Barack Obama (Democrat)Surprised? We didn’t think so.
Four years ago, when we endorsed the senator from Illinois, we said:
“Don’t count us among the dewy-eyed who are infatuated with Obama and have conferred upon him celestial qualities: He is not divine. But do count us among those who believe he can inspire the best in each of us, begin to realign America’s international image, restore our civil liberties and expel the criminals and plunderers that have had an all-access pass to the White House since 2001.”
So how has he done?
Our international image is on the mend. Whether it be carefully choosing sides and degree of support for the Arab Spring, or seeking to marginalize Iran, or aiding Europe as it struggles with a fiscal cliff steeper than our own, the Obama administration has handled most of foreign affairs with sound judgment.
On the civil liberties front, Obama fares less well. His statement in support of gay marriage was courageous—but also calculated. His aggressive support of spying on U.S. citizens is Bush-like. And the president has done little to hold Wall Street accountable for its sins.
The president’s mixed record does not dilute our support. He promised to deal with three gigantic challenges: ending U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and passing health-care reform. Done, done and done.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act doesn’t yet go far enough, but its historic provisions will provide millions with insurance coverage and make cost control a priority.
We wish Obama had more spine when dealing with Congress. His tendency to avoid political conflict has allowed Republicans to roll him too often. They’ve distorted his economic successes. He’s been attacked for saving the American auto industry. He’s been slandered for his health-care reforms. And he’s allowed himself to be badly played on the federal debt-limit debate.
Our endorsement of Obama comes not simply because Republican Mitt Romney represents the worst of America: a candidate who would never lend the silver spoon he was born with to help feed others, and who would instead use it to scrape the last dollar from the middle class if it meant giving the rich more tax breaks.
We endorse the president with no illusions about the difficulty of the work ahead, but with a belief that Obama’s time in office, slowly and deliberately, is making this a better nation.
Call us naive. We give it another name. We still call it hope.
U.S. House, 1st District
Suzanne Bonamici (DemocratU.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) in January won the seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. David Wu last year. We liked her then because this former consumer lawyer—who earned praise for diligence and intelligence while representing Beaverton in the Oregon Legislature—is the kind of no-drama mama her constituents deserve. She shows nothing but promise. Republican Delinda Morgan, a sincere, affable heavy-equipment operator and martial arts instructor, is brand new to politics and isn’t running much of a campaign. Also running are Steven Reynolds of the Progressive Party and Bob Ekstrom of the Constitution Party. Look no further than Bonamici.
What would Bonamici change about herself? “I’d like to get by on less sleep.”
U.S. House, 3rd District
Earl Blumenauer (Democrat)
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) disappointed us by not wearing his trademark bow tie to WW’s endorsement interview. Otherwise, he remains very much himself: prickly, partisan and pugnaciously disputatious on every subject.
Blumenauer’s seat on the House Ways and Means Committee positions him for battles over health-care reform and public television. (He would be fighting President Romney to protect Obamacare and Big Bird.) He’s particularly authoritative on alternative transportation funding, and rightly so: If any one official can be given credit for securing the billions in federal funding for the Portland metro area’s light rail and streetcars, it’s Blumenauer.
He and Charlie Hales may be the last strong voices in regional politics making a ringing case for rail as the backbone of 21st-century transit. With his district shifting along the border with Clackamas County, he remains well-positioned (and just cranky enough) for door-to-door fighting in the streets of Clackistan. He got Milwaukie its MAX money; now he’s needed to defend the faith.
Blumenauer faces no serious challenge in this race. Neither Republican Ronald Green, a TriMet bus driver campaigning on trade protectionism, nor Green Party candidate Woodrow Broadnax Jr., an activist who camped at Occupy Portland, showed up for our endorsement interview.
What would Blumenauer change about himself? “I would just like to be faster—and a little more focused.”
U.S. House, 5th District
Kurt Schrader (Democrat)For U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a veterinarian, his work to find a federal timberland compromise is the hallmark of his second term. He says his plan—which he’s pushing with Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.)—would bring some certainty to timber-dependent counties.
Schrader is a business-friendly Democrat, a player among the deficit-hawk Blue Dog Democrats. And as befits his district, stretching across Oregon from the Cascades to the coast, he also champions agricultural industries and criticizes what he calls excessive federal regulations.
He’s also a tough competitor. Republicans mounted a serious challenge to Schrader in 2010 in his first re-election bid, but he punched back and earned what amounts to a free ride this time.
Republican Fred Thompson is an insurance agent with an impressive record as a businessman, project manager and Vietnam War veteran. His views may appeal to many in his district—giving federal timberlands to the counties is an old saw—but he hasn’t demonstrated an understanding of a congressman’s job or made a compelling case for dislodging Schrader.
The one word Schrader would use to describe himself: “Tenacious.”