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The San Francisco Examiner backs Barack Obama for president

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Barack Obama may not be like the president that some Bay Area residents thought they were voting for almost four years ago. His message of hope collided with the hard realities of the deepest economic problems our nation has experienced since the Great Depression. And Obama hasn’t exactly ridden a wave of collegial bipartisanship through the Washington Beltway to usher in an era of sweeping change.

There are several areas in which we would have liked Obama to have taken a stronger stance and followed through on his campaign promises. He should have pushed much harder to hold banks and other financial institutions responsible for the recklessness that led to the financial crash. His vow to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay turns out to have been largely symbolic. And he promised to not prosecute otherwise law-abiding medical marijuana providers, but then unleashed his Justice Department to enforce rules that are thwarting the will of voters in California and elsewhere to provide compassionate access to medicine.

But President Obama has moved the needle on many important topics. His aggressive support of stimulus spending helped the nation avoid another depression. He made it clear that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would not continue as nation-building missions that run counter to the wishes of people in those countries. His support for the alternative energy sector was wise, despite the occasional failures that inevitably accompany any such investment effort.

His support for Middle East democracies has allowed voters in countries there to select new leaders without heavy pressure from the United States. And his groundbreaking, though tepid, support for same-sex marriage is the farthest a sitting president has gone to recognize the rights of gays and lesbians, which is long overdue on the national stage. Finally, Obama’s health care reform was a giant step forward in a country in which far too many people lack access to suitable medical care — although far from the universal health care this country needs.

Running against Obama is Mitt Romney, a social moderate but staunch economic conservative who believes that people unfortunate enough to require the safety net of social programs during economic downturns are complainers who feel entitled to government services. Romney has proven genuinely adept at making money for himself and his investors, but his private sector track record provides no support for his assertion that he knows how to put America back to work. And he has flip-flopped on numerous issues, most notably his own healthcare record — the program he signed into law while governor of Massachusetts. By disavowing his greatest legitimate accomplishment, and by running on a business record that is hardly a résumé for job creation, it is unclear exactly what platform Romney advocates.

Four years ago, under a different owner, The San Francisco Examiner endorsed John McCain and Sarah Palin for president. Happily, the nation’s voters had a better idea.

Today, as a different paper under new ownership, we wholeheartedly endorse Barack Obama and Joe Biden for a second term so that they can move forward with reforms this country needs.

A president’s second term is an opportunity to implement his legacy agenda. Nothing we have seen suggests that Barack Obama will be content to rest on his laurels in the next four years.