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[Endorsement]

No-brainer

Thanks to the Weekly, you finally know whom to vote for

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Let’s begin with what Barack Obama is not. He is not what they say he is, of course: a socialist, a friend of terrorists, a crazy tax-and-spender. But he’s also not the man who chose an insultingly unqualified running mate to sit a faltering heartbeat away from the presidency in these perilous times. He’s not the candidate of a party whose last nominee gave us secret prisons, kangaroo courts, suspended liberties and a politicized government (the Department of Justice, for example); the party that believes a deregulated economy is the best economy; the party that lied us into a costly war.

These distinctions matter, because you’re never just voting for a president. You’re also voting for the vast number of people he’ll call on to help him govern, and in the case of a President John McCain that means many complicit in the last eight years of misrule.

Of course, you’d rather vote for a candidate than against one. Which is why, although the Weekly rarely endorses candidates, we now urge you to vote for Barack Obama.

True, for all his talk of change, he can be maddeningly vague about what that means; at times it seems no more than “I’m not Bush,” which is a good start but not nearly enough. His tax and health-care policies sound great—and aren’t doctrinaire liberal proposals, either—but it remains to be seen what final form they’ll take. Obama (as well as McCain) has been frustratingly cagey about answering the question of what proposals might not survive at all given our extraordinary financial troubles. And he is often criticized for being merely articulate, as if rhetoric is all he has.

But we can’t discount his eloquence, because it is linked to some genuine presidential qualities: thoughtfulness; the uncommon poise he’s exhibited in debates and on the stump; inspiration. There is about his campaign a feeling that what Obama offers is renewed confidence in us, not only to make a wise decision this week but also to do something positive in our own corners of the country in the future. Obama’s audacity of hope is not the audacity he creates in himself—the messiah/celebrity complex that even he seems uncomfortable with—but the audacity he creates in us. Maybe this feeling will fade. But these are audacious times, and Obama has made politics exciting at a moment when our faith in moving forward feels very wobbly. He has the best chance of restoring our faith in ourselves.

No one’s disputing that John McCain has been an honorable man. But not in this campaign. Viciously attacked in the 2000 campaign by the president he later embraced, McCain has now embraced those tactics. Thus, the nakedly desperate sleaze ads oozing across our screens lately. His selection of Sarah Palin as running mate was a stunning lapse in judgment—not merely from a campaign point of view, but from a governance one as well. Not even her staunchest backers can seriously believe she’s ready to lead this country, even in the most stable times.

One crucial impact absent all else: The next president will more than likely appoint at least one Supreme Court justice, and as many as three. This isn’t just about Roe v. Wade, either. As Garry Wills noted in the New York Review of Books, four of the court’s nine lifetime appointees support Bush and Cheney’s perverted doctrine of unitary presidential power—that is, of a president largely free to act without check or balance from Congress. That’s been the poisoned well from which too many misdeeds have flowed. A fifth, McCain-appointed justice would lock that position into a majority.

Our 44th president will inherit a broken economy, a two-front war, declining world support and a weary citizenry clearly fed up with what’s become business as usual. Only one candidate has the vision and character to, yes, make the changes we need.

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