The presidency of the United States is a powerful bully pulpit. The occupant of the White House must not only issue orders, but also inspire and advocate for all Americans.
Of the two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Chronicle believes Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is best-qualified by life experience, skill and temperament to be the standard bearer for his party. In a conference call, Obama told the Chronicle editorial board that "more than any other candidate, I can bridge some of the partisan as well as racial and religious divides that have developed in this country that prevent us from getting things done."
Those who have viewed the numerous campaign debates know there's not much to separate Obama from his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Either could ably represent the Democratic Party. Both candidates favor ending the war in Iraq by withdrawing combat troops and initiating regional negotiations to stabilize the country. Both would press for dramatic strides toward providing all Americans with health insurance.
Both support a cap and trade system to begin reducing America's carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Each promises to initiate multibillion-dollar efforts to promote conversion of the economy to clean energy technologies. They favor securing our borders, initiating comprehensive immigration reform and creating a path to earned legal status for those already here who are working and contributing to their communities.
However, there is a decisive difference. Obama vows to reach out to independents and Republicans with a message of inclusion and cooperation. He offers a historic opportunity to elevate national political dialogue to a higher ground. Those who insist on vitriol and obstructionism would be marginalized.
On several issues vital to Houstonians, Obama's positions need elaboration. He recognizes the need to maintain U.S. pre-eminence in space but said he wanted to study the costs and benefits of human space exploration — an exercise that should convince him of the space program's long history of indispensable contributions.
Obama said he did not expect the leaders of the energy sector to vote for him. He needs to realize that the energy sector must be a large part of a cooperative effort to develop alternative fuels and avoid an energy crunch.
The 46-year-old Obama has expanded his base of support, winning new legions of supporters. The more people see and hear him, the more they like him. As the Hawaiian-born son of a Muslim Kenyan father and an Anglo Midwesterner, the devoutly Christian Obama transcends race and religion. His life has been one of involvement with disadvantaged Chicago residents, excellence at Harvard Law School and eight years as an Illinois state senator. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, only the third African-American to serve there since Reconstruction.
Obama is both the epitome of the American Dream and well-positioned to reach out to an international community alienated by recent U.S. go-it-alone policies.
The passion and excitement that Obama has brought to the race can only stimulate more citizens to participate in the electoral process. The Chronicle urges Texas Democrats to cast what could be decisive ballots for his presidential nomination.