Editorial: Send Obama back to the White House

Last modified: 12/18/2012 10:28:56 AM
Mitt Romney is a political chameleon who reflexively changes from blue to purple to blood red to match his backdrop. Should he become president, many of the people who voted for him will find that he told them what he thought they wanted to hear, then sold them out. What Romney actually believes remains a mystery. Given his many position changes, and the near-complete absence of the specifics that supposedly underlie his myriad promises, it’s impossible to know what he would do as president. Our fear is that he would be as likely to do what is politically expedient as he would to do what is right.

President Obama has a track record that, while hardly perfect, easily justifies giving him a second term. He has had to contend with the most fractious and least productive Congress in two generations and an opposing party that’s willing to destroy the country’s economy to gain political advantage. Despite that, Obama has managed to end one war and put another on a timetable to end. He took the steps necessary to bring the nation, perhaps the world, back from the brink of a Depression, saved the U.S. auto industry and put America on a path to universal health care coverage. He oversaw the killing of terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, and increased America’s status in the world.

On domestic policy, Romney has abandoned the principles that guided him as governor of Massachusetts and adopted those of his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, whose budget calls for the end of Medicare as the nation knows it. In its place would be a voucher program designed to shift costs to seniors. In place of Medicaid, the state-federal partnership that requires the federal government to pay at least half the cost of providing health care for the poor, Romney would issue block grants to the states, sums calculated by each Congress as it saw fit. The result would be even less health care for the poor and far higher state and local taxes.

Romney wants to preserve the George W. Bush tax cuts and even expand on them, without saying how he would do that without swelling the deficit. He is promising everyone all gain with no pain, possible perhaps, if budgets can be balanced with magic beans and fairy dust. The president wants to shrink the deficit by allowing taxes to return to their Clinton-era level for those with the highest incomes. That will barely dent the nation’s debt problem, but it would be a start. Eventually, as the economy improves, taxes will have to increase for everyone with the ability to pay a bit more.

On education, the president kept the best impulses of his predecessor’s No Child Left Behind program in place, while erasing the parts of it that were unrealistic and counterproductive. In its place he adopted policies that, even in the worst of America’s urban schools, are beginning to turn things around.

The unemployment rate is high, but it’s been coming done steadily. Meanwhile, home prices are increasing. The stimulus program that Romney claims failed to help actually succeeded in stemming the slide. Ask any city manager who was able to keep a few more police on the beat whether the stimulus helped.

Americans are better off because of the signature accomplishment of Obama’s first term, passage of the Affordable Care Act. Insurers can no longer collect premiums then cancel coverage when a person falls ill. By 2014, the cruel practice of pricing health insurance out of the reach of the people who need it most, those with pre-existing conditions, will become illegal, if, that is, Obama is president. Romney wants to abolish the law, though he has promised to keep some of its most popular provisions in place, again, without saying how he would pay for them. The law includes a mandate that everyone who can afford to buy insurance must do so. It is the same mandate that Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, imposed on that state’s citizens and now hypocritically opposes. The mandate means that the insured and their employers will no longer have to pay ever-higher premiums to cover the costs of caring for the uninsured.

On foreign policy Romney has been blustery, Obama savvy. The president has convinced allies, when appropriate, to take the lead and enlisted a broad alliance of nations to impose crippling sanctions on Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions. Obama’s strategy in Libya led to the ouster of dictator and terrorism sponsor Moammar Gadhafi without a single American life lost.

What Romney would do in his dealings with Russia, China, Iran – or England for that matter – is anybody’s guess. Neither he nor his running mate have foreign policy experience.

The gulf between Romney and Obama on issues, on the background that informs their views, and dare we say it, on the integrity it takes to admit when one has changed his position, is vast.

The president’s winning smile comes less often now, and gone is the talk about closing Washington’s partisan divide. Experience can be a harsh teacher. But Obama’s goal of uniting Americans remains unchanged, because he knows that to make progress the citizenry must move together. A candidate who says, as Romney did, that it’s not his job “to worry about” the 47 percent of the American people he sees as dependent on government doesn’t deserve to be their leader.

The nation’s next president should be its current president, Barack Obama.

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