It's two weeks before the election, the time when emotions among candidates' supporters are at a fever pitch and, in today's political environment, the opposition is seen as practically demonic.
In the midst of that environment, we offer this assessment: Americans actually have a choice of two good candidates in this year's presidential elections.
The Daily Journal editorial page doesn't make presidential endorsements. Unlike statewide or regional elections, we have no access to or relationship with presidential candidates that gives us any special insight into their positions on the issues, their job performance or their character.
By saying that both John McCain and Barack Obama are good candidates, we probably make the most committed supporters of both unhappy. But that's what we think.
They are distinctly different, of course, in many ways – in age, race, background, experience, personality, philosophy and approach. But they are similar in that they both represent new approaches to governing in a malfunctioning political environment. Both would bring change.
They wouldn't pursue the same policies; there are clear philosophical differences between the two. It's fair to characterize Obama as liberal and McCain as conservative. But it's also clear that both are pragmatic and would likely be more flexible than their critics expect.
Both have unquestionably overpromised in this campaign, especially in light of the economic crisis. At some point, they will have to face the nation and tell us that they can't do all they want to do. They may even have to ask us to make sacrifices.
But both are smart, capable men who would be able to inspire confidence in Americans at a time when it's sorely needed, who would refocus the government's priorities on shoring up the middle class, and who have what it takes to lead the nation through difficult times.
The contrast in personalities – Obama's calmness, McCain's passion – gives voters distinct alternatives in choosing what they believe is the better approach for the times.
We don't put any stock in the caricatures drawn by the more vociferous of each candidate's critics -that McCain is a dangerous warmonger or that Obama is a radical in disguise. In their better moments, both men have acknowledged the positive attributes of the other and attempted to stem the reckless stridency of some of their own supporters.
Whoever you are for in this election, we believe that you need not worry that a win by his opponent would be a disaster for the country. The primary voters have selected well, and America will be OK – however the election turns out.