Americans on Tuesday will choose either President Barack Obama or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as their next president. Both candidates are well qualified in terms of intellect and experience. And although both are flawed, Americans won’t be choosing the lesser of two evils. Either could succeed.
Four years ago, we supported then Sen. Obama. We were excited, as were tens of millions of Americans, about the prospect of finally electing a black candidate as president. That was an exciting, even unforgettable, breakthrough. Moreover, his optimism and can-do attitude were contagious, raising expectations to unrealistic heights.
Today, we’re disappointed in President Obama. Not just because he didn’t accomplish everything he set out to do, or promised. Republicans were part of the reason for that; they set out immediately to defeat him and any policy he supported. Yet President Obama also hurt his own cause.
He took office before the depth of the Great Recession was known, and to his credit, his administration was able to prevent the situation from becoming even more catastrophic.
But economic progress in recent years has been painfully slow, in part because he didn’t focus immediately and intensely on creating jobs, as many Americans had hoped.
Among things we fault President Obama for is lack of leadership. He appointed the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which was a positive move to confront the nation’s debt. But he then backed away from its practical and even-handed recommendations when his support could have made a difference.
He turned key issues over to congressional Democrats, who, lamentably, were no more willing to compromise with Republicans than Republicans were with them.
President Obama has enjoyed successes, important ones. Millions more Americans have health insurance than did before he took office. And as Vice President Joe Biden is fond of repeating, Osama bin Laden is dead and GM is alive. What’s more, the president removed U.S. troops from Iraq and is in the process of removing them from Afghanistan, although announcing a troop surge in Afghanistan and withdrawal at the same time was counterproductive.
Generally, President Obama’s foreign policy leaves much to be desired. Leading from behind is less a strategy than a euphemism for abdicating leadership to others. Our strategy for the Middle East remains unclear and the president’s protestations aside, his actions, intentional or thoughtless, have undermined our relationship with Israel. There is validity to the claim that his initial visit to the Middle East was an “apology tour.”
Although the president makes a fair case for re-election, he doesn’t have the same credibility – or ability to inspire – that he did four years ago. He must now be judged not on potential but his record: what he has done, and what he hasn’t done. In our view, he hasn’t done enough to merit re-election.
We recommend Mr. Romney. He also doesn’t inspire, but he doesn’t pretend to. He might, however, have the leadership and practical business skills to help accelerate job creation and address our long-term economic woes.
Mr. Romney’s success as governor of Massachusetts was real, and it matters. It matters not just because the Bay State prospered under his administration but also because, as he has reminded voters, he found ways to work with a Legislature that was overwhelmingly Democratic. That required tact and the ability to compromise, traits sorely lacking in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Romney’s success in stabilizing – even rescuing – the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics also matters; that was quite an accomplishment, one achieved through working with both public and private partners.
Indeed, his business background, which includes his controversial tenure at Bain Capital, is impressive. He already enjoys productive relationships with the banking industry and corporate America, which, if their excesses can be curbed, will be vital to continued and expanded economic recovery efforts.
On foreign policy, he understands both the importance of improving relations with Muslim countries and of shoring up our ties with Israel, and he recognizes the importance of American strength in the Asia-Pacific region.
Though we recommend Mr. Romney, we’re not without misgivings — particularly uncertainty over which Mitt Romney would occupy the Oval Office.
If it is the conservative who veered sharply right during the Republican primary campaign – who wouldn’t, for instance, accept $10 in spending cuts for just $1 in tax cuts, then America would be better off without him. If, however, it is the moderate who governed Massachusetts and is concerned about the greater good and doesn’t meddle in people’s lives, our nation can prosper under his presidency.