As I mentioned last week, integrity is my top criterion in choosing a leader. Sound judgment is also critical. We never know what a president will face, so how they make decisions and lead is all we have to go on. While I have been disappointed in several areas, overall President Obama has been a principled, honest and intelligent leader. His actions have been reasonable and at times, if anything, too moderate. Though I wish we were further along in ending the wars, President Obama is far more likely to be prudent in the use of force than Governor Romney, who already has exhibited a certain recklessness with foreign affairs. While much has been made of the slowness of this recovery, the economic crisis was created entirely by George W. Bush and the kinds of fiscal policies Governor Romney wants to bring back. The fact is, we are recovering and the progress has been substantial, despite the obstructionist Republicans in Congress. People know this intuitively, which is why Obama isn’t getting hurt more by the economy, much to Romney’s consternation.
Though I have a strong libertarian streak, my faith teaches me that I am my brother’s keeper — that we are all one, responsible for each other with the unquestioning support of family. I believe President Obama sees it that way too. I don’t expect either Obama or Romney to make the radical changes to our economy that would make it substantially fairer, but I trust President Obama more to make decisions that will benefit all Americans, not just those at the top. Governor Romney, though he is active in personal and church-based charity, has made it clear he does not believe this social contract extends to government activity. That is a key distinction.
Many question the president’s decision to have expended so much of his political capital on passing a national health care bill that is less than those on the left hoped for, and more than those on the Right have convinced themselves is acceptable. The fact is that he got it done — something the highly charismatic Bill Clinton failed to do, as well as Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman and Nixon before him. Unless Romney is elected and undoes it before most people have even felt its benefits, national health care in some form is now part of America. That is a remarkable achievement.
I’m no fan of big-government socialistic solutions, so my enthusiasm for President Obama may seem odd, if you believe the Right’s offensive and fictitious caricature of his presidency. This caricature is a lie — a concerted strategy to obstruct, demonize and discredit him so he would fail (hurting the country in the process.) The reality is that President Obama lowered taxes on the middle class during the recovery and, to address the debt crisis, proposes nothing more tax-wise than returning to the rates we had under Clinton. Spending on non-entitlements has been restrained. His steps to end Bush’s wars have been frustratingly slow and measured. Even the right-wing bogeyman Obamacare is based on ideas that were promoted by Republican conservatives until they were taken up by a Democratic president. As conservative supporter Andrew Sullivan has said, Obama is basically a Tory — someone who works within the established political order and makes measured decisions. In this way, he is closer to an old-school Northeastern Republican than his opponent, who actually used to be one.
And the latest snow job, this hyped-up outrage declaring the HHS mandate to be a war on religion and a violation of our Bill of Rights, is absurd. In fact, employers in 28 states including over half the country’s population live under similar laws, some with exemptions as narrow or narrower or absent, including that implemented by Mitt Romney himself when he was a governor. If the Right hadn’t freaked out about it, no one would have noticed. Anyone observing President Obama without an extreme partisan filter can see that he is a faithful Christian and no enemy of religion.
Let me be as clear as possible here. President Obama is and has been a moderate, temperate, mostly centrist leader. What the Right has been saying about his presidency for four solid years is perhaps the most extreme campaign of disinformation an American political movement has ever waged. If you disagree with what Obama has actually done, that’s fine; but make sure what you think he’s done is actually true.
The decision this year is not close. I want to focus on what’s good about President Obama, but part of my decision is based on what’s problematic about Governor Romney. Early in the primary process, some friends on the left thought that if the Republicans won and Romney was their nominee, things could be a lot worse. Looking at his tenure in Massachusetts, there was reason to think he’d be moderate and even liberal at times. But over the course of the campaign, Romney espoused the positions of the far right enthusiastically, capping things off with selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate. Of course, he’s probably not that right-wing, but then again who can be sure. Romney has exhibited a lack of integrity that surpasses any presidential candidate in my lifetime. (Gore was no prize, but it wasn’t this bad.) Either way, Barack Obama has been and will be a better president.
I asked last week which candidate is more likely to further our disentangling abroad and healing at home. The answer is clearly Barack Obama. Now that we’ve just barely managed to climb out of the hole Bush dug us into, I look forward to seeing President Obama preside over the rest of the recovery, the end of the war, and the full rollout of Obamacare. He deserves that, and our country will be better for it.
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