In its 244-year history, The Courant has endorsed only one Democratic candidate for president, Bill Clinton. Today we endorse a second Democrat, Sen. Barack Obama, with the hope that if elected, he governs from the middle as Mr. Clinton did. Mr. Obama must resist serving only his party's interests and instead serve the greater interests of a worried nation.
America is starved for a leader who can restore pride and once again make the nation a beacon for the world, or in the words of Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop in 1630, "a city on a hill — with the eyes of all people upon us."
Mr. Obama has the right qualities of leadership, the elevating, can-do message that "we are the ones we have been waiting for" and the calm temperament for these anxious times. He has the counsel of such trusted figures as former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell and investment legend Warren Buffett.
The son of a black Kenyan and a white Kansan, Mr. Obama is a transformative figure, as Mr. Powell has said. He would be the first African American president if elected.
Even if he doesn't become president, the huge crowds he has drawn; the record-breaking donations he has raised from an unprecedented number of contributors; and the nomination he won — all have rewarded the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s faith that one day his children would "live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
The times cry out for a leader of Mr. Obama's mettle. Americans have suffered through years of losses, from the nearly 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11, 2001, through the more than 4,000 American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the tens of thousands wounded. More than a million people have lost their homes through foreclosure. Economists are warning that the United States is facing the gravest economic threat since the Great Depression.
Republican Sen. John McCain has failed to persuade us he could wake the nation from this seven-year nightmare.
He is a war hero and a man of great character. Though we did not believe he was the strongest candidate in the Republican primary field, The Courant has long admired Mr. McCain for fashioning bipartisan coalitions on such difficult issues as campaign contributions, caps on carbon dioxide emissions, immigration and the confirmation of judges.
But his judgment has been questionable of late, impulsive and off-key, especially his almost panicky announcement that he would suspend campaigning and perhaps postpone one of only three presidential debates to attend to Wall Street bailout legislation. That performance was apparently for show.
Most worrisome, however, is Mr. McCain's choice of a running mate, Sarah Palin, who is not yet ready for prime time. With so many capable people to choose from, Mr. McCain's pick of a governor with such a thin resume was disappointing. It's a wonder how Mr. McCain can make his Democratic rival out to be too green to be commander-in-chief when his Republican running mate is so vulnerable on that point.
Mr. Obama has been battle-tested on the campaign field and shown remarkable grace under fire. He has electrified this campaign, building a staggering war chest of $605 million from more than 3 million contributors. An unprecedented number of new voters have registered.
He's not without flaws. Mr. Obama, like Mr. McCain, has proposed a tax plan that would significantly increase the national debt without much of a boost to economic growth, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
He, like Mr. McCain, has flip-flopped: Mr. Obama in breaking his vow on public financing, and Mr. McCain in reversing his opposition to the Bush tax cuts. We liked the earlier Sen. McCain, the one who was for balanced budgets and a compassionate immigration policy and against torture.
And yes, earlier we had endorsed a more experienced Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, for the primary.
But you have to go back nearly a half-century to find a politician as inspiring as Mr. Obama. Eight months ago, people young and old, of all hues and manner of dress, stood in line for hours and packed Hartford's XL Center to the rafters to hear him speak.
If he uses his tremendous talents wisely, he offers the best hope to make America once again, in the eyes of the world, that "city on a hill."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun