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 Thursday, June 05, 2008

New York Times Editorial: It’s Over. Now It Begins

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The Democratic Party has chosen Senator Barack Obama.

Now Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton must make her choice.

She can exit this race in a way that unifies her party and begins to repair her political legacy, or she can continue to deny reality and further delay the vital debate over who offers the vision, ideas and leadership to be the next president of the United States.

We endorsed Mrs. Clinton and supported her right to fight for the Democratic nomination while there were still votes to be cast.

The long and grueling primary campaigns left no doubt about the depth of her intelligence, the strength of her will and the power of her ideas.

But they have left many Americans with nagging doubts about her character because the greater blame for the campaigns’ negativity falls on Mrs. Clinton.

She has a chance now to allay those doubts.

Yet Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday night that she would consult with her team and party leaders to determine “how to move forward.”

Reports on Wednesday that she would end her campaign by the end of the week encouraged us to believe that her speech was a matter of saving face and recognizing the passions of her supporters and that she was not lulled by the chants of “Denver! Denver! Denver!” into thinking that there is still a fight to be waged at the party’s convention in August.

It is up to Mr. Obama to decide whether to make her his running mate, but if that is Mrs. Clinton’s aim, it should not be a precondition for ending this fight.

Mrs. Clinton spent some time at a rally in New York on Tuesday night answering the question, “What does Hillary want?”

She listed powerful ideas and important goals: ending the war in Iraq, strengthening the economy, giving voice to the millions left out of George W. Bush’s America, providing universal health care, restoring the nation’s role as a leader in the world.

Those are not just what Mrs. Clinton wants, they are what America needs.

And at this point in the campaign, with Senator John McCain trying to seem independent while toeing the Republican line on the most important issues, it is far more likely that a Democratic president would give the country a clean break from the most disastrous presidency of modern times.

From the start, however, the Democratic contest has been marred by rancor. We heard talk from Obama supporters in the snows of New Hampshire about staying home in November if they could not have their nominee. Now polls show that many of Mrs. Clinton’s nearly 18 million voters who are understandably disappointed say that they will sit out the election or vote for Mr. McCain. Mrs. Clinton can serve those voters best by making a quick exit and rallying them behind Mr. Obama.

For Mr. Obama, the leadership test begins with giving Mrs. Clinton’s backers a place in his campaign. They have passion and talent and can help make Mr. Obama an even stronger candidate in what could well be a very tough race.

There are many other issues to be debated between now and November. How is this country going to set the economy back on its feet and deal with the mortgage crisis? Will it impose accountability on the money managers and bankers who caused it? How will the United States, after seven years of damaging inaction, confront global warming and rising fuel prices?

Voters need to hear about the presidential candidates’ very different philosophies about judicial appointments and about how each would approach the profound damage that President Bush’s mismanagement has done to civil liberties, the balance of powers in the federal government and the United States’ standing in the world.

The primaries are over. That debate needs to begin now.

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