Editor’s Note: When the Chicago Tribune endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, it was the first time that it had ever endorsed a Democrat for president.
Minutes before 2 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2008, a 158-year-old investment bank obscure to most Americans — Lehman Brothers — became the biggest company ever to file for bankruptcy. In succeeding days, then weeks, then months, the panic-inducing phrase “global financial crisis” lunged out of mothballs to frighten, and eventually debilitate, millions of households.
Credit seized. Employers retrenched. Jobs vanished. Home values plummeted. Partisans scanned the horizon for culprits, but there was no one place to aim the blame gun; plenty of villains on the left (who advocated mortgage lending to unqualified buyers) and on the right (who tolerated light oversight on the securitization of those terrible loans) had lined up emergencies like dominoes.
There was little reason to think the rookie president elected that November would be more than a bystander as those dominoes toppled. But that rookie, Barack Obama, with quick study and sure gait, led an administration effort to stabilize the U.S. economy. Through that long passage, still incomplete, Obama often has exhibited pragmatism when conventional liberal responses — As for me, I blame Wall Street! — wouldn’t have surprised any among us.
That record of pragmatism and focus in a moment of crisis, not his moves in any one policy realm, should help voters decide whether Obama spends the next four years gazing from a window at the Washington Monument — or reading and writing at his red-brick manse in sweet home Chicago.