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Archive - Nov 5, 2008

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Of editorial writing & critical thinking

Clippings article published Oct. 23, 2008

Let’s talk about editorials and this newspaper’s perspective over the past eight years.

Since 2000, this editor has been roundly criticized — and applauded — by readers reacting to editorials on the national or international scene. Many of those editorials have been about the elections with George W., about the invasion of Iraq, the economy, and what I have considered to be the misguided policies of the Bush administration.

Contrary to some publications, editorials are written with the premise of the piece clearly stated and one side of the issue boldly supported. Very few editorials are middle-of-the-road essays that point out both sides of the issue and let the reader decide which group of facts has the most validity. Picking one side of the issue and defending that point of view is precisely what editorials should do. And, yes, that means the editorials are biased. Of course they are. They reflect my research and my point of view. That doesn’t mean, however, they are not supported by facts or credible evidence that counters an opposing agenda.

But why write about those issues when that’s the purview of national publications, some critics ask, then suggest we write solely about local and state issues.

It’s a good point, and frankly, I would do my job better if I made it a priority to always include a local editorial to accompany any editorial on the world or national scene. Two shorter editorials would almost always be preferable.

But when the issues get mixed up with people’s emotional framework, rational discussion often falls by the wayside and partisan politics enters the fray. The strategic reasons for invading Iraq or not, for example, get lost within the emotional context of patriotism, God and country, and supporting the troops.

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Barack Obama for President

“Never in living memory has an election been more critical than (this) — that’s the quadrennial cliché, as expected as the balloons and the bombast. And yet when has it ever felt so urgently true? When have so many Americans had so clear a sense that a presidency has — at levels of competence, vision and integrity — undermined the country and its ideals?”

That was the opening paragraph of The New Yorker’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama for president on Oct. 13. It continued: “The Presidency of George W. Bush is the worst since Reconstruction, so there is no mystery about why the Republican Party — which has held dominion over the executive branch of the federal government for the past eight years and the legislative branch for most that time — has little desire to defend its record, domestic or foreign … Meanwhile, the nominee, Sen. John McCain, (has) played the part of a vaudeville illusionist, asking to be regarded as an apostle of change after years of embracing the essentials of the Bush agenda with ever-increasing ardor.”

That this presidential election is the most critical of our times is a debate for historians decades hence, but certainly a record 93 percent of the American populace, according to recent polls, say we are going in the wrong direction. And certainly these two major party candidates offer stark differences in style and in the policies they would pursue.

It is no surprise to readers of this paper that we enthusiastically endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president. We are impressed with his coolness under fire; his thoughtful and deliberate approach when addressing difficult issues; his skills as a campaigner, organizer and director of a massive undertaking these past 18 months that delivered a consistent message of hope that has inspired tens of millions of supporters. And he has done it with honor, integrity and clarity of purpose.

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Personal reasons to vote for Obama

Eleven days from now, I expect to cast my vote for Barack Obama for President of the United States for these reasons:

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Democrat Tom Costello for lieutenant governor

Democrat Tom Costello, a veteran legislator serving Rutland and Brattleboro, has an uphill battle in challenging incumbent Brian Dubie as the state’s lieutenant governor. But Costello’s pragmatic approach to the issues, experience in bipartisanship as a former legislator, and his ‘can-do attitude’ when it comes to reaching resolution on problems facing the state earn him this paper’s endorsement in an effort to unseat Dubie and bring new energy to the state’s second-highest post.

Costello is a likeable “Joe-Six-Pack” kind of guy who, even though he has a law degree, feels more comfortable talking in half sentences, tossing in a few choice words that come from his days as a Marine, and talking about practical measures to solve problems rather than whining about obstacles or politics. After six years of dodging the issues, his frankness is refreshing.

“Our present administration is not dealing specifically and effectively with these problems which are solvable,” Costello told the Independent last week in reference to re-licensing Vermont Yankee, financial hardships for Vermont’s seniors, and attracting new jobs to Vermont. “My experience is to work together in an aggressive way, but to work together and find a solution ... There is no reason why we can’t make these things happen. That’s been my experience.”

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President-Elect Obama's acceptance speech

Full Text of President-Elect Barack Obama’s Acceptance Speech from Chicago, Illinois on November 4, 2008

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

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Republican John McCain's concession speech

Text of Republican John McCain's concession speech Tuesday in Phoenix, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions.
___
MCCAIN: Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening.
My friends, we have — we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.
A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him.

(BOOING)

Please.

To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.
America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

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