Editor: John McCain knows that words matter and he’s flummoxed by Barack Obama’s capacity to use them to inspire Americans and people around the world. And it’s clear that he will do whatever it takes to “swift boat” Obama right out of the water.

But he cannot succeed in discrediting and diminishing a man whose words direct us to turn the page on a dark chapter in our history that Mr. McCain wants to continue.

We must elect a person of intelligence and integrity who is willing to meet the challenge of restoring those virtues to our national government — of restoring our reputation around the world — of replacing the fear and shame that we have been dealt over the last eight years with courage and pride in our values — values that have been a beacon of hope to the world.

I didn’t realize how much our idealism meant to the world until I heard journalists in Europe speak on the importance of Obama’s trip there. Idealism, it turns out, is not a soft virtue — it helps us to be the pragmatists that we Americans are, by energizing and animating us. We must resist the deliberate efforts that we have experienced in recent years to make us a fearful and therefore helpless lot.

Let’s lift ourselves out of a war that we entered under false pretenses. Let’s lift ourselves out of the downward spiral of our economy that was guided by a formula of lowering taxes. Let’s take Obama at his word and McCain at his, and evaluate their capacities to lead —working together with others in an increasingly interdependent world and inspiring our young people to choose a future that carries the promise of “liberty and justice” for all the world’s people.

Let us be citizens. Let us be patriots in the spirit of Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer. In their recently published pamphlet, “The True Patriot,” they say: “We believe all politics is fundamentally about morality: What rules do we need to live a good life together? How should those rules govern the choices we make not only as individuals but as a community? The needs that politics must meet are not merely material. A winning and worthy politics — a politics of purpose — should address wants, fears and yearnings that are about the most primordial choices humans make — and it should tip the scales … from selfishness toward the social good.”

Perhaps the most important sign of our power as Americans is that we have the privilege of being responsible for the common good. It is a privilege — and one that we can lose if we do not exercise it.

The Times-Tribune  August 19, 2008

Politics of purpose