Character, as judged by a candidate's record, counts when voters are called upon to fill the most important office in the land, that of president of the United States.
We believe Sen. John McCain's character is just what our nation needs - and we endorse him for president.
McCain's record says much more about his character than do his comments on the campaign trail, though they provide a clear blueprint for leadership. Here, in brief, are the salient points about McCain:
His record as a Navy aviator during the Vietnam War is more than a stirring story of patriotism and selflessness. McCain's behavior as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam demonstrated that, at his core, he puts duty, honor and country above all else.
Strangely, his opponents have begun to mock McCain's record as a maverick, even as they call upon the federal government to be less preoccupied with partisanship. But McCain's 25 years in Congress show a pattern of eagerness to work with politicians of both major political parties to get things done. On controversial issues, McCain has been a motivator - not just a proponent - of change since long before the term became a slogan.
National security, a key concern of most Americans, has been McCain's strength. Most Americans are fully aware of his tenacity in fighting for what is right in defense policy, as well as for members of the armed services. That sometimes has forced him into conflict, even with leaders of his own party. McCain, of course, was an early critic of the failed strategy in Iraq - and a proponent of the new, successful plan.
McCain recognizes that the size of government needs to be reduced - not expanded, as his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, wants. Smaller government leads to lower taxes, allowing Americans to keep more of our money and grow our economy.
Had Congress reacted properly to an initiative McCain helped lead in 2005, the current financial crisis probably would not be occurring. McCain was a co-sponsor on Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, which would have reined in many of the abuses involving ''subprime'' mortgages. Liberals in Congress defeated the measure.
Troubling questions remain about the character of Obama. He was elected to the Senate only because of efforts by the Chicago political machine. His personal associations involved one - closer than Obama will admit - with a leader of the 1960s Weather Underground terrorist organization. That man, William Ayers, has commented that, ''I don't regret setting bombs.'' And Obama's association of many years with his pastor, the anti-American Rev. Jeremiah Wright, ended only when the relationship was brought to light by the news media.
McCain's character, on the other hand, has been one of working closely with those who would build America up - not tear her down.
It is not too much to say that the contest for president this year pits a dedicated liberal politician, Obama, against a veteran servant of the public - McCain. Obama is easily the most liberal of the 100 senators. His running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden, is a close second.
Simply because McCain's character has been one of service to the people - not to a political party or the gigantic federal bureaucracy - we urge residents of our area to cast their ballots for John McCain, the leader Americans need.