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In New Hampshire's Upper Valley, Obama Won

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I don't mean to be grudging.

In all fairness, I must congratulate Hillary Clinton for winning the New Hampshire Democratic primary by almost eight thousand votes.

But in the Upper Valley, a cluster of New Hampshire towns that line the Connecticut River and that include my home town of Hanover, Obama outpolled her by more than three thousand votes -- a 3-to-2 margin of victory.

I have no way of knowing, but some of those votes for Obama might have been prompted by a full-page ad that appeared last Saturday in our local Valley News. Drafted by yours truly and signed by sixty Upper Valley citizens, it read as follows:

In October 1962, when aerial surveillance clearly showed that the Soviet Union had deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba, all but one of the president's highly experienced cabinet members and advisors urged him to attack the island. But the 45-year-old John F. Kennedy (one year younger than Barack Obama is now) foresaw that an attack on Cuba might ignite the first nuclear war in the history of humankind.

So he overruled his experienced advisors. Instead of attacking Cuba, he combined a blockade with intense diplomatic pressure to make the Russians withdraw. President Kennedy's peaceful resolution of the Cuban missile crisis demonstrated the kind of judgment that experience alone cannot match.

Barack Obama has this kind of judgment. In the fall of 2002, when Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and 29 other Democratic Senators voted to authorize a war strongly promoted by two men of long experience (Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld), Barack Obama said the following:

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.

Five years after Obama made these predictions, every one of them has come to pass.

Now that the war in Iraq has taken 3900 American lives (CNN's latest figure), killed over 80,000 Iraqi civilians, wounded over 28,000 American soldiers, cost us nearly half a trillion dollars, and all but exhausted our armed forces, do we not urgently need a president with Obama's judgment? Now that President Bush has condoned torture, suspension of habeas corpus, illegal wiretapping, destruction of evidence, and the brazen manipulation of U.S. Attorneys for political ends, do we not urgently need a president with Obama's character? And now that our foreign policy has shrunk to futile gestures in demonizing our adversaries, can we not choose a leader determined to stop the bombing, stop the shooting, stop the name-calling, and start talking to nations like Iran and Syria, which will be crucial to any political settlement we might hope to gain in the Middle East? Nearly fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy declared, "we will never negotiate out of fear, but we will never fear to negotiate." After eight years of burning bridges, isn't it time to rebuild them?

Barack Obama can do so. Born to a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, educated at Columbia University and Harvard Law School (where he became the first African-American president of the Law Review in its 104-year history), Barack Obama knows how to bridge the gulf between one race and another. He also knows how to bridge religious divides. During four years as a community organizer on Chicago's south side in the 1980s, he learned from leaders of many different congregations how to draw men and women of diverse beliefs onto common ground. When religion has become in our time the prime mover of war, what better experience can there be for a president who hopes to solve international conflicts -- not generate more?

After eight years of living with the politics of fear, we believe it is time for the audacity of hope. When three-quarters of the American people say we are taking the wrong course at home and abroad, we must now reclaim our highest ideals. To do so, we must choose for the White House not the candidate with the longest resumé or the longest time in Washington but the one most likely to lead us out of war and divisiveness into global co-operation, national reconciliation, and common ground on such vital issues as health care, education, immigration, taxes, energy, and the environment. For all these reasons, we believe that Senator Barack Obama should be the next President of the United States.