Many of us watched with a certain amount of elation four years ago as America elected Barack Obama as the first African American President of the United States and then stood in the bitter January cold to watch his inauguration. We felt then that—while the election spoke to the best in the American spirit—Obama was also the best person to inspire Americans to overcome the disastrous repercussions from an ongoing recession still sliding toward an economic cliff, the remaining sour after-effects of terrorism directed against us by al-Qaeda and the debilitating costs of two ongoing wars.
So, how do we feel now, today, this very minute, as President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are locked and apparently deadlocked, according to the latest polls, in a bitter campaign that will come to a climax next week?
Are we—as the challenger likes to ask—better off today than we were four years ago? It is a question that is as much about the state of the economy, about morale and about perception of what the future holds and what must be done about it—as it is about party and philosophical loyalty and personal preference, as well as how we are doing. It involves a choice: Democrat or Republican, liberal-moderate or conservative-pragmatic, Obama-Biden or Romney-Ryan, struggling or doing just fine, better or worse.
To answer those questions properly, clearly and unhesitatingly, without reservations or nuance is impossible. Only a fool or a fanatic, after enduring a campaign like this, could embrace one side without objection or pause. But let us say this: when all is said and done, the president’s effort to stem the tide of recession into full-blown depression did work and his interventionist policy on the auto industry did work and saved this U.S. industry. Romney, in spite of his business credentials, has been unconvincing in his efforts to prove he could have done better. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the president stopped the deluge and prevented this country from going into a depression. Since then, the economy has been at best slow in recovering, but it is recovering, as opposed to sliding backward.
President Obama did lead the effort to kill Osama bin Laden, although it’s true that “You can’t kill your way to a Middle East policy,” as Romney has indicated. The president ended the war in Iraq, as promised, and he is ending the war in Afghanistan, efforts that a majority of Americans support.
Lots of things still bother us about Obama: his education approach leaves a lot to be desired and penalized older teachers by too often blaming them. Obamacare, is an imperfect work, which, politically, has hurt him, but we suspect the timing was one of now or never. His economic and jobs plans seem to look to the future, not to mention addressing environmental issues. For Romney, the first seems mainly about drilling, the second is nonexistent, in spite of the daily—Hurricane Sandy being the latest example—evidence of climate change and its disastrous effects.
We would have liked to have seen Obama deploy his inspirational, visionary and rhetorical skills more consistently and more often, especially during the course of this campaign, which has consisted of a barrage of negative ads on both sides. We remain mystified by his first debate performance, which changed the campaign dramatically in its ebb and flow
It seems to us that, unlike his opponent, the president sees the country as a whole, not divided by a 47 percentile, and revels in its diversity—and not just because he is the most visible manifestation of the strength of America’s diversity. When Obama talks about the unemployed, the underemployed, the poor, the middle class, the struggling, he seems to know (from experience), the rich, sometimes anguished, triumphant, hard-working, ambitious and energetic mosaic of the country, its coat of many colors.
Romney was born rich, and this has never changed in the course of his life. This is not a criticism or some sort of sin of class and privilege—many consequential, patriotic, compassionate, caring, inventive and visionary men and women have worn and lived their wealthy status well. Yet, it was Romney who appeared to dismiss nearly half the population of this country in cavalier terms in the company of friends, where persons feel comfortable enough to be bluntly honest. He has shown throughout this campaign—and we should consider its totality, not just the debates—that he is tone deaf when it comes to the life experiences of others. He seems to lack, not necessarily compassion, but imagination and curiosity.
Romney is fond of touting his experience as a manager of a company—which he thinks of as a small business—of running the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and as Governor of Massachusetts, where he actually created the prototype for Obamacare, which he plans to end the minute he takes office. He is, in the end, not the dreaded right-wing conservative that some people see. If he is anything, it is as the apostle of corporate divinity, as business embodying all the requisite American virtues and wisdom to solve all our future economic and international problems. He is a firm believer that big businesses are not only people, but patriots, which may explain why General Electric found a way not to pay taxes of any sort in hard times because it was legal.
The other problem with Mr. Romney is that we actually don’t know what he stands for on numerous issues about which he has changed his mind. We wonder not what his principles are but sometimes, if he has any that he’s not willing to discard in order to get elected, given his sudden discovery of American women voters whom he’s now courting with all the ardor of a swain afraid of being left at the altar.
The question is not, “Are we better off?” but, “Will we better off over the course of the next four years, and who can lead us in that direction of eventual triumph and destiny?” Which candidate will not only stand up against our foes, but stand out among world leaders and work with them? Which one can offer the kind of inspiration to move us forward in what is a new and changing world of both great peril and great opportunity?
In the end, it is not business experience which will move us forward, but human experience in as many manifestations as possible. That requires strength in the crunch, curiosity, empathy and imagination. For those qualities, we look to and enthusiastically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term.
District Council: Evans, Orange, Grosso and Mendelson
The Georgetowner also endorses Jack Evans for the Ward 2 seat on the District Council, for which he is running unopposed. Evans is the longest serving councilman we have and has served with honor, high effectiveness and expertise, without which the council would be at a serious loss.
The District Council’s At-Large race features a number of challengers and will result in the election of two candidates, at least one of whom has to be a non-Democrat, per council rules. Among the newcomers and challengers, David Grosso, a Brookland resident and attorney and one-time staffer for former Ward 6 Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose and counsel for D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, strikes us as the best qualified with ideas, pushing for workforce help in the poorer parts of the district, open to new ideas and lots of fight and energy to take on what is often seen as a beginning-to-ossify council. At a recent at-large candidate forum in Georgetown, we were also impressed by Republican Mary Brooks Beatty (Yes, we were), who was a hands-on advisory neighborhood commissioner in a changing H Street, NE, neighborhood and was part of the successful efforts to revive that neighborhood.
In the end, the two incumbents—Democrat Vincent Orange and Independent Michael Brown are one too much. Brown has had just one too many iffy clouds hanging over him—including donations from developer Jeffrey Thompson, a connection he shared with Orange. Last week, the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance asserted that Orange’s special election campaign finances were in order, a position the councilman had maintained since the first questions about donations. Both Orange and Brown are long-time veterans of the D.C. and the council political scene—both ran unsuccessfully for mayor, for instance.
We very much like Orange’s ability to play and work well with others on the council and his ability to get things done in ways that are not divisive. While he is surely a good friend of Georgetown, the energetic Orange also sees all of D.C. as one city and tends to it accordingly.
The Georgetowner endorses incumbent Councilman-at-Large Vincent Orange and independent newcomer David Grosso for the two at-large seats on the District Council.
The Georgetowner also endorses Phil Mendelson for a full term as Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia. In a council plagued by ethical concerns and troubles, not to mention a city government burdened with the same concerns, Mendelson stands out as not only an ethical leader and legislator but as a leader who leads by example and around whom the council has rallied all but unanimously. ?