First, let's acknowledge that Republican John McCain is a big step up from George W. Bush. And Democrat Barack Obama is a big step up from John Kerry.
America has seriously upgraded the quality of its candidates for president between 2004 and 2008. Good thing.
Too bad each campaign has to make the other out as deluded, nearly criminal and the worst sort of scum that ever walked the Earth, never mind had the gall to even consider running for commander in chief.
But that's part of the traditional American political campaign we've come to know each endless election cycle. This will only intensify in the last sprint.
Running a campaign is not the same as holding office. But still, it is telling. Obama has remained composed where McCain has been jumpy, cool where McCain has been hot, decisive where McCain has been increasingly desperate.
McCain hurt himself politicizing the bailout negotiations with no helpful effect. Out of all his possibilities for a running mate, it's hard to argue that Sarah Palin was chosen in the very best interests of the country. Now his campaign is reduced to trying to tar Obama by association with bad guys. Alas, the same could be tossed at him, and just as unfairly.
As for "change," the central message of each campaign, it should be clear that the choice is between following the same general path as the current Republican administration or swinging to the Democratic approach.
At least this is a thoughtful choice. Is it time to swing from the Republican model to the Democratic model in the White House at this time in our history? This is a closer call.
And this is where the Vail Daily Editorial Board divided into pro-McCain and pro-Obama camps, most of the Republican-minded members going to McCain and all of the Democratic-leaning members strongly favoring Obama. It should also be noted that one member will vote for Libertarian Bob Barr. For him, McCain is a mite too liberal.
The majority of our board believes it's time to give a Democratic administration a chance to guide the country, eight years marked by a controversial war and now melting economy. Obama in the main offers the better ideas and direction of the two candidates, in this view.
Internationally, both candidates offer appealing choices. McCain is far superior to Bush in international relations, and Obama not only shows good judgment but his very face shows the world what America truly is about. We believe either candidate would be a large improvement over the previous administration.
There's a structural argument many Republicans make in favor of a McCain presidency. That is, the GOP has so thoroughly screwed up its time in power that the Democrats will hold and possibly expand their newfound majority in Congress despite the deep unpopularity of their leaders. Therefore, electing McCain will provide a balance of power that is appealing.
But gridlock amid the depth of America's financial crisis ultimately is not a compelling option in these difficult, swift-moving times. In this case, failure to act decisively is worse than the risk of making a mistake along a clear path.
In the end, while we do not believe McCain is a bad choice for president, it's clear to a majority of us that Obama is the better choice for the nation and world in 2008.
Vail Daily Editorial Board