How Obama and McCain Would Lead

No matter who wins, the 44th U.S. President will inherit a nation in a world of hurt. A look at how each man would face an epic challenge

Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

The extraordinary powers of the presidency await either Barack Obama or John McCain. So do a grim national mood and a challenging global order.

They only look as if they inhabit our galaxy. In truth, the men who would be President have been running for months in a parallel universe, a place where a Chief Executive changes laws by waving a hand and reorders society at the stroke of a pen. "When I am President," the candidates declare — and off they go into dreamspeak, describing tax codes down to the last decimal point and sketching health-care reforms far beyond the power of any single person to enact. In their imaginary, reassuring cosmos, America is always a mere 10 years — and one new...

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