Editor’s letter to Obama

Dear Mr. President,

As I write this, your inauguration is a week away. I, along with tens of thousands in my community, eagerly await the moment when you take the oath of office—and the reins of a country so in need of fresh direction. Those who voted for you and those who didn’t unite in the hope that you can lead our nation away from the dark crevasse that looms before us.

I don’t need to tell you the challenges you’re inheriting. You know. You confronted most of them during the grueling campaign, and you’ve spoken about more recent ones during your transition.

What I’d like to share is the reason for my optimism about your presidency.

My newspaper, the Chico News & Review, endorsed you twice last year. (I don’t know if it made a difference, but our county, a Republican stronghold, was the lone bit of blue on the Northeast California electoral map, so I’d like to think we helped.) Among the things we wrote:

“At a time when the country is in the most dangerous crisis in decades as the result of the failed policies of the outgoing administration, Barack Obama offers the judgment, temperament, intelligence and ability to inspire needed to solve the nation’s problems.”

Those aren’t platitudes; they’re expectations. Already you’ve demonstrated these qualities, and you’ll need to do so throughout the coming years—four or eight—to do what must be done.

A certain pundit has taken to calling you “The Messiah, Lord Barack Obama, the most merciful.” (His first name rhymes with Shush!) Blather that it is, it conveys a sentiment held by certain segments of America that “the liberal media” gave you a free pass to the White House.

If, in this age of corporate journalism, there were such a monolith, I’d clearly get lumped there. I’m chief editor of an alternative newsweekly in a progressive college town—not as liberal as some, but liberal nonetheless.

I don’t think you’re a messiah. I don’t know anyone who does (including our Obamaniac sales manager, one of your first 100,000 donors, who put your voice as his ringtone in early 2007). Americans look to you for change, not salvation. Not all that needs doing is wholly in your control.

My hopes for your administration are many. Topping the list:

• Timely, phased withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

• True partnerships with allies, rather than coercive coalitions.

• Peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians that recognizes the full history and complexity of the dispute.

• Oversight of the bailout packages approved for Wall Street and the Motor City.

• Judiciousness with any future bailouts (if we must).

• Single-payer health care (“Medicare for all”).

• Green energy.

• Green technology.

• Environmental protection—as opposed to “drill, baby, drill” and erosion of the Endangered Species Act.

• Support for education with sensible, funded mandates—as opposed to No Child Left Behind.

• Restoration of rights and protections taken away by your predecessor.

• Openness with the American people and our proxy, the White House press corps.

You have a lot of work ahead of you, President Obama. I don’t envy you the tasks. Yet, as you undertake them, know that well-wishes and prayers—from Chico, Calif., and elsewhere—go with you.