Saturday, February 02, 2008

LAT and Other California papers Support Obama

A judge whose family has long been involved in California politics sent Jim Newton, the editorial pages editor of the Los Angeles Times, an e-mail the other day asking him who he thought Earl Warren, the late chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and governor of California, would be supporting for president in California's primary Tuesday.

Now, Newton, and the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, David Hiller, have risen to the occasion, issuing an historic endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. The editorial accurately called Tuesday's balloting "the most exciting and consequential vote in a generation."

The Times, which also endorsed Sen. John McCain for the Republican nomination, did, I believe, a public service, and a service to its own internal morale, in making these endorsements, the first time since 1972 the newspaper has endorsed for President. More specifically the endorsements will enhance the reputation of Newton, and particularly of Hiller, who needed the boost. Regardless of the outcome on Tuesday, they will always be proud of these endorsements, as they should be.

The vagaries of California election procedures -- the large number of people who vote early by mail, and the proportional selection of most of the state's delegates to the Democratic National Convention by congressional district -- raise the possibility that Sen. Hillary Clinton could win the primary in terms of delegates, even if Obama got a majority of the popular vote actually cast next Tuesday.

But on this Saturday morning, it is evident that Obama has assembled a very broad coalition behind his candidacy, not only in California but, increasingly, across the nation (and even around the world, since there is so much interest everywhere in the American election).

A precedent-breaking 33 major California newspapers have now endorsed Obama. They include not only the L.A. Times, and Los Angeles' Spanish-language newspaper, La Opinion, but also the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Oakland Tribune, the San Jose Mercury, the Sacramento Bee, the Modesto Bee, the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Santa Barbara Independent.

As Daily Kos.com remarked yesterday in an article headlined, "Obama's Dramatic Sweep of California Newspapers," "California newspapers have endorsed Obama, from southern California to the Central Valley and the Bay Area and northward, newspapers of every size and in every kind of community."

This, obviously, is no ordinary election year, and just who is backing whom may be of great importance. The L.A. Times took the unusual step this morning of touting its own endorsement, being published in Sunday's newspaper, in a special article in the news section on the subject in Saturday's paper.

What is evident is that Obama's inspirational message ("There are no red states. There are no blue states. We are the United States)" has resonated through the editorial board rooms of this state. In meeting with editors, Obama, a brilliant lawyer and community organizer who at Harvard Law School was head of the Law Review, the son of a black Kenyan immigrant and a Kansas white woman, created an indelibly positive impression.

The San Francisco Chronicle noted that in its endorsement:

"In a Jan. 17 meeting with our editorial board, Obama demonstrated an impressive command of a wide variety of issues. He listened intently to the questions. He responded with substance...

"He radiated the sense of possibility that has attracted the votes of independents and tapped into the idealism of young people during this campaign. He exuded the aura of a 46-year-old leader who could once again persuade the best and the brightest to forestall or pause their grand professional goals to serve in his administration."

I'm also especially impressed with two other endorsements Obama received this morning -- the one from La Opinion and another, in the Washington Post, from Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a life-long Republican.

The L.A. Times editorial was eloquent, but La Opinion's editorial went beyond eloquence. It not only had the clang of truth, but it surely must have represented one of the greatest statements in the history of that newspaper.

"We need a leader today that can inspire and unite America again around its greatest possibilities," La Opinion wrote. "Barack Obama is the right leader for the time. We know that he is not as well known among our community and while he has the support of Maria Elena Durazo, Sen. Gil Cedillo and others he comes to the Latino community with less name recognition. Nevertheless, it is Obama who deserves our support.

"By deciding between a woman or an African-American as their presidential nominee, the Democrats are making history. Barack Obama has the sensibilities of a man from humble beginnings raised in a multicultural home. He is the best option for a truly visionary change."

La Opinion is particularly persuasive when it examines the comparative records of Obama and Clinton on issues of great importance to the Latino community.

"We were disappointed with her calculated opposition to driver's licenses for the undocumented, which contrasts markedly from the forceful argument in support made by Obama," the paper states. "We understand that this is an extremely controversial issue but we believe there is only one right position and it is that of the senator from Illinois. And, while both senators support comprehensive immigration reform, only Obama has committed to bring forward new legislation during his first year in office.

"It is this commitment to the immigration issue which drove Obama to condemn the malicious lies made during the immigration debate, to understand the need for driver's licenses, and to defend the rights of undocumented students by co-authoring the DREAM Act. The senator has demonstrated character by maintaining his position despite the hostile political climate."

La Opinion also was justifiably impressed by McCain's position on immigration issues, remarking that "the senator's longtime position on immigration would by itself be reason enough to support his candidacy, but there are more reasons why we believe he should win the Republican primary.

"McCain is a politician with broad experience and strong convictions that have at times led him to disagree with his party and the White House. We do not agree with all of his positions, such as his support for President Bush's Iraq policy. However, in comparison to his rivals in his party, he has more pros than cons. We point to his efforts to limit the damaging influence of special interest money in Washington, his zeal on budget issues, and his inclusiveness and moderation on social issues."

Hurrah for La Opinion. In taking the position the newspaper has, it fortifies the important campaigning for Obama by Sen. Edward Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy and Oprah Winfrey in California's Latino community this weekend. And together with the L.A. Times and all the other newspapers in the state, it proves once again the truth of William Randolph Hearst's immortal observation that, "Newspapers are at their best when they champion the interests of the people."

Finally, Susan Eisenhower's endorsement of Obama deserves the highest compliments today.

"I am not alone in worrying that my generation will fail to do what my grandfather's did so well: Leave America a better, stronger place than the one it found," she writes.

"The last time the United States had an open election was 1952. My grandfather was pursued by both political parties and eventually became the Republican nominee. Despite being a charismatic war hero, he did not have an easy ride to the nomination. He went on to win the presidency -- with the indispensable help of a "Democrats for Eisenhower" movement. These crossover voters were attracted by his pledge to bring change to Washington and by the prospect that he would unify the nation.

"It is in this great tradition of crossover voters that I support Barack Obama's candidacy for president. If the Democratic Party chooses Obama as its candidate, this lifelong Republican will work to get him elected and encourage him to seek strategic solutions to meet America's greatest challenges. To be successful, our president will need bipartisan help."

Well, in this long blog, I've quoted great newspapers and mentioned great Americans such as Warren and Eisenhower. It might be well to end by quoting the greatest president and politician that we have ever had in our history.

"The dogmas of the quiet past," said Abraham Lincoln in a message to Congress in 1863, "are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise--with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew...Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation."

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