Why the Washington Post endorses President Obama for re-election

Oct 26, 2012

The Washington Post has officially endorsed President Obama for another four years in office. Live chat with Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt Friday at 11:30 a.m. to discuss why the Post chose to endorse Obama, if they had any trouble coming to this decision and more.

Submit questions and opinions for Fred to respond to now.

Related: Washington Post endorsement: Four more years for President Obama

Welcome everyone and thanks for tuning in! We already have a bunch of good questions and I will try to get to as many as possible as you send them in now.

Your endorsement is brilliant in it balance and it's reality! The challenge is your ability to get national traction for your message.

This is the kind of perceptive comment we need more of! (If my mother were still alive, I'd know where it had come from.) No. Seriously. Thanks--and I know we will hear from others who disagree.

Why is it that given all of the evidence (historically low interest rates on U.S. bonds, low inflation, low borrowing rate for businesses) showing that the debt and deficit are not slowing the economy you still find that it is the most crucial issue for the next president? Isn't unemployment much more of a pressing issue for Americans now and for the future?

Good question. One thing that makes the looming fiscal cliff so tricky is that we all have to keep two things in our heads at the same time--right now the economy is fragile, unemployment is too high, Congress shouldn't do things to make that worse. But the long-term accumulation of debt is going to bury us--and Congress has to show that it has a plan for taking that on too.

Given the very competitive nature of the global economy, how can Obama implement efforts to mitigate climate change and keep the U.S. well positioned economically?

Another good question. Ultimately climate change solutions will have to be global, partly for the reason you cite. But in the meantime, the US could do things that benefit this country regardless--for example, some kind of carbon tax would help with the deficit and the environment, and could be structured in a way that didn't do big harm to trade or international competitiveness.

Just out of curiousity, when was the last time the Post endorsed a Republician for president?

Good to get this one early. We have endorsed lots of Republicans at state and local levels, but never for president. Four years ago we were big admirers of John McCain, but we thought his vice presidential choice was pretty close to disqualifying.

Hyper partisan enthusiasm assures that TWP will be praised and villified regardless which candidate receives endorsement - but how is the decision made? Is there a formal process? How many viewpoints go into the equation and how are they considered? What is the process? I assume it's not a coin toss.

Not a coin toss, and (despite previous answer) far from automatic, though I know some will be skeptical about that. Our board does a lot of reporting, a lot of reading, and then a lot of discussing, arguing, writing and rewriting.

Great endorsement of Obama! But I'd be amiss to not say Obama kept every promise he could.

Thanks. And--maybe. Historians will be fighting for a long time over whether he could have done more, apportioning blame between him and Republicans for things that didn't get done, etc. We obviously thought there were times he could have pushed harder.

Sir, do you think Mr Obama's redistribution and equality of outcome ideas are on the same moral plane as religious, legal and political rights? Won't such ideas get us to a dog eared, chaotic, resentful, envious, violent and class divided society like Illinois, New York and California?

I think his ideas on redistribution and equality of opportunity--not outcome, in my opinion--are well within the mainstream of American politics going back decades--embracing our progressive income tax, Social Security and other well accepted programs.

How can you claim "But Mr. Obama is committed to the only approach that can succeed: a balance of entitlement reform and revenue increases"? When as a President he was responsible for trillion dollar budget deficits year after year? You may then argue that you don't know what Romney stands for but isn't worse for a President to claim one thing and betray you by doing the opposite?

He obviously did not do as much as we hoped he would during his first term on entitlement reform. But the growth of the deficit these past few years is mostly due to the recession, which lowers revenue and necessitates more government spending, as well as past policies (the Bush tax cuts). Even if he had hugged Simpson-Bowles, the deficit at this moment would not be very different.

In this age where information is more readily available, and journalists are (sadly) viewed with skepticism or downright contempt, what kind of role do these kind of official endorsements still play? Will your paper continue endorsing candidates, or do you foresee a time when that will become an outdated form of political speech?

I don't think there really was ever a time when masses of voters took instructions from newspaper endorsements. But I agree that these days more than ever voters have a huge range of sources. At best an endorsement can be one useful point of reference--if we produce something that is well-reported and well-reasoned. It's a good goal for us to strive for, and I think we will keep writing endorsements and striving to make them credible.

Not a question, just thanks for a well-reasoned endorsement statement. I found myself agreeing on all counts, both the good and the bad. I particularly liked the paragraph on their being nothing iabout Romney's Beliefs and character to suggest voting for him - great point stated more clearly than I've seen anywhere else. Good job.

Thank you!

When is your paper going to investigate the racist voting patterns of blacks? If 95% of whites voted for a white, like the percentage of blacks who support Obama, you and your cronies would be joining hands with the ACLU and the civil rights industry screaming for an investigation. This is just one of the many reasons you are not respected by whites who are not feeling "guilty," not that you even realize it. Someday, I have a feeling that arrogance will change.

I just don't think there's anything surprising, or nefarious, when a historically oppressed minority takes pride in achievements of one of its own. We had two and a quarter centuries of nothing but white men as presidents. After the record begins to even out, I'm sure voting patterns will too.

Dear Mr. Hiatt. Hello, I'm Dean from Seoul, Korea. Korea needs much tighter security than now and I firmly believe Mitt Romney will do that. (Just take a look at territorial dispute between Japan and China. They already are under their way for tighter security as well.) Why? Romney's hawkish approach all proves this right.

I think the Obama administration has had good relations with South Korea, including on defense ties. I also think that's a pretty bipartisan impulse, and Romney's policy would be about the same in your neck of the woods.

Congratulations on endorsing the President for a second term. It is the right decision for America. How much of your editorial board's decision was based on the shape shifting of candidate Romney and how much was based on his arithmetic problem with his plan for our economic recovery?

It's hard to quantify, but I think as long as the Republicans insist that revenues can't be part of the equation, they aren't going to be part of a responsible solution. Given the aging of our society, we're not going to be able to run a government on 18 per cent of GDP. We need new revenue AND entitlement reform.

While there is a firewall as the articles are being written, it is still unfair to say that the Post's management has no say in the outcome of the endorsement. Wouldn't they interview and select the candidates for the editorial board? Surely the job application process would involve picking people who represent views they want the paper to have. It's not a coincidence that the WSJ consistently endorses conservatives, while the Post in the NYT always endorse liberals. Right?

Absolutely. I was picked for my job by Donald Graham, who's now CEO of the company, and I'm sure he picked me in part because he was comfortable with my world view. I think publishers are entitled to do that--the good thing is we have enough newspapers, TV companies, etc., that readers/viewers/users have a range of viewpoints to choose from. What management doesn't do, by the way, is interfere with news coverage--but I have nothing to do with that either.

It is completely inappropriate for a news source to take sides in any political election. The Post's job, and responsibility, is to report news in an unbiased and unweighted manner. Backing any candidate through the public news media is irresponsible.

So I run the editorial and oped page, and we are completely separate from the news-gathering operation. I have no input and no knowledge of what they are up to, and they have no input into my operation.

Fred: At this point, I almost feel like we're no longer voting for candidates, but philosophies, since parties vote together in lockstep. The minority party will obstruct as best as it can. Americans still seem focused on individual candidates themselves, but for the most part, does anyone truly expect Romney to deviate much from right wing orthodoxy, or Obama to change significantly on any material issue? Doesn't it make sense more than ever to vote straight ticket?

It's a really good question. What I know is that this is a closely divided nation, and no solutions are going to last unless they take some input from both sides. And in the case of the deficit, it just happens that the math doesn't add up without pain on both sides--tax hikes and some scaling back of promised entitlement benefits.

I am not better off than I was four years ago. Jobs still are scarce and the unemployment rate remains high. I want a president who knows something about economics, business growth and who has a history of success in that area, namely MItt Romney. Obama has had his chance and he has failed. It is time for a change. Obama knows nothing about middle America, its people and its culture. And his megaloegomania is just so very off putting to say the least. Romney currently is leading in the polls which indicates to me that many people agree with my assessment. My question to you is: considering Obama's poor performance and polling, why should he deserve four more years?

I think our editorial gives our answer, but this is a good statement of the other side. I think Obama was dealt a very tough hand, and did a good job in righting a frighteningly listing economy.

What , if any, effect will the 2 per cent GDP number just released have and the all important unemployment numbers next Friday have on the election?

I don't know. I've thought all along Obama would win if enough people believed the economy was getting better, and not if not. If a challenger has to persuade voters that they're worse off than they feel, he loses. But if they feel they're worse off, he wins.

The Post must know the House will remain in Republican control. Obama will not get any part of his agenda through without great compromise to the GOP. Is the Post endorsing Obama because you believe Obama will change, and if so, what evidence do you have that he will compromise with Republicans?

I think he gets that a balanced solution will be needed. I hope he will be willing to compromise. I also hope House Republicans will be willing to compromise, in ways they weren't over the past couple of years. I can't promise either will come true.

After reading your endorsement, I gathered the Post really had no love for either Obama or Romney. Was there any consideration for throwing support to someone else? Or how about 'none of the above - the Post decides no one seeking the presidency is worthy of it'?

In this instance, even though we had disappointments with Obama, we didn't have ambivalence about who is the better choice. As a general matter-- the Post once did 'none of the above'--in 1988, I believe--and I wouldn't say never again. But I think we're faced with the same choice as voters are faced with, and we have an obligation to deal with it as we expect voters to--deal with the real world, and not wait for your ideal candidate to come along.

If Obama is elected narrowly, and the senate and congress remain the same, what advice would you give him for governing what is proving to be an increasingly ungovernable country, due to our growing partisanship? What can be changed to make the next four years more productive than the last four (although I think the last four years have been more productive than many give Obama credit for)?

Over the long run, there are things that could help the partisan split in Washington--starting with redistricting reform in the states. In the short run, I would hope that leaders on both sides would look at the risks facing this country and agree to stop vilifying each other and try to get something done. I think a surprising number of people in Congress--not to mention in the country--would welcome that.

Hi Fred: Do you see a distinction between the abilities one has to have to get elected president; and then once elected, to govern effectively. I mean, the actor Will Smith, half-jokingly, once said that he could get elected president....my point exactly...then what?

Yes. Four years ago people said that Obama's brilliant campaign showed he would be a good White House manager. Some of the good qualities did persist--the steadiness, unflappable in a crisis, etc. But pretty clearly the skill set isn't identical. Problem is, it's very hard to know ahead of time what kind of president someone will be.

Hi Fred, I welcome the Posts's endorsement of president Obama for relection. Politico recently reported "That Jen Rubin, the Washington Post's conservative opinion blogger, is enthusiastically pro-Mitt Romney -- an arm for the Romney campaign -- is taken for granted in Washington. There's a widespread sense among the Beltway press corps that Rubin's constant defense and support of Romney is tarnishing the Post's brand." What role did Jen play in the Posts's endorsement, and do you think a paper with the pedigree of the Post should provide a portal for an apparent Romney camapign operative as, at least according to Politico, Jen Rubin is?

First of all, premise is completely wrong. Anyone who's been reading Jen over the past months knows she has strong views but is no one's mouthpiece. Second, our bloggers and columnists--Jen, Greg Sargent on the other side, Will, Dionne, etc.--don't have any role in our endorsement. That's done by our board--editorial writers, mostly.

President Obama deserved your endorsement and I applaud the Post Editorial board on their decision. It would be good to highlight the lack of scientific rigor on the Republican side as they hold up so much that our nation needs to accomplish. Certainly climate change and environmental progress have stomped under all the financial news but we need to be smart even in a slowdown. Ups and downs are all part of the capitalist system.

I agree. (Though I can't help adding the Dem decision-making isn't always entirely science-based, either. Take Yucca Mountain, for example.)

The Washington Post endorsed Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election.

Thanks. Yes.

Mr. Hyatt, The Post doesn't allow its sports writers to vote for the Hall of Fame and such because of perception of bias. Why, then, does it endorse candidates? Because when you endorse Obama is only seems to confirm what even your own ombudsman admits happens - your editorials blend with the news. It's hard to deny the paper's reporting at leans toweard Obama. Thanks.

Well, some people have argued we shouldn't do endorsements, because of the perception. But it is only perception. The difference is the sports writers are covering what they would be voting on. Whereas our political reporters have nothing to do with our editorials.

After having endorsed President Obama for re-election in an incredibly insightful manner, and obviously having covered the entire election, what would the election of Gov. Mitt Romney mean in your eyes? The decision of a small swath of independents in swing states who may not agree or have been exposed to such a view, a Democratic base who let disappointment trump commitment, a collective belief in Gov. Romney's ability to deliver on his promises because business background and short stint in government, an incredibly energized opposition to Pres. Obama or something else entirely?

One of the factors in our endorsement was, we just don't know--we really don't know what he believes. I hope, if he's elected, he will prove to be a president who wants to get things done in a bipartisan way. He'd have to move a fair distance from his current tax plan, but it is certainly conceivable. He's obviously an able man.

I pretty much agree with your pros and cons of both candidates, and think both are probably fine men outside of politics. And I do support Obama, regardless of some clear problems. But if he doesn't win, a large concern is what influence on the president there would be from a Vice President Paul Ryan, the selection of whom I believe was one of Romney's biggest mistakes. Thoughts on influence?

I think vice presidents have only as much influence as presidents want them to have. Historically that hasn't been much, though there have been exceptions (first-term Cheney comes to mind).

I'll preface my comment by saying that newspaper endorsements make no difference at all in how I vote. I also took it as a given that the Washington Post would endorse Obama and will endorse Moran and other Democrats, and it makes it hard for me to consider the Post's editorial board as having much credibility because I think voting by party line is a poor way to make a decision. (I've voted for Republicans, I've voted for Democrats, I've voted for third-party candidates. Never voted for a Democrat for president, but I did vote for Perot in 1992.) What I find puzzling is that the Post refers to Obama's supposed plans and vision for the next four years. What plans? What vision? As far as I've been able to determine, his ENTIRE campaign is premised on attack and smear. I have not seen a single Obama advertisement telling me why I should vote FOR him. Every ad is focused on telling me why I shouldn't vote for Romney. I do not vote for people who are unable to articulate why I should support them.

If you're going to cite Moran, I have to point out that we also endorsed his Republican colleague, Frank Wolf. We still miss having Republican Tom Davis in the House. Etc.

Newspaper's endorsements clearly don't have the weight they used to have because of the sheer saturation of available content and the intertwining of news and opinion. Go with a 'no endorsement' policy. Great paper from my hometown, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is doing this and those papers who think they have no political leanings need to do the same ... this is a message that will resonate with moderate/independent minded readership and stand out above all the other bs. Another Post endorsement for a democratic candidate for president is nothing special.

Here's one reason I resist your proposal. I feel as though for four years, we editorial pages can spout off on what policy makers should do. Once every four years we're faced with binary choices, just like voters. We ought to have to say, given what we've been writing the past four years, which of these candidates is closer--not perfect, but closer to our ideal. And why.

Why is the media focusing on polls and not on the fact that Romney is not telling the truth about his real positions on issues? The media is creating a pro Romney bandwagon effect with the polls but not talking at all about substance issues between the candidates.

I think the media will always follow the polls/horse race story. But I think we're doing both. The Post news side--and, repeating, I have nothing to do with that--had a great full week of coverage of how the candidates differ on the issues. (I'll look for link while we're chatting.)

It was difficult this year to decide which way the Post's endorsement would go. In today's perceptive and balanced endorsement of the President I better understood how the strengths and weaknesses of the Obama administration versus those of the challenger made the final decision one of weighting rather than ideology. I much appreciate how judiciously the Post made its decision.

Thanks very much.

In terms of foreign policy, what is the Washington Post most worried about in an Obama second term? Is there any area you feel he mishandled in his first term? Could not being up for election again allow him more options, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, since he would have to worry less about seeming like "one of them" to voters uncomfortable with his other-ness?

I'd say I'm worried about this, about both candidates, in fact: they both like to talk about America being the "indispensable nation" (Obama) or the global leader (Romney, in last debate) but they haven't leveled with voters about the hard things that sometimes requires. It's difficult to be the indispensable nation and also tell voters they can concentrate on "nation-building at home." Unfortunately or fortunately, US has to do both--nation-build at home, and remain engaged overseas.

Hello, Good editorial generally, but...how could you say Obama has done nothing for Immigration reform? Republicans vehemently opposed the Dream Act so he did an end run with an executive order, "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals". I know a young immigrant who just got his driver's license and is going to start college in the spring. This is NOT an insignificant improvement--millions of young people who are talented and ready to contribute to the country they call "home" will now be able to work and study legally. They are no longer afraid. I hope your editorial will be revised to reflect this truth. Thank you.

We didn't say he's done nothing on immigration--we pointed out his Justice Dept. has opposed the more draconian state laws. But he didn't push for the comprehensive immigration reform we need--with enforcement, a mechanism for continuing legal flow and a path out of the shadows for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants here now.

Can you say whether not endorsing any candidate like the San Francisco Chronicle did in the Boxer/Fiorina race in 2010 was seriously considered?

Not this year in the presidential.

Reagan cut taxes, revenues, actual cash, went up. Same with G.W. Bush. Why do you think tax cuts by Romney would result in deficits and not increased revenue? He's already said his plan won't increase the deficit and we already know Obama's will.

No. Reagan cut taxes and the deficit went up.

Tax cuts can stimulate growth, but generally not by enough to make up for the lost revenue.

You mention intervening in Libya as a reason to support President Obama. Does the Post now argue the president can go to war without congressional approval? Bush didn't even do that in Iraq.

No, we were critical of the administration's interpretation of the War Powers Act in that case. But it has to be said--Congress didn't try to assert its authority, either. I think they were glad for the onus to be on the president.

The editorial was bold and insightful. Logic and facts have won the day. Thank you.

I think that's a good one to end on!

Thank you everyone for reading and commenting. And though I joke about loving the approving questions like this, I really do appreciate hearing from many of you who disagree and are willing to engage in a civil way.

Have a good weekend!

In This Chat
Fred Hiatt
Fred Hiatt is the editorial page editor of The Post. He writes editorials for the newspaper and a biweekly column that appears on Mondays. He also contributes to the PostPartisan blog. Hiatt has been with The Post since 1981. Earlier, he worked as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal and the Washington Star. At The Post, he covered government, politics, development and other issues in Fairfax County and statewide in Virginia, and later military and national security affairs on the newspaper's national staff. From 1987 to 1990, he and his wife were co-bureau chiefs of The Post's Tokyo bureau, and from 1991 to 1995 they served as correspondents and co-bureau chiefs in Moscow. He joined the editorial board in 1996 and became editorial page editor in 2000. He is the author of "The Secret Sun: A Novel of Japan," which was published in 1992, as well as two books for children, "If I Were Queen of the World" (1997) and "Baby Talk" (1999).
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