"On foreign policy Senator Obama is pragmatic, a visionary and tough", states former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, in an interview I had with him this morning after he endorsed Barack Obama for president.
"Obama has the ability to create a new consensus in the country where partisanship is too high. He is for consensus and not division," relates Hamilton who is the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.
Hamilton, a former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees during his more than thirty years in Congress representing a southern Indiana district, is not only a leading foreign policy figure within the Democratic Party but an incredibly well-respected statesman in the country. His is a valuable endorsement for Obama.
"Obama has broad appeal and has brought new voters to the Democratic Party. He is making the Democratic Party more representative of this nation. Obama is redesigning the contours of American politics. He is inspiring the country," says Hamilton.
The former vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission and the former co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group remarks that "Obama has the best chance to start fresh, to change, and to inspire the country in its march toward a stronger and more perfect union."
Hamilton, not a Democratic superdelegate, is a thoughtful Democrat and when he speaks he is listened to and his endorsement therefore carries quite a bit of weight. It also doesn't hurt that his endorsement comes a month before the crucial Indiana primary on May 6th. With Senator Evan Bayh backing Senator Hillary Clinton, Hamilton becomes the highest-level Indiana Democrat to endorse and support the neighboring Illinois Senator.
Hamilton's endorsement of Senator Obama is the most recent in a lengthy list of top level Democrats backing the former Harvard Law graduate in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have also recently endorsed Obama.
Hamilton and other foreign policy experts seem to feel that Obama, while not having that much practical experience in foreign policy, has the qualities needed to be a successful president in international affairs. Obama conveys an image of certainty and calmness at the same time which would serve him well as president.
At this point, Obama's calm manner stands in sharp contrast to the shrill tones coming from Senator Clinton. She continues to focus on her so-called foreign policy experience as First Lady and was found to have exaggerated on her statements about landing in Bosnia under gunfire during the 1990s Balkan War. Voters do not want to hear these types of embellishments. They want to judge a candidate by their manner, their personality and by their truthfulness. In these areas Senator Obama is leading his rival... not to mention his lead in delegates which is what the contest is all about in the long run.
Hamilton, a member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, apparently sees qualities in Senator Obama that would make the Illinois Senator a strong commander-in-chief.
As the former Indiana congressman comments, "Obama understands the urgent need for American leadership in confronting many of the challenges ahead, first and foremost defending the safety and security of the American people."
Obama's opponent in the fall campaign will be Senator John McCain who will stress his well-known foreign policy credentials. It can only help Obama get better known to the voters by having someone of Lee Hamilton's foreign policy background and stellar reputation endorse him.
Voters know Obama's views on Iraq and Afghanistan but he needs to be speaking out more on his opinions on US foreign policy towards Israel, Russia, China and the role of NATO and trade in his administration.
While Obama has been tied up in primary after primary McCain has been brandishing his foreign policy credentials -- with a few slip-ups in Iraq -- with European and Middle East leaders.
Hopefully, Obama will be able to take a trip abroad this summer before the convention to meet with foreign leaders and sharpen his foreign policy positions and skills.