The only thing we have to fear, a great president once said, is fear itself.
Barack Obama is not afraid.
Concerned. Alert. Maybe even a little alarmed. But the Democratic candidate for president of the United States is not afraid and, of perhaps even more importance, he does not seek to be elected by making us afraid.
If Americans want a future where our leaders respond to challenges with judgment and principle, rather than panic and rashness, they will elect Barack Obama president. We recommend they do so.
Our preference for Obama is not based only on matters of character, intelligence and calm. It also flows from his superior positions on such basic issues as war and peace, energy and environment, the economy and taxation, health care and justice.
Fundamentally, Obama does not want us to fear the future, the ever smaller, ever more complicated world, the problems we face and the choices we must make. He most certainly does not want us to be afraid of one another. And Obama does not even want us to be afraid of his rival candidate.
There was a time when it was reasonable to hope that the same would be true of the Republican candidate, John McCain.
The senator from Arizona has a long history of public service, most notably five years of imprisonment and torture in Vietnam, that also has included conspicuous examples of political courage. He has, at various times in the past, stood for sensible and compassionate immigration reform and against the darker aspects of the Bush administration's anti-terror tactics. He has done so even when substantial numbers of the American people and the leadership of his own party were against him.
A contest between John McCain, that John McCain, and Barack Obama could have presented the American voter with an embarrassment of riches: two serious, principled, devoted candidates for president, at a time when the world desperately needs those characteristics, promoting differing but reasonable visions of policy and personality.
But in recent weeks, as the polls have shown McCain's long dream of becoming president slipping away, he has fully and stunningly embraced the politics of fear. He, personally and through running mate Sarah Palin, has launched a smear campaign against Obama that smacks of racism and includes distortions and red herrings. We once considered McCain, when he was an independent thinker focused on issues, as a very serious contender for American leadership; his selection of the unqualified Palin for a post a heartbeat away from the presidency rules that out.
Obama, on the other hand, decided to remain true to himself and the persona and policies that got him this far. While adversaries see the senator from Illinois as aloof, and even some friends fear that he is maddeningly passive, the crucible of the interminable campaign has shown Obama to posses the intelligence, judgment and temperament that clearly make him the better choice this year.
Obama was correct to be deeply suspicious of President Bush's optional war in Iraq, even as he correctly cautions against leaving that country in a way that would be as foolhardy as we entered. He knows that war must be ended as soon as possible, not for reasons of surrender or foolhardy pacifism, but because the real threat to civilization still hides in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He knows that that threat cannot be successfully opposed by an America that continues to turn its back on old and potential allies, as well as on American principles of justice and respect.
Obama, unlike McCain, knows the damage that the Bush-era tax cuts have done to the federal government's fiscal stability even as they have shifted the burden of taxation off the shoulders of the rich and onto the backs of the working classes. His plan to end the giveaways to the wealthy, while protecting those with incomes of less than $250,000 a year, is the correct approach. McCain, in contrast, admitted early in the primaries that economics was not a strong point for him. It must be, for the next president.
Obama and McCain once shared a concern for the global environment and rejected quick-and-dirty fixes such as wholesale offshore drilling. While Obama has changed a bit on that as energy issues intensified during the campaign, McCain has gone completely into the grip of the oil giants and the shortsighted.
Obama, the former professor of constitutional law, also is more worthy of trust in matters of justice, including the operation of a Justice Department free of partisanship and a military that does not operate kangaroo courts anywhere in the world.
Perhaps most important of all, Obama is the more likely of the two to face the near future of the world's financial problems with wisdom and even-handedness, never forgetting that government has a crucial role to play in setting the rules by which trillions of dollars in trades can be created, so as to guard against the very real possibility that they will just as quickly evaporate.
Obama's experience in the inner workings of government is not as extensive as that of his opponent, or as much as many reasonable people would like. But his experience in life, starting with little and experiencing much, is just the kind of thing America needs to rebuild its faith in itself and its standing in the world. He has the potential to be a transformative president.
For all that he offers, Barack Obama deserves to be elected.
Endorsements by The News editorial board are intended to aid voters in their own evaluations of those seeking office. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote and take part in our democratic process.