Had Barack Obama done the job of president with the same passion and vision he displayed in seeking it, he would likely deserve another term. He did not.
Against this we must weigh Mitt Romney, an imperfect candidate but one who has a special track record too. From his creation of a vast personal fortune to his successful stewardship of the threatened Salt Lake City Olympics to his governing of Massachusetts, Romney's life is a tale of success after success, many of them achieved in difficult circumstances.
Romney's potential to put America back to work earns him our endorsement.
Obama's failure to accelerate the improvement of the economy is the dominant reason Romney is the right choice, but it's not the only one. There are also the broken promises. On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama promised to halve the annual budget deficit of the United States. Instead, the shortfall has remained over $1 trillion per year, and the national debt has increased about 45 percent.
Obama said he would pass comprehensive immigration reform, but he never made a significant attempt to address it.
He said future generations would look back on his election as the time we began to slow the rise of the oceans and hasten the healing of the planet, yet he never introduced meaningful legislation aimed at achieving those goals.
Obama promised a transparent administration but instead ran a secretive White House. And Obama promised a newfound respect for civil liberties, and yet, in an expansive reading of congressional authority to use military force, he has authorized the unilateral assassination of American citizens abroad.
Obama promised to drive the unemployment rate below 6 percent in four years. It sits at 7.9 percent, just above the level when he was inaugurated.
History may well laud Obama for passing the first comprehensive health care plan to cover millions of uninsured, guarantee coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and for preventive care, and keep young adults on their parents' policies until age 26. But the law may not control costs, fails to address malpractice litigation and the expense it imposes on the system, and is based on iffy funding. Worse, Obama didn't sell the public on his plan, allowing his opponents to hijack it.
Most important, Obama promised to end the partisan divide in Washington but didn't do so. To be fair, he had no help from Republicans, but that is the case, by definition, with partisan divides. Obama should have looked to the track record of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and brought his case to the people.
The decision to endorse Romney is not an easy one. Superstorm Sandy has made it clear that his untested notion about shifting primary responsibility for disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the states is a great risk. The storm should add even more urgency to deal with extreme weather and rising seas, which Romney has not addressed in his campaign.
And Obama has distinct achievements. He was correct to preserve the auto industry in the United States. His stimulus plan did create jobs, though not enough of them. His creation of tougher mileage standards for automobiles is a major step in the right direction. He also made the right decisions in refusing to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and in creating a limited Dream Act by executive order to stop punishing illegal immigrants unwittingly brought here as children. His two U.S. Supreme Court appointments were talented jurists without an agenda to overturn precedents.
He got us out of Iraq quickly, has us on the road out of Afghanistan, and oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Against this we have Romney, a flawed candidate. He tends to waver on the issues, and the plans he's laid out to better the lot of the nation lack both specifics and mathematical rigor. These are problems, but in the current political environment, they may also become his greatest assets as president.
What Romney has actually shown in his political evolution is a willingness to represent the will of his constituencies. We hope that means a lack of dogmatic zealotry, rather than a lack of leadership.
Romney should not be, as he claimed during the primary season, "severely conservative." He's not the first candidate who swayed toward a more extreme base while seeking the nomination, then tacked toward the center during the general campaign.
But Romney has shifted so opportunistically over the years on issues such as a woman's right to choose and health care reform that it's hard to be sure which Romney the nation would get. We are worried about the criteria he would use to select any justices, should an opening arise on the high court.
He is also a novice on foreign affairs who's surrounded himself with holdovers from the administration of George W. Bush, advisers who have been far too eager to take the nation to war. His saber-rattling on Iran is worrisome.
Yet there is one chorus Republicans and Democrats sing in unison: "Washington is broken." It's true, and the far-right wing of the Republican Congress is more averse to compromise than any other faction. Who, then, can bring this side to common ground? The dogmatic Democrat who empowered the tea party revolution in 2010, or the Republican who will have far more power to bring the firebrands in his own party to heel and has no history of enmity to poison the process? If Romney succeeds in uniting the Republicans and bringing them back to the center, it could be an advantage for the nation.
His proposals to limit the Medicare entitlement and replace it with vouchers, and to fund Medicaid through block grants, would shift costs from Washington to individuals and states like New York. Romney would need to remember that the most populous states, even consistently blue New York, have different and important needs, especially after Sandy.
Although he was elected in a time of economic turmoil, Ronald Reagan's greatest achievement wasn't his tax plan or his economic theories. His success came from emotional leadership, the ability to bring us together and reignite our confidence in the virtues and future of the nation. This is what FDR did. It is this that Barack Obama has failed to do.
Elected with a significant mandate and his party briefly in control of both houses of the Congress, Obama squandered the support of the nation.
Newsday endorses Romney.