Why Did the Washington Post Endorse Obama?

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," October 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Several major endorsements today for Barack Obama from major newspapers in the country. The Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times have just joined the Washington Post in putting their support behind the Democratic national presidential nominee.

This is the first time that the Tribune and the Times have endorsed a Democratic nominee. It is also the Times first endorsement in a presidential election since 1972 when it backed Nixon's re-election. All the papers said that McCain's running mate selection factored into their decision.

The Post said, quote, "The choice was made easy in part by McCain's disappointing campaign, above all his irresponsible selection of a running mate who is not ready to be president."

Pretty harsh stuff. But here to explain those words is "Washington Post" opinion columnist, Ruth Marcus.

Ruth, welcome. Good to have you here, tonight.

RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Video: Watch Martha's interview with the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus

MACCALLUM: So, how many people sat around the table to make this decision and was there a debate in the room?

MARCUS: There is always a debate in our room. And there were about eight or nine of us around the table. And it was a very interesting debate about the strengths and weaknesses of both of these candidates. And in fact, this was not a situation where there was a lesser of two evils' choice.

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We like both Senator McCain and senator Obama. We have known Senator McCain for a number of years, as we said in our editorial. There is any number of things to respect about what he did. In the end, for these times, Senator Obama was the better choice.

MACCALLUM: And you said and I have a quote here, you said, "Yes, we have reservations and concerns, almost inevitably, given Mr. Obama's relatively brief experience in national politics. But we also have enormous hopes."

So, why was his, you know, relative inexperience, you know, treated so differently perhaps than Sarah Palin's relative experience, although she has been a governor of Alaska?

MARCUS: That's a very fair and interesting question. I think the difference between their inexperience is that Sarah Palin has not demonstrated what Barack Obama has on the campaign trail, which is a deep and nuanced and broad understanding of either economics, domestic, foreign policy. She's been — frankly — disappointing in the interviews that she's given.

So, it's not just her lack of experience on the national stage; it's what she's done with it. She's obviously done a lot of things (ph).

MACCALLUM: Well, one thing that I hear from other people is that they don't want someone so experienced. They like her, you know, freshness and her attitude and her approach. They think she's a future star in the Republican Party and they think that the guys who seem to know everything haven't done such a great job in Washington lately, so that's the other side of that.

But let's just bring up also another piece. This was an editorial by David Brooks in the "New York Times." I just want to get your thoughts on it.

He says, "It could be that Obama will be," he was talking about his presidency if it happens, "will be an observer, and not a leader. Rather than throwing himself passionately into his causes, he will stand back. Lack of passion will be produce lack of courage. The Obama greatness will give way to the Obama anti-climax. But over the past two years, Obama has clearly worn well with voters. Far from a celebrity fad, he is self- contained, self-controlled and maybe even a little dull."

That's David Brooks writing for the New York Times. What do you think about that?

MARCUS: Well, I don't think the next four years are going to be dull, but I thought there were a lot of really interesting insights in David's column. I think that the big unanswered question for Senator Obama if he becomes President Obama, and we mentioned this in our editorial, is whether he will have the backbone to stand up and make the hard choices, that he understands need to be made, but we haven't seen that much evidence of his willingness to stand up to his party during the election campaign.


MACCALLUM: And that's something that John McCain has pointed out about him.

MARCUS: I'm sorry?

MACCALLUM: Yes, that's something that John McCain has pointed out about him in these debates when they've gone back-and-forth, that he's concerned about that as well.

MARCUS: That's a fair point, and it is absolutely true that if that were the only criteria, Senator McCain has a long history of being the maverick, as he's like to say, and is standing up to his party.

MACCALLUM: Well, it's going to be a very interesting 2 1/2 weeks, as we watch all of this play out.

MARCUS: And beyond.

MACCALLUM: And beyond, you are so right. And one of the best points in your endorsement was: why would anybody want this job at this point? And thank goodness, two people do because it's going to be a very, very crucial.

MARCUS: It is not going to be fun.

MACCALLUM: Yes. It's going to be a very crucial four years. We will watch with great interest.

Ruth Marcus, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

MARCUS: Great. Thank you.

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