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For president - Obama

As Americans vote this year, our financial futures are under a significant and frightening threat that recalls the Great Depression. Our nation is mired in a war without direction. Tax policy is cockeyed. Income disparity is greater than it has been since 1928. Homes are being foreclosed. Banks are going under. Health care is a two-tiered system – one for the poor, another for everyone else – that seems to benefit only insurance companies and some providers. Our political life consists of spurious and sometimes ugly sound bites.

Can one person fix all this? No. But by electing Barack Obama, we can start. We can say, “Enough.” Obama is the one to carry that message. John McCain, for all his strengths, will carry a different one.

Obama’s positions on issues – particularly on Iraq, taxes and health care – will serve the U.S. and represent its ideals well. But let’s face it. Specifics in a nationwide campaign mean little. They will change as the newly elected president starts to carry out his program and other elected politicians demand changes.

So judge the candidates not on the details, because they will change, but by their approach and their character.

And over his long presidential campaign, Obama has displayed the character and gained respect as a leader. McCain, on the other hand, has persisted in flogging failed policies. With McCain, we’re faced with a form of déjÀ vu that will send America into a faster tailspin. More American blood will be spilled. More of us will be out of work. More children and teachers will be working under flawed federal law.

Nowhere have the character and leadership of the candidates been better represented than their first major public decisions as presidential nominees: the selection of running mates.

Obama chose a veteran government servant well acquainted with myriad domestic and international issues facing the nation. The choice of Joe Biden was criticized as cautious and safe, not a bold stroke. So now we know something about Obama: He recognizes the divisions in America, he understands bold isn’t necessarily the best thing to do, and that in this case the overall ticket was going to be bold enough for voters.

McCain selected a candidate whose main qualification was to appeal to the base members of his party, who were concerned about whether he had the true conservative credentials they sought. If there are voters who believe Sarah Palin is really ready to be president, they have their fingers crossed.

Critics have maligned Obama for his supposed lack of experience, but his eight years as a state senator and four years as a U.S. senator were spent well, and not out of line with the government experience of some other presidents. For example, Obama worked to immerse himself in international issues, serving as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In that role, Obama earned the respect of Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican, for his interest in reducing the threat of nuclear weapons held by former states of the Soviet Union.

In 2002, Obama was among prominent Democrats who first challenged the wisdom and justification for the war against Iraq, going against popular beliefs of the time. He proposes strong diplomatic efforts, along with a systematic, phased withdrawal of troops. McCain, on the other hand, continues to support Bush’s poorly conceived, badly executed war efforts, famously saying that American troops may well stay in Iraq for 100 years.

An Obama administration would be far more likely to adequately regulate the mortgage industry and questionable securities markets that helped bring about the recent financial meltdown.

Obama’s plan that would give federal income tax relief to all but the 5 percent best-paid Americans will be far more likely to fuel the economy than McCain’s plan that would continue the Bush administration policy that gives the most relief to those who need it the least.

The Democrat would finally offer a workable plan to expand health insurance to all Americans. He suggests cutting premiums for many, offering more choices and paying for it initially by allowing Bush tax cuts that helped Americans making more than $250,000 a year to expire.

To his credit, the Obama campaign has done more than offer sensible plans on the issues affecting most Americans. Obama has inspired a new generation of Americans to care about their government and leadership, spiking voter registration and infusing energy and enthusiasm into a process that had become permeated with cynicism.

Perhaps it has became a cliché to say Obama offers hope, but that is certainly better than the alternative – four more years of failed policies resulting in the despair and unneeded deaths of Americans.

Yes, Obama offers hope and will bring change, but much more importantly, he has the leadership skills and positions on issues to help restore America’s international standing and set the nation back on course.