Though initially supportive of former North Carolina Senator John Edwards’ presidential campaign, it is an honor to announce that today the Skrivekollektivet.com editorial board proudly and passionately endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States of America. We hold no illusions as to the political impact of our endorsement, and on November 4, the choice of course is presented to the American people, and the American people only. As genuinely pro-American internationalists, however, we feel compelled to make our case for change in American politics, both domestically and on the international stage.
Through an impressive primary campaign against some of the most talented people in the Democratic Party, and again over the course of a general election campaign that has forced him to take tough stands both on international affairs and the steep economic downturn, Senator Obama has convinced us that he is far and away the most reliable force for progressive politics in this election. He has the potential to build a new and lasting progressive coalition, consisting not only of Democrats, but also of moderate Republicans, eager to see the social cohesion of America strengthened again, and exhausted by the last eight of astounding incompetence and arrogance on the part of the George W. Bush Republican Party.
As President, Senator Obama would step into a political reality perhaps more dire than at any time in modern political history. His administration will probably have to act immediately in order to instill further confidence in the American financial markets, and also to provide needed economic relief for families threatened by job losses, home foreclosures or the risk of losing their health care benefits. Another stimulus package should also go a long way towards easing the turmoil in the markets worldwide, as the American economy still is one the driving forces behind the worldwide economy. Though neither Senator Obama nor his opponent, Republican Senator John McCain, have been absolutely clear about how they intend to tackle to the seemingly ever-deepening crisis, their performance in the closing weeks of the campaign have revealed stark contrasts with regard to how they go about assessing the problem. While Senator McCain has used the opportunity to avert attention from his life-long commitment to the deregulation that played a not-insignificant role in getting the country into this mess, by instead talking about extending the socially and economically indefensible Bush tax cuts, cutting the capital-gains tax to the one of the lowest levels in the world, and obsessing about the absurdly irrelevant issue of pork-barrel spending, Senator Obama’s approach has been different. He has proposed a moratorium on foreclosures in order to avoid people getting evicted from their homes, and he also proposes tax cuts for the middle class, paid for by repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. More could and should be done, but Obama’s perspective, fixing this problem from the bottom-up, not trickle-down, is the right one.
Senator Obama’s ability to adapt to changing political circumstances without losing sight of his preferred goals, likewise made us sure he is the right person to be the next commander-in-chief. Over the last eight years, it has become clearer than perhaps ever before that judgment matters in politics. You choose a president not only based on his stated policies, but also based on the way he reaches his decisions. To elect Barack Obama president would be a decisive repudiation of the dangerously unilateral, trigger-happy foreign policy of the era of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. We are glad that Barack Obama is a committed internationalist. American diplomatic, and in some cases military, power is still an indispensible part of the pursuit of global peace and prosperity. One of the most important changes in American policy under an Obama Administration would have to be a renewed interest in co-operating with both friends and enemies in order to enhance America’s moral and political standing in the world. This includes not only a responsible withdrawal from Iraq – a misguided war Senator Obama had the courage to oppose from the outset – but also a less ideological and more result-oriented approach to America’s political enemies. We are glad that Senator Obama has not backed away from his early commitment to direct talks with rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea. The Bush Administration’s stubborn refusal to engage these two countries have pushed them further down the dangerous path to developing the capacity to acquire nuclear weapons. To its credit, the Administration has softened their line somewhat in its second term, but the hard line still supported by Senator John McCain has made diplomatic stops more frequent than the starts, and the political progress less encouraging than it could otherwise have been. The political regimes of Iran and North Korea are of course both highly repressive and potentially very dangerous, but that should not keep America from acknowledging that the last eight years have seen a lot of missed opportunities. Senator Obama’s methodical approach to international affairs would in many ways compensate for his lack of foreign policy experience. His vice presidential nominee, Senator Joseph Biden, also is a very capable and reassuring pick in this regard.
The honesty and integrity of the McCain campaign was of course going downhill long before he gave in to the Christian right on the VP selection, but some of his most troubling policy stances then came into light. No one has quite so clearly reminded us why John McCain should never be given the opportunity to name justices to the Supreme Court, for instance. When Governor Sarah Palin, at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota, scoffed that Obama was more concerned about reading terrorists their rights – I,e, upholding habeas corpus, the age-old, constitutionally protected principle that a suspect has the right to a fair trial – than keeping terrorists from doing more harm, it was only after the supposedly moderate McCain had lambasted the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold that principle as one the Court’s worst decisions ever. Senator McCain may well be right that these are extraordinary times that call for a hard line on suspected terrorists, but we are heartened to learn Obama understands that meddling with fundamental judicial principles could be the first step in a very dangerous direction for the American judicial system. Not only would this strengthen the hand of rogue regimes with highly dubious legal systems – the if the Americans do it, why can’t we?-argument. Perhaps even more importantly, suspending habeas corpus for one group of suspects could, in the hands of a more authoritarian-minded Supreme Court, lead to a further expansion of which suspects should not be granted this fundamental legal protection. We expect Senator Obama to appoint judges that vow to uphold the Constitution. He should also push to revise the Military Commissions Act, in order to impose a strict torture ban, along with the abandonment of the extralegal judicial system for terror suspects.
It’s more than a little disturbing that Senator McCain, who during his maverick years refused to be pinned down in judicial dogmatism, now has finally caved in to his party’s right-wing on so-called judicial activism. Senator McCain now has vowed to appoint judges in the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts and the arch-conservative Samuel Alito, whose strict constructionist approach to the Constitution would render abortion, equal pay, environmental regulation, sensible gun-control measures and a host of other issues unconstitutional. Obama, wisely, have refused to name an ideal judge, but he has said that he would look for a competent person with a broader view of society than the strictly judicial. We side with Obama on this, as we find it important that the Court strike a balance between dynamism towards societal and moral change, and a solemn vow to uphold the principles of the Constitution. It might seem defensive, but it’s no less important, to vote for Senator Obama for judicial reasons. One more conservative judge on the bench could, among other things, remove a woman’s right to choose, and further consolidate the right’s ability to trample civil liberties.
A couple of months ago, when the McCain campaign first rolled out its Obama as celebrity line of attack, McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis said that this election is not about issues, it is about personality. Although we hold such a dichotomy to be overly cynical, and we refuse to evaluate the candidates on their personality only, Davis should not be surprised that Senator Obama now seems poised to win even on the personality front. Already winning handily on the issues most Americans want this election to be about, he has also removed any reasonable doubt that he has the judgment and strength of character to be a good President. While we honor Senator McCain’s service to his country, we believe, contrary to most speakers at the Republican Convention, that Senator Obama’s experience as a community organizer, a law professor, an Illinois State Senator and a U.S. Senator provide him with the necessary experience to make sure American politics once against is for and about the American people, and not for and about the interests of the incumbent party.
In that spirit, we not only endorse Senator Obama, but just as passionately and just as proudly, we endorse Senator Joe Biden for Vice President. In picking the immensely qualified Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as his running mate, Senator Obama started delivering on his promise of a new kind of politics even before the election. Senator Biden is, as Ryan Lizza wrote in a recent profile for The New Yorker, a ‘January pick’, a choice for governing, not for short-term political gains. Senator Biden has a long record of working across the aisle, both as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee (where he helped pass a sweeping crime bill, and defeated conservative Robert Bork’s candidacy to the Supreme Court) and on Foreign Relations, and he would be in a good position to gather bipartisan support for President Obama’s agenda. In doing so, and otherwise being a valuable source of advice to the President, he would at times risk disappointing the less patient factions of his party, but he could prove crucial to make an Obama administration at the same time effective and transformational.
Looking to McCain, no such long-term deliberations are evident in his choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President. We do not dispute that there are many kinds of experience that could make you adequately prepared for high office. We just vehemently dispute that Governor Palin has shown any sign whatsoever that she has the necessary competence. Even more frightening than her utter lack of intellectual curiosity with regard to foreign policy and even the wider world itself, is the way Palin and her party have embraced the notion that her lack of these very qualities make her ready to be second-in-command. But they are not proof that Palin has the outsider’s perspective on Washington D.C. Rather, they serve as proof that John McCain, the man who once wanted this election to be about proven competence versus inexperience and hope-mongering, gave the GOP Right a veto-power over his presidency. Sarah Palin was not chosen because John McCain thought she would make a good, or even an acceptable VP. She was a choice made to shake up his flailing campaign, a Rovian base-pleaser, intended to energize social conservatives. The space doesn’t allow us to chronicle all the issues on which we disagree with this rightward tilt of the Republican ticket, but let’s simply make clear that whatever clout Senator McCain may once have had as an independent-minded, non-ideological maverick, has now evaporated. His choice of Palin is one of the most short-sighted, cynical and overly political vice-presidential choices of all time. Voters should reject it.
Luckily, voters have a positive choice in this election. They have the opportunity to elect a president who will fight to make the American economy work for everybody, up, and more importantly, down the economic ladder. One who insists that prosperity should be both created and shared. A President who will work to restore accountability in the political process, and make sure the Constitution still is the foundation of freedom upon which American democracy rests. A President who sees America in the world, not just in Iraq. A President who believes it’s more important to do the right thing than to avoid being proven wrong. That President is Barack Obama.
The Editorial Board:
Pål Hafstad Thorsen
Stein Ove Lien