Obama deserves another term

The economy is improving, if slowly; Romney's approach would be worse

Despite the overheated rhetoric on both sides of the presidential campaign, there is probably less difference between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney than the partisan voices would have you believe.

We say "probably" because it is increasingly difficult to know what Romney really believes about anything, given his constantly shifting statements. But as Massachusetts governor, he amassed a record that can only be described as that of a moderate Republican.

Obama, for his part, is hardly the fire-breathing leftist his detractors claim. In fact, those in the left wing of the Democratic Party are profoundly disappointed that he has not pushed their agenda more forcefully.

That's not to say there are no policy differences between the candidates, or that it does not matter who wins the White House on Nov. 6. It matters a great deal.

We endorsed Obama in 2008 and, while he has not accomplished everything we might wish he had, we believe he deserves a second term for the following reasons:

The economy: Obama moved aggressively to shore up the auto industry, saving a major sector of the economy and a large number of jobs. Conservatives would have preferred to see the powerful automotive unions destroyed, but that would have meant allowing the industry to collapse as well.

The recovery is undeniably under way. It is painfully slow, but it is moving in the right direction. Consumer confidence, retail sales and the housing market are on the rise, and unemployment is easing.

  • The middle class: Vice President Joe Biden uttered a truth (in other words, a gaffe) when he said the middle class had been "buried" in the past four years. It's true, but it happened despite Obama's best efforts, not because of them. The difference, going forward, is that Romney's prescription is to help the wealthy, which will bury the middle class even deeper. Obama's policies won't do that. And that is the most fundamental difference in this election.
  • The federal deficit: Neither Romney nor Obama can take effective action on federal spending without Congress. Obama has not been as forceful on this issue as we would like, but he has also been thwarted at every turn by congressional Republicans who vowed to make him a one-term president and refused to consider any compromise on taxes, which are lower now than they have been in decades.

Federal spending must be reined in, but cuts alone will not solve the problem without some adjustment on the revenue side. Romney continues to insist that the budget can be balanced and the deficit reduced without tax increases, a position that defies reality.

  • Health care reform: One of the biggest threats to the economy as a whole is the broken health care system. The Affordable Care Act is not a perfect solution, but it is a move in the right direction and it is better than nothing. Far from the "government takeover" its critics claim, it preserves the private health insurance industry on terms originally proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, and is virtually indistinguishable from the Massachusetts plan signed into law by then-Gov. Romney. Romney now says he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, but is deliberately vague about what he would replace it with.
  • Foreign policy: Obama ended the U.S. war effort in Iraq and has announced plans to wind down the war in Afghanistan — although not as quickly as we would like to see. At the same time, he managed to help rebels topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi without involving American ground troops, and he has avoided becoming entangled in Syria. He also ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden, and he has taken a firm line with Iran but resisted calls for military action against that country's nuclear program.

Romney, who has no foreign policy experience, has engaged in some verbal saber-rattling over Syria and Iran that could prove dangerous if he listened to some of the more militaristic voices in his party.

We recommend voters re-elect Barack Obama, but we also want him to be more transparent about governing. Despite his vows to open up government, he has increasingly played things close to the vest, holding few press conferences and not speaking directly to the public as often as he should.

He should continue what have been, under the circumstances, reasonably successful policies. But he needs to do a better job of communicating with the public.


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