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Hamilton: Obama has 'reshaped contours of American politics'


October 22, 2008
Former 17-term U.S. Ninth District Congressman Lee Hamilton made the rounds to various newspapers last week, offering support to Democratic presidential nominee Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

"It's a very exciting campaign," Hamilton said, noting Indiana hasn't gone "blue" in a presidential election since voting for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, coincidentally the first year Hamilton was elected to Congress.

"What's different about 2008, of course, is the state is in play," he said.

That, Hamilton said, is because the American people are tired of the policies of two-term Republican President George W. Bush.

Currently the president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Hamilton, who said Obama has "reshaped the contours of American politics" and is "catching fire, I believe, at this point," is encouraged that the Democratic candidate has an understanding for the need of multi-lateral diplomacy in international affairs.

"A recognition we can't deal with all these problems by ourselves," he said.

"By that I mean, if we want to solve immigration problems, we need to speak with Mexico. If we want to solve drug problems, we should talk with Columbia," Hamilton said. "If the problem is nuclear weapons, we should talk with Russia. Basically, it comes down to the United States being less likely to rely on military intervention."

Hamilton also noted Obama's willingness to pursue a fundamental change in economic policy. The United States is spending too much, is too much dependent on foreign oil, and has a trade balance that is "out of whack."

People are worried about their jobs, health care, their children's' education, and "want to see a restoration of the American dream," he said.

Hamilton, who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group, also spoke about the United States' progress in the war in Iraq. He said the Bush Administration is finally coming around to some, but not all, of the group's recommendations, which included training Iraqi forces, not giving Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unconditional aid, and implementing a diplomatic offensive involving Iraq's neighbors in the region.

"The recommendations are still sound and should still be pursued," he said.

The United Nations' mandate allowing legal U.S. occupation of Iraq expires at the end of the year, so the American and Iraqi governments have been moving toward reaching an agreement for withdrawal, as Iraqi nationalism is growing.

Speaking about the race for his former seat, Hamilton said he expects Democratic incumbent Baron Hill to be re-elected.

"What pleases me about Baron, in recent years, is he's really growing as a legislator," he said.

For example, Hill, Hamilton said, has worked to see many of the suggestions of the 9/11 Commission, of which Hamilton served as vice chair, be enacted.

(Information for this article was also gathered by Alan Stewart.)

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