A letter to the next president

Dear President-elect Obama:

The polls didn’t lie. Voters throughout the country elected you yesterday in resounding fashion. You received not only a substantial victory in the electoral vote, but a solid majority in the popular vote, as well.

Neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton can make that claim.

We here at The Daily Sentinel did not endorse you. But, unlike some of your opponents, we never believed you to be a Marxist monster or a secret Muslim. We sincerely hope you are what you claim to be: a man who wants to bring Americans together to heal some of the wounds of the past few years and deal with the problems we face, regardless of our race, gender, political affiliation or religious beliefs.

You will face two difficult but critical problems when you take the oath of office in January: Getting the U.S. economy back on track and protecting this country and its allies in an increasingly dangerous world.

In the first instance, you made a clear case for increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while offering more government assistance to average Americans on everything from mortgage assistance to health care. A majority of voters obviously accepted your ideas over the more limited-government philosophy of John McCain.

This is more than a difference of opinion. It is a fundamental conflict over the government’s role in the economy.

McCain believes government should create the opportunities for individuals to create wealth and thereby boost everyone’s economic prospects. Government can do this by ensuring the country is safe from attack, that regulation is the minimum necessary to protect public health and safety and that taxes are not confiscatory.

The other side, your side, believes government should be the vehicle to boost everyone’s economic prospects — by taxing the wealthiest individuals at much higher rates than they are taxed now, and by creating or expanding programs that spread government resources, which are raised through taxation, to more people.

With Congress still firmly controlled by the Democratic Party, it is likely we are entering another era of government expansion. We hope you’ll temper your plans for new or expanded programs with a realistic view of what is achievable.

Remember that small businesses are the primary job creators in this nation. Don’t make it impossible for them to operate successfully, or for new businesses to emerge, while you honor your intentions to help those Americans with the least resources.

Understand that while our health-care system certainly has problems in the way services are delivered, it remains the envy of the world when it comes to innovation. Don’t eliminate the innovation.

On national security, you have said you want to sit down and talk with our enemies to attempt to iron out some of our differences.

Great. Talk with them. Negotiate new agreements. Broker new treaties. But remember Ronald Reagan’s edict: “Trust but verify.” And listen to Teddy Roosevelt’s advice, as well: “Speak softly but carry a big stick.”

You must recognize that you can negotiate best when dictators and demagogues realize you are prepared to use force to defend the United States and its allies.

You will be tested early in your administration. Your vice-president-elect, Joe Biden, has said as much.

When the test comes, be prepared to stand up for this country, strongly and decisively.

Finally, there will be difficult times ahead. The intense divisions of the past few years won’t help. People who supported your opponent need to put the election behind them and be ready to work with your administration for the good of this country. You must call on your supporters and Democratic leaders to do the same. Don’t let them use their success in this election as a means of exacting revenge from their opponents.

Mr. Obama, your election is already historic. You are the first black person elected to the White House after more than two centuries in which blacks were treated as something less than full citizens. That’s a momentous change that we truly hope will help to end the long history of racial inequity and strife in this country.

Whether your tenure in the White House ultimately will be considered as transformative as those we have highlighted below, only time will tell. But we join millions of Americans in praying for your success and that of our country.

The editors.


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