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What kind of leader would McCain or Obama be?

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From Day One, the incoming president will face ongoing dangers to the American economy: the credit crisis, an implosion in housing, and rising prices for fuel and food. Whatever glittering promises are made on the campaign trail, the fact is that the new president won't have any money to pay for them – not with federal deficits heading skyward. In Year two, the Bush tax cuts will expire. That means President Obama or McCain and Congress must agree on a new tax regime – always a donnybrook.

In Year three, the first wave of baby boomers will hit 65, demanding an overhaul of Social Security and Medicare, which face huge financial shortfalls. In Year four, the Kyoto agreement on climate change expires. Most nations ratified the protocol but the US never did. Its end underscores the need for a comprehensive plan to secure our energy supplies while also reducing our huge carbon emissions. And this is just the beginning here at home. The challenges overseas appear even more immense and complex.

Fascinating as it now is to follow the horse race between Barack Obama and John McCain, we now need something deeper from both of them: a better understanding their priorities and values, their visions and strategies for realizing them, their approaches to building teams and coalitions, and a more concrete sense of how they will govern. What do they hope to accomplish in their first 100 days? Their first term? And what, please, will their budget look like?

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