NEW YORK – The winner of America’s presidential election will inherit a perfect storm of problems, both economic and international. He will face the most difficult opening-day agenda of any president since – and I say this in all seriousness – the man who saved the Union, Abraham Lincoln. But a more instructive precedent is 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt offered inspiring rhetoric and “bold experimentation” to a nation facing economic meltdown and a breakdown in public confidence.
For me, the choice is simple – and not only because I am, by temperament and history, a Democrat. The long and intense political campaign has revealed huge differences in the two candidates’ positions, style, and personal qualities. And the conclusion seems clear.
Judgment . John McCain has shown throughout his career a penchant for risk-taking; in his memoirs, he proudly calls himself a gambler. His selection of Sarah Palin, a charismatic but spectacularly unqualified candidate, as his running mate, is just the most glaring of many examples of the real McCain. His bravery in combat attests to his patriotism, courage, and toughness, but his judgment has been found sorely lacking time and time again over his career.
Barack Obama is tough, too, but in a different way. No one should underestimate how difficult it was to travel his road, against incredible odds, to the cusp of the presidency. But where McCain is impulsive and emotional, Obama is low-key and unemotional. He makes his judgments in a calm and methodical manner; McCain’s impulsiveness is anathema to Obama, and rightly so – one cannot play craps with history. Having seen so many political leaders falter under pressure, I prize this ability above most others. And Barack Obama has it.