Saturday, February 2, 2008

Chicago Tribune endorses McCain

"We want government to do its job, not your job; to do it better and to do it with less of your money; to defend our nation's security wisely and effectively, because the cost of our defense is so dear to us; to respect our values because they are the true source of our strength; to enforce the rule of law that is the first defense of freedom; to keep the promises it makes to us and not make promises it will not keep."

---Sen. John McCain, Jan. 19, 2008

Many Americans yearn for the holiday-from-history that was the 1990s. The Cold War had ended; the cataclysmic updraft of concrete dust and human DNA hadn't risen from Lower Manhattan. But there will be no going back.

The planet's lone superpower won't again have the privilege of ignoring -- of appeasing with strong words but soft pursuit -- the sworn enemies of this nation and its friends.

One Republican candidate for president dedicated himself to American honor, American duty, long before Sept. 11, 2001.

The world of 2008 is the dangerous world John McCain unknowingly spent a military and political career preparing to confront.To hear McCain speak of honor, of duty, is to wake up the echoes of John F. Kennedy urging Americans to ask not what their country can do for them.

A President McCain would engage challenges domestic and foreign with the candid conviction that doing what's right may cost us. Maybe plenty.

His unswerving commitment to victory in Iraq is the likely template. He has never brooked defeatism because the consequences of defeat are so severe. McCain instead urged a troop surge to calm Iraq and, now that it's working, he deflects the credit to the general who executed it.

This get-hard-jobs-done ethos at times has bought McCain trouble. He broke from many in his party to lead a fight for immigration reform. When he failed, he reverted to classic pragmatist, acknowledging that the U.S. must secure its borders before its citizens liberalize their laws. If he's elected, we'd expect him to pursue with equal resolve deep cuts in pork-barrel spending -- a prospect that similarly infuriates and frightens many members of Congress.

This much we know: If McCain says pork is a battle he'll fight, he'll fight it. And he'll do so in a way that helps Americans understand why Washington's culture of earmarks -- My constituents first! -- softens us as a nation and dooms our children to debt.

McCain, like his fading opponent Rudy Giuliani, projects rigor. Mike Huckabee, stricken with the ambition of so many former governors with nowhere to go, is out of his depth. Mitt Romney has the skill set of a superb Treasury secretary. But, thus far, he hasn't convinced us he would be McCain's equal in confronting that dangerous world of 2008.

Four years ago, in mulling candidates for president, we wrote that U.S. voters often make choices based on their pet causes and economic interests. But, we said, citizens of a nation at war against genuine global threats don't have that luxury. To reinforce the point we quoted a leader who wasn't on the ballot, John McCain: "So it is, whether we wished it or not, that we have come to the test of our generation, to our rendezvous with destiny. ... All of us, despite the differences that enliven our politics, are united in the one big idea that freedom is our birthright and its defense is always our first responsibility. All other responsibilities come second."

Yes, all other responsibilities come second. McCain was correct -- and we were struck to hear him articulate the very same message to Americans in his victory speech after South Carolina's primary on Jan. 19.

McCain isn't a repetitive robot. But his constancy is that of a man grounded in crisp and clear principles that he doesn't exchange for the popular opinion du jour.That constancy, those principles, convince us that John McCain is the best Republican candidate for president in the Feb. 5 Illinois primary. We endorse him confident that as chief executive and commander in chief, he would meet the honorable standards he has set for himself and our country.

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