In the October 13, 2008, issue of The New Yorker, in Comment, the magazine’s editors endorse Barack Obama for President. “At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness,” the editors write. “It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe.
That leader’s name is Barack Obama.” On almost every issue, John McCain and Obama both “speak the generalized language of ‘reform,’ but only Obama has provided a convincing, rational, and fully developed vision,” they write. While McCain has “never evinced much interest in, or knowledge of, economic questions,” and “has had little of substance to say about the crisis,” “Obama has made a serious study of the mechanics and the history of this economic disaster and of the possibilities of stimulating a recovery.” Regarding the Iraq war, “Obama had the prescience to warn of a costly and indefinite occupation and rising anti-American radicalism around the world; supporting it, McCain foresaw none of this.” Moving forward, the editors write that Obama’s “strategy for both Afghanistan and Iraq shows an understanding of the role that internal politics, economics, corruption, and regional diplomacy play in wars where there is no battlefield victory.”
The editors also note Obama’s “forceful” proposals on energy and climate change, which “represent the most coherent and far-sighted strategy ever offered by a Presidential candidate for reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.” The editors note that the next President will in all likelihood have the chance to nominate three Supreme Court Justices, and warn that, in the event that McCain is elected, not only will Roe v. Wade be overturned but it is “safe to predict that affirmative action of all kinds would likely be outlawed by a McCain Court.”
“What most distinguishes the candidates, however, is character — and here, contrary to conventional wisdom, Obama is clearly the stronger of the two,” the editors write. “The years ahead will demand not only determination but also diplomacy, flexibility, patience, judiciousness, and intellectual engagement. These are no more McCain’s strong suit than the current President’s. Obama, for his part, seems to know that more will be required than willpower and force to extract some advantage from the wreckage of the Bush years.” The editors write that “it is Obama’s temperament — and not McCain’s — that seems appropriate for the office
both men seek and for the volatile and dangerous era in which we live.”
McCain “is impulsive, impatient, self-dramatizing, erratic, and a compulsive risk-taker. These qualities may have contributed to his usefulness as a ‘maverick’ senator. But in a President they would be a menace.” Obama’s campaign, on the other hand, “has been marked by patience, planning, discipline, organization, technological proficiency, and strategic astuteness. … Those who dismiss his centeredness as self-centeredness or his composure as indifference are as wrong as those who mistook Eisenhower’s stolidity for denseness or Lincoln’s humor for lack of seriousness.” “The election of Obama — a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America — would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home,” the editors write. “It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks.”