In my more than 25 years writing editorials and columns for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – I retired in 2000 – I interviewed hundreds of candidates for public office, local, state and national. I also wrote endorsements of both Republicans and Democrats. Like the paper’s editorial page for many years, I lean left but I don’t consider myself an ideologue.
I wrote the paper’s endorsements of mayoral candidates Republican Paul Helmke and Democrat Graham Richard. Over the years, I wrote the paper’s numerous endorsements for Republican Sen. Dick Lugar. I profoundly regret his loss in this year’s primary to a Tea Party favorite. Lugar’s leadership in the Senate on foreign policy, frankly, has had few peers.
I met President Obama at an editorial writer’s conference in Chicago, when he was still a U.S. senator. His serious manner and depth of knowledge impressed everyone at that luncheon, liberals and conservatives alike. Now, in the White House, he’s been the same guy. Think of what he’s been up against. Think of the challenge to get the country out of the economic hole his predecessor dug. One Obama fix hit close to home for me. That was the General Motors bailout. That alone saved hundreds of jobs at our truck plant here and in neighboring Defiance, Ohio, my hometown.
I’m sure no one is more sorry than he is that unemployment isn’t yet down where he’d hope. But now, just days before the election, the economy is showing signs of a solid recovery.
Meantime, Obama has set timetables and demonstrated real statesmanship to extricate the country from two wars, inherited from his predecessor. We’re essentially out of Iraq. We’re on schedule to leave Afghanistan.
He’s found no Republican partner on the economy. Or on the wars. Nor on health care reform. He won no praise from the far right taking out Osama Bin Laden.
Obama deserves a lot of credit for passing health care reform, an achievement that’s eluded presidents for decades. What a terrific win for America! This extends coverage to millions and protects coverage of people with the insurance they already have that once could be canceled. This is the very thing a humane, compassionate society does for its citizens. Is the Affordable Care Act perfect? Of course not. But don’t think for a second Mitt Romney would take the lead to improve the law and fix problems as they come to light.
To be sure, Romney may have been a moderate as governor of Massachusetts. He certainly sounded pretty moderate especially during the last debate. But it wasn’t a moderate who ran in the primaries. It wasn’t moderates who nominated him. If elected, he would remain hostage to those on the far right who’ve put him in office. Count on it.
Lots of issues I wrote editorials about remain on the public agenda. Where is Obama on those things? A woman’s right to abortion? He’s for it. Equality for women in the workforce? He’s for it. The right of everyone to marry the person they choose. Obama finally came around this year to say that included gays, too. Immigration reform? He’s already taken the right steps. I think his education policy is wrong-headed. But he doesn’t bash teachers and their unions. Action of climate change? That’s Obama. Development of alternative sources of energy? Yes, that’s Obama, too.
The late Charles “Bud” Meeks, former sheriff and Indiana state senator, used to tease me about being the champion of the underdog. But every American should be that champion. Yes, let’s protect Medicaid. Let’s protect access to health care for the disabled, physically and mentally. Let’s protect food stamps for the poor. Let’s protect Head Start. I’m confidant Obama will do all that.
I’m not sure about Romney. I don’t trust him to fight for the little guy. I can’t imagine Obama fiddling with Medicare, except to make this vital program fiscally stronger. Again, I just don’t trust Romney, given all his talk about offering private insurance as an alternative to the government program.
And I’m sure Obama’s nominees to the federal bench, including the Supreme Court, will continue to be highly qualified legal scholars, without political agendas. The two women he named prove the point. By contrast, you can be sure that any Romney appointment to the high court would be committed to casting a vote to overturn the 1973 abortion rights decision. What a step backward that would be.
In 1980, I was disgusted with President Carter. I thought Ronald Reagan more actor than plausible statesman. So I wrote the paper’s endorsement for Barry Commoner, the environmentalist and Citizen Party candidate. Naturally, Reagan won Indiana.
Well, I’ve been done for years with third party candidates. Still, the major parties never fail to produce flawed candidates. Some more flawed than others. But from my perspective, Obama has been a president to be proud of. I reflect about him on foreign policy. He’s simply been statesmanlike. He has not only represented American interests abroad. He’s represented our values.
At home, he’s worked to ease the suffering of those without work. Again, he’s fought to restore the greatness of our economy. I say, let him finish the job. Unlike his opponent, you don’t have to guess where Obama stands, what he really believes. He’s been a darn good president. Let’s see if he can become one of the great ones.
Since my retirement, I’ve written a memoir, “Monday I’ll Save the World” and “Mental Illness and Your Town,” a community guide on the disability. I can be reached at Larryhayes.com.