Four years ago, when we recommended Barack Obama for president, we felt the choice was clear and we made it with a sense of hope and optimism. That hope and optimism has dimmed. To say that President Obama has been a disappointment is an understatement.
Four years later, the economy remains moribund, jobs are scarce and unemployment is high. Too many Americans have given up the hope of finding a job. The deficit has continued to climb and climb. The housing market is stagnant and too many Americans have lost their homes while others are paying far more than they can ever hope to make selling their house.
We did, finally after decades of trying, get a comprehensive health care law, but the partisan manner in which it was passed guaranteed its unpopularity and ensured efforts by Republicans to replace it with, well, who knows what? Meanwhile, states such as Texas are cutting medical services to woman and threatening the health care of our children.
To be sure, the president did bring the war in Iraq to a close and is winding down the war in Afghanistan, but to what end. Is Iraq more stable now? Will Afghanistan become a shining beacon for freedom when we leave? We all know the answers to those questions.
The hated Osama bin Laden was, indeed, killed under this president's watch by a brave and highly trained team of Navy Seals. But we also lost our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans under Obama's watch in a terror attack that the administration first tried to cover up and still hasn't been fully explained to the American people.
President Obama certainly doesn't deserve all of the blame for these failures. He inherited a sagging economy and two wars from his predecessor. But all presidents assume the baggage of those who served before and must deal with the difficulties as they are. It is long past time for President Obama to point the finger of blame at President George W. Bush.
And Republicans in Congress must share a large part of the blame. Their refusal to compromise on plans and proposals of the Obama administration created insurmountable problems no president could solve. They seemed determined to work against this president at every opportunity to cause him to fail. Democrats, too, have some of the burden of blame to carry when they conspired to pass legislation opposed by Republicans, refusing to compromise even though the vast majority of Americans are tired of the gridlock that has brought Washington to a standstill.
That said, we have deep concerns about Republican challenger Mitt Romney. We were glad when he ran in the primaries four years ago.
His term as Republican governor of Massachusetts -- the state of the Kennedys, Tip O'Neill and Barney Frank -- was distinguished by a remarkable reaching out to both parties in the best interest of all the people of the state. He may have said it inelegantly in the last presidential debate, but Romney did seek out and appoint a record number of women to important posts in his administration. Incredibly, he brought about universal health care for virtually all citizens of the state, a plan that did form the basis of "Obamacare" on a national level.
Romney proved to be a true moderate, beholden neither to the right of his party or the members of the opposition party. We believed then as we believe now that political leaders govern best from the middle.
Thus, it is why we are so concerned with the Mitt Romney of this election year. We are hardly naive on how political campaigns are fought and won, but it is disappointing to see Romney turn his back on the man he was as governor of Massachusetts. We understand that Republicans on the far right have worries about Romney and that he must placate their fears, but Romney's pandering to the right is alarming. His outright rejection of Obamacare which is so heavily based on Romney's own health care plan is puzzling.
We also understand the anger of workers for the American jobs shipped overseas by companies owned by Romney's Bain Capital. Sadly, all Americans were snookered when they were promised that the jobs sent to India and China and other countries would be replaced her with better, higher-paying jobs. They haven't been. But Bain Capital is not to blame for that. As head of Bain, Romney's job was to investment his client's money in businesses that faced failure and turn them around. That he did, extremely well. When did being a capitalist become a bad word in America?
Romney has an outstanding reputation as a business and civic leader. His experience in foreign affairs is no less than Obama's was four years ago.
The choice for president this year is not as clear as it was in 2008, however The Eagle recommends a vote for Mitt Romney for president, although we want the Massachusetts Gov. Romney and not Romney the panderer to the far right.
This is a race to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and it is with a deep sense of sadness that we are losing her outstanding service in Washington. Hutchison rose through the ranks to become one of the most powerful senators in Congress, in part because of her length of service, but more importantly because of her character, her wisdom and her ability to work across the aisle for the good of all Americans. There can be no question she will be missed greatly.
Seeking to replace her are Republican Ted Cruz, a former solicitor general of Texas, and Democrat Paul Sadler, chairman of the Texas House Public Education Committee in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Cruz surprised many political observers in the party primaries by easily defeating the more establishment and better-known Republican, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Cruz did it by running a positive campaign and refusing to attack his opponents -- something we all say we want, but almost never get. For some voters, Cruz' biggest drawback is the almost fanatical support he gets from members of the tea party.
Perhaps that is Sadler's biggest asset. Democrats and independents worried about the tea party support might vote for Sadler on Nov. 6. That may seem to be an almost wistful hope. Sadler did not meet with the Editorial Board.
Cruz is whip-smart, one of the brightest politicians the board has interviewed. He said America is on the edge of a fiscal and economic cliff and needs to pull back from the brink of disaster by "reducing the size, power and spending of the federal government."
If elected, Cruz said he would make real cuts in federal spending and work to enact significant regulatory reform. He would work to repeal Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which he said puts too many restrictions on financial institutions. Cruz also said he wants to end the Obama administration's abusive enforcement of environmental laws.
Cruz also calls for fundamental tax reform to "move as close as possible to a low uniform tax rate."
As with all politicians, we wish Cruz were a little more moderate, but we are comfortable that he would represent Texas and Texans well in the U.S. Senate.
The Eagle recommends a vote for Republican Ted Cruz for the U.S. Senate.
Texas House District 12
Kyle Kacal, Republican, vs. Robert Stem, Democrat -- This is a new, mostly rural district that stretches from the outskirts of Waco down Texas 6 to the areas of Brazos County outside the two cities, although it does include the Windwood, Raintree, Emerald Forest, Foxfire and Woodcreek subdivisions of College Station. The two men vying to fill this seat both have rural roots and are working ranchers.
Stem grew up on and continues to work on his family ranch southwest of Marlin in the Rosebud-Lott area. He also is an attorney with a general practice in Waco. Kacal has owned a ranch in Brazos County for more than 20 years and has worked extensively with the Texas Farm Bureau.
As Texas grows increasingly urban, it is harder and harder for rural Texans to get a voice in the Legislature. Both candidates for District 12 could be that voice.
For both men, water is a major issue, as it should be for all Texans. They agree that the state's new $53.1 billion water plan must be funded to ensure the state has an adequate supply of water for the future.
Kacal said we need more surface water sources in the state, but Stem said that will not solve the state's water needs. Kacal also said that desalinization of ocean water has to come into play. And, Kacal said, major conservation efforts are needed.
Both men oppose locating a new Union Pacific railyard on prime agriculture land near Mumford, although Kacal points out that Robertson County desperately needs the jobs it would bring.
Education is a key to expanding economic prosperity in the district according to both men. Kacal said, "Many jobs in the district are not being filled because people don't have the skill sets needed." He said schools need to return to a greater emphasis on vocational and technical training.
Stem, who says he is a conservative Democrat, said every additional dollar available to the Legislature in the upcoming session needs to be dedicated to education. He said he would dip into the state's $8 billion rainy day fund to help restore the $5.4 billion cuts to public schools made in the 2011 legislative session.
Kacal said he wants to look at the extra-territorial jurisdiction granted to cities to control growth along their boundaries to see if changes need to be made.
Both men no doubt would do a fine job representing District 12, so perhaps it comes down to a matter of parochialism. As a Brazos County rancher, Kyle Kacal probably would do a better job representing this end of the new district.
The Eagle recommends a vote for Republican Kyle Kacal for Texas House, District 12.
Texas House District 14
Rep. John Raney, Republican, vs. Judy LeUnes, Democrat -- This district covers Bryan and most of College Station. When longtime Rep. Fred Brown resigned mid-term last year, Raney won a five-person race to finish out his term. LeUnes came in third in that race.
Since that time, Raney, who has lived in the community for close to 50 years, has served on the House Committee on Higher Education and the House Committee on Land and Resource Management, both which are critical to the future success of Brazos County. He said he has spent a considerable amount of time in committee meetings and beginning to work with other members of the House. Raney has operated the Texas Aggie Bookstore since his graduation from Texas A&M in 1969.
LeUnes has lived in College Station for 40 years. She was a highly decorated College Station teacher for 30 years and is a former president of the College Station Teachers Association. Since retiring from the classroom, LeUnes has been an education consultant to several school districts.
When LeUnes ran a year ago in the special election, The Eagle said she was a one-issue candidate, and she was. She certainly knew the issues facing public education, but lacked knowledge of other important issues facing Texas, including water, transportation and health care. As we noted then, education certainly is the most critical issue in the state, but it isn't the only one.
Since then, LeUnes has spent a considerable amount of time and effort learning about those other issues. She has attended the same committee meetings as Raney and, in addition, has attended meetings of the Brazos-Robertson Water Conservation District. "I've learned what farmers are concerned about," she said.
In the process, LeUnes has become a more informed and much better candidate. Like a top student, she did her homework.
LeUnes said her top issues are education, jobs, water and health care. She said she would like to merge the State Board of Education and the Higher Education Coordinating Board to provide greater coordination between public schools and the state's colleges and universities.
In walking the streets of North Bryan, LeUnes said for the first time she was aware of the extent of poverty in the community. She also said residents of that area were pleased and surprised to see a political candidate paying attention to them.
Both Raney and LeUnes say it is critical that the $5.4 cuts in education funding made by the Legislature in its last term have to be restored. Like LeUnes, Raney said he wouldn't be opposed to using some of the state's $8 billion rainy day fund to do that.
Raney is concerned that many college graduates cannot earn more than $30,000 to $35,000 annually. He said it is vital that math and engineering skills be improved. He said he is "very interested" in improving vocational training in our schools.
He said the state must "take care of classroom teachers" and must look at innovative ways of teaching, including the use of Internet courses that allow students to complete at their own pace.
Raney also said is concerned about the growth of Medicaid costs. He said the Legislature needs to increasing funding of the state's transportation system.
Raney really hasn't had a chance to prove himself, despite all his efforts as a new lawmaker. He's done a fine job in that position for the past 10 months.
LeUnes brings her years of teaching experience to the race, experience that is sorely lacking in the Texas House of Representatives.
No aspersion on the job Rep. John Raney has been doing, but The Eagle recommends a vote for Judy LeUnes because of her background in education.
State Board of Education, District 8
Barbara Cargill, Republican, vs. Dexter Smith, Democrat -- For too long, the State Board of Education has been too embroiled in controversial decisions, particularly those over the teaching of creationism and its bastard stepchild intelligent design.
Both candidates bring a wealth of education background to this race. Cargill met with the Editorial Board before the primaries, but Smith has not met with us.
Cargill holds a bachelor's in education from Baylor University and a master's of science in science education from Texas Woman's University. She taught science in the Dallas and Houston areas for nearly 30 years and has received numerous teaching awards. In 1994, she founded the Wonders of The Woodlands Science Camp, an outreach of The Woodlands United Methodist Church which caters to some 1,200 youngsters 3-11 each summer.
Cargill was appointed to the State Board of Education in January 2005 and currently serves as its chairman.
A native of LaMarque, Smith attended Lamar University on a track and field scholarship before earning his bachelor of arts in history from the University of Houston. He recently completed a master's in elementary education from the University of Phoenix and is enrolled in the Region IV principal certification program.
Smith is in his 12th year as a third- and fourth-grade social studies teacher at Mainland Preparatory Academy, a charter school in LeMarque.
Cargill has experience on the state board, but was aligned with the creationist coalition on that board, which should be of concern to all Texans.
The Eagle recommends a vote for Dexter Smith for the State Board of Education, District 8.