: Which one of them could bring Americans together to renew our democracy and prepare us to meet the serious challenges we face. Because being president of the United States is more than just a job.
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