Barack Obama, at 46, could have waited four or even eight years to run for the presidency, but decided that this year's campaign was his moment.
We think he was right; his candidacy is ideally suited for this point in the nation's history. Obama, more than any other candidate in either party, has based his campaign on the promise of positive change in Washington and an effort to heal the caustic partisan rift that divides not only the nation's capital but also much of the nation.
The promise of change is nothing unique in the rhetoric of the stump. But we think Obama brings both a unique biography and an impressive set of skills to this campaign.
Obama, son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, is the first African-American to contend seriously for the presidency. As a child, he lived for four years in predominantly Muslim Indonesia before moving with his mother to Hawaii. And after graduating from Columbia University in 1983, he deferred the pursuit of a career to work as a community organizer for a church-based group in the poor neighborhoods of Chicago.
As he notes himself, he would bring a new face to the presidency, a new face representing the United States to the rest of the world. That, alone, is a significant recommendation for his candidacy.
But he also possesses considerable charisma and oratorical skills. He is coolly rational -- perhaps to a fault. His deliberative responses to questions sometimes do not lend themselves to sound bites or serve him well in debates. But that thoughtfulness derives from an apparent depth of intelligence.
His experience has been questioned. But he claims foreign policy expertise -- more, he says, than Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton had when they first ran -- as a member of the Senate foreign relations committee and as one who has traveled extensively and understands the world.
He also boasts political experience. In 1996, he won a seat in the Illinois Senate, where he served for eight years. In 2004, he was elected by a landslide to the U.S. Senate.
He concedes that he lacks administrative experience, but said that putting together a $100 million campaign says something about his organizational and leadership skills.
We trust that Obama's chief Democratic opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, would bring a wealth of experience to the White House. As she claims, she would be ready for the job "on day one."
But we believe, because of her association with her husband's two administrations, that she also would bring the baggage of polarization and bitter rhetoric that has dominated the political landscape for at least two decades.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, a South Carolina native, has plied a populist message and concern for the nation's downtrodden as the centerpiece of his campaign. But that message has failed to ignite the voters as Obama's call for hope and change has.
Ideologically, Obama differs little from Clinton or Edwards. He plans to extricate the United States from Iraq, but cautiously. His catch-phrase is: "We need to be as careful in leaving Iraq as we were careless going in."
While he stresses that the loss of life and the toll on the U.S. military have been the worst consequences of the war, he also believes the economic damage resulting from spending billions of dollars each month on the war is severe.
Obama has a comprehensive health-care reform plan whose goal is to make health insurance available and affordable to all.
He views global warming not only as an environmental threat but also a threat to the economy and, ultimately, U.S. security. He would offer incentives to promote efficiency, invest in research in clean technology and institute a system designed to reduce carbon emissions.
He would seek a tax cut for middle-class families, as well as a tax credit of up to $4,000 toward a college education. However, he would roll back President Bush's tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and raise the capital gains tax rate on those making more than $250,000 a year.
But the principal reason we endorse Obama in Saturday's primary is because he appears to have the skills and the genuine desire to engender new hope, bring more people -- especially younger voters -- into the political process, bring the nation together and restore America's image around the globe.
Barack Obama is uniquely suited among the candidates to heal national rift.
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