Editorial: President Obama has earned second term

Last modified: Monday, December 24, 2012
For voters in Massachusetts as nowhere else, the names of both major party candidates on the presidential ballot Tuesday are repeats. We’ve sent them into office as chief executives and watched them govern for four years. Because of that, it might be said we possess a special sense of which candidate, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, is best suited to lead the United States.

But there’s no drama in what Massachusetts will say. Come Tuesday, the Electoral College results will hang on what’s happening in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Colorado. No one doubts that our state’s count will go into Obama’s column.

The choice in this contest is between a principled problem-solver and an ideological chameleon.

Between a leader who restored America’s reputation abroad, even as he tracked down the mastermind of Sept. 11, and a geopolitcal neophyte.

Between one who believes the federal government exists to level the playing field and one who expressed disdain, behind closed doors, for nearly half of the population.

Barack Hussein Obama took on perhaps the most difficult job in the world four years ago and through steady leadership moved us away from economic collapse brought about by policies extended under the Bush administration that let Wall Street bet big with other people’s money. Abroad, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped close out a grim era of death and disaster in foreign wars. Among the president’s singular accomplishments:

• Avoiding another Great Depression. Most economists agree the stimulus prevented more significant job losses. In such times, only direct government spending has the power to move an economy. Romney clings, meantime, to discredited theories about job creation that are little more than honey to those with money.

• Breakthrough on health care. Obama achieved what others could not for decades, a plan to extend coverage to nearly all, in a compromise that keeps private insurers involved.

• SAVVY Foreign policy. The president balanced caution on use of the military, particularly in Libya, with alliance building to impose sanctions on Iran. However, we are troubled by the use of drone attacks that have killed civilians.

• JUDICIAL JUDGEMENT. Two strong Supreme Court appointments of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, with the likelihood of others in a second term, which makes his re-election vital.

• Crucial and yet controversial support for the American auto industry. By contrast Romney continues to distort what happened as this bellweather industry faced extinction, which would have cost 1.5 million jobs, by suggesting General Motors and Chrysler could have found private financing through bankruptcy. They could not.

History says Obama should not be able to win a second term with a national employment rate at 7.9 percent, higher than the goal he set for himself. But the country has been through financial troubles not seen since the 1930s, and reasonable people understand it takes time to repair something so broken.

Gov. Romney has run hard on the state of the troubled economy, because its fall in 2008 and anemic recovery have shredded the standard of living for millions and dashed hopes of retirement for millions more.

The governor is nothing if not calculating. Despair over what they’ve lost may lead many to his candidacy. But he is unable to offer more than hollow promises. The 12 million jobs he vows to create in his first term is the number the American economy is expected to generate on its own.

The gross national product is expected to rise no matter who is president. But the choice the country makes Tuesday — in the presidential race and in the makeup of Congress — could significantly affect the economic picture for decades to come.

A Romney presidency, abetted by a Republican Congress, would be dead-set on dismantling social programs in the name of deficit and debt reduction but driven mainly by a philosophical contempt for the commonweal.

Romney won’t share his tax returns or his specific plan for closing deficits even as he awards an estimated $5 trillion in tax cuts over a decade.

He’s not letting us look under the hood. So why would we buy anything from this man?

We live in the state that Romney avoided mentioning in the Republican primaries. But now Massachusetts, in the general election, again sits in the quaint snow globe of revisionism that the candidate is selling to the country, a place, he says on the stump, where outnumbered Republican lawmakers, or governors, learn to get along with Democrats.

But Romney has learned to take sides, in his early career in private equity and in now in his deepening ties to ultraconservatives in his party. His vision for America plays to old conceits about individualism.

President Obama has struggled, in our polar politics, to achieve all the change he envisioned. In this campaign, he is again, after a slow start, fighting hard for his policies. If re-elected, he should take that fight to Congress. We want to see what four more years of his steadfast guidance can do for America.