An economic Katrina is shattering the confidence of hardworking, middle-class Americans. The war that should never have been in Iraq is dragging on too long. At a time of huge challenge, the candidate with the intelligence, temperament and judgment to lead our nation to a better place is Sen. Barack Obama.
Obama should be the next president of the United States because he is the most qualified change agent. Obama is a little young, but also brilliant. If he sometimes seems brainy and professorial, that's OK. We need the leader of the free world to think things through, carefully. We have seen the sorry results of shooting from the hip.
As our country lurches from one financial or energy crisis to the next, American taxpayers remain burdened with the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan - to the tune of $12 billion a month.
Consider the banking and financial morass. Neither Obama nor his opponent, Sen. John McCain, offers a perfect solution. But McCain is all over the map, veering from statements such as "The fundamentals of our economy are strong" to the more obvious "Wall Street is threatened by greed."
McCain is at heart a deregulator. But it is the hands-off and ineffective federal regulatory system that allowed this mess to fester. Obama offered a more coherent approach months ago when he called for regulating investment banks, mortgage brokers and hedge funds and streamlining overlapping regulatory agencies.
Our country is on the wrong track. Average, middle-class citizens have lost confidence that if they work hard, they can improve their lives, afford to send their kids to college and not be tossed out of their homes.
American optimism has been wracked by President George Bush and a previous Republican Congress. If you want change, you do not keep what is essentially the same team in power. You try something different. You vote for the stronger matchup, Obama and Sen. Joseph Biden, a smart and steady hand on foreign policy and other matters.
On the issues:
• The economy: The Good Ship America is listing in turbulent waters. Sinking mortgage and banking institutions are wreaking havoc at home and abroad. The problem is in the private sector, but it has been made worse by a federal policy favoring big corporations. The Bush administration has not regulated these companies effectively or done what it takes to curb their wants.
Obama understands this better than McCain and makes clear he would do more to correct it. Obama's assistance to the middle class in the form of tax cuts and college-tuition breaks is a centerpiece of his campaign.
• Energy: The energy crisis is zapping our economic well-being. What does McCain want to do? "Drill, baby, drill," to quote the mindless chant at the Republican National Convention. That is not an energy policy. It is a cheap, shortsighted slogan.
Obama has a coherent plan that includes some drilling, as a stopgap, but he looks to a mix of renewable resources. He is more likely to move America off its dependence on foreign oil. McCain has been in office for 26 years and done little to change this dynamic.
• The Iraq war: Many Americans will cast their vote on this one issue alone. Past performance is the best indicator of future conduct. Obama opposed the war, McCain supported it full-bore. Obama has a plan for moving the troops out; McCain seeks "victory," whatever that actually means. The net effect will be more time and money wasted in a country that did not participate in 9/11.
Afghanistan harbors the key culprits, and the situation there is worse than it has been in eight years. Afghanistan is where our bigger effort should be, as Obama has articulated.
• Education: Obama is more practical than ideological on education. He wants merit pay for good teachers and extra training or firing for lousy ones. He wants to double federal funding for charter schools, but not in a way that cuts into the heart of public schools. Obama recently gave a major speech on education. McCain is too low-key on an important issue.
On numerous other issues, from media consolidation to health care, Obama has the stronger take. He makes up for a thin résumé with integrity, judgment and fresh ideas. Obama can get America moving forward again.