Barack to the Future

Here's my endorsement for 2008 Democratic Party Nominee which ran today on the editorial page of the Philadelphia Daily news, where I serve as a member of the editorial board.

The writer Ingrid Bengis once observed, "Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change." What this country needs is a president not only with experience and knowledge -- which both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama possess -- but a president with a vision of the future, and the persuasive ability to make that vision come true. Words are not just words when they come from Sen. Obama. They are actions.

The Clintons have made much of Barack Obama's admiration for Ronald Reagan's ability to enact his vision. But I agreed with Obama when he pointed out that to truly and radically change the course of the country, as Reagan did, it takes an inspiring appeal to our better nature.

Reagan didn't simply roll back what President Carter had done in regards to taxes and a more laissez-faire foreign policy. He inspired our country onto a radical new trajectory - from a fiercely smaller (and some would argue, less compassionate) government, to a fervent military build-up. While in many ways this ill-served the nation, Reagan inspired an overwhelming number of people to not just support his policies, but force Congress to follow his lead.

And while both Clinton and Obama have the skills to roll back many of the awful things George W. Bush has gotten us into - war, and a possible recession, for starters - the next president needs to do more than that, but with a decidedly progressive tilt that will serve us and the world well.

He or she will have to begin leading the world again.

On foreign policy, Sen. Clinton has a reasonable plan, from a technical standpoint, to remove troops from Iraq and target the real threat in Afghanistan. But Obama's plan begins where hers leaves off. He is the only candidate who has boldly asserted that we must go beyond the hot spots, change our worldview, and talk with enemy nations. This does not mean capitulating, but it does mean recognizing that to settle the issues in the Middle East, it will mean opening a dialogue with nations like Iran and Syria. Obama is suggesting no different a tactic than another transformational leader, John F. Kennedy, espoused when he said, "We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate."

It takes a transformational leader to inspire a nation to march with him or her, especially when the path is untraveled. In this, Obama excels, and can lead America down the better path in a way that Hillary Clinton simply will not.

He did the same in Illinois. When the governor, legislature and even the police said it was a bad idea to videotape law-enforcement interrogations and confessions to discourage brutality, Obama began a one-man mission to convince them all that not only was his view morally right, but essential. He reached out to his opposition, listened to them, heard their concerns but disagreed. Eventually, his bill passed 35-0, and the governor signed it.

The type of leadership that will bring people together for a new, broad coalition of the left, center, and even the right is necessary to resolve our foreign policy challenges, the environment, the economy, trade and so many more issues. We do need words. We need great, inspiring words that call us - not back to the '90s, but forward, into a new and challenging era. And the most inspirational words I can think of are these:
President Obama.