Voters often say they want their elected leaders to keep their promises and, at crucial moments, show real political backbone. President Barack Obama deserves a second term largely because he has delivered on both of these fronts.
Obama ran on pledges to end the war in Iraq, hunt down al-Qaida leaders and restore the nation's reputation in the world. He has followed through. The foreign policy disasters created by the Bush administration were a heavy burden to inherit. But Obama has successfully extricated the United States from Iraq and removed Osama bin Laden from the international stage. Moreover, he has strengthened our relationships with democratic allies and sent a clear message to dictators in the Arab-Muslim world that, unless they open up their societies, their people will rise up and end their rule.
In his first two years, Obama could have played it safe and hoarded his political capital. He did not. One of his campaign pledges was to reform the health care system that has left so many Americans uninsured, at a crippling cost both to themselves and the nation. Despite the non-negotiating stance of Republicans even those who once supported a system such as that in Massachusetts Obama passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
While there still is much work ahead to implement health care reform and hold down medical costs, this law holds the promise of extending health care coverage to 36 million Americans. Obama has good reason to be proud of "Obamacare." It is a signature achievement that has eluded presidents dating back to Harry Truman.
Obama not only inherited wars, he inherited a mortgage meltdown and the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. He had to act quickly to prevent two automakers from going bankrupt and forestall a larger Wall Street catastrophe, and he did.
While some critics on the left say he should have gone further, by breaking up banks and launching an ambitious New Deal-style jobs program, it should be remembered that even Obama's modest "stimulus" package was fought tooth and nail by Republicans in Congress. As has been well documented, the Republican strategy was to block all of the president's efforts at economic recovery, even if it kept unemployment high for an extended period. As a coldblooded political strategy, it has worked, and millions of Americans have paid the price.
The last four years are instructive, but the next four years could well determine whether the United State repowers its economic engine and rebuilds its middle class, or whether it lapses back to the unequal and deficit-created policies of the Bush era. Although his positions seem to change on a weekly basis, Obama's challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, clearly would pursue tax cuts for the rich, on the discredited theory the wealthy would invest their savings in U.S. jobs. These "trickle down" theories haven't worked before and won't work now. Romney has also pledged to repeal health care reform, a transfer of wealth away from people who would receive subsidies to businesses and the wealthy who would be taxed under Obama-care.
The scariest part of a Romney victory is the potential that he and Paul Ryan would attempt to shape the U.S. Supreme Court to match their religious and political beliefs, including opposition to abortion. As Ryan made clear in the debate Thursday, "Our faith informs us in everything we do." That could mean Romney would appoint justices who oppose abortion and gay marriage, even though Republicans normally pledge to "get government out of people's lives."
Obama unruffled by Looney Tunes claims that he is a "socialist" and a "Marxist" has pursued a consistent, moderate path that has pulled this country back from the brink and put it on a path toward recovery. In a second term, with just a little help from Congress, he could finish the job and pursue other priorities, including upgrading transportation infrastructure, reinvesting in higher education and making the United States a leader in clean energy technologies.
By contrast, Romney has been all over the map on climate change, health care reform and fiscal policy, and he seems determined to lead us into a costly war in Iran, regardless of the consequences.
We've seen this script before. We don't want it again. We'd urge you to return President Obama to the White House for a second term.
Next Sunday the Romney response
The Bee has invited the Romney campaign to write a response to this endorsement, at equal length, and the campaign has agreed. Look for it next Sunday in California Forum and at www.sacbee.com/opinion.