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Advisers speak at UMW
Obama policy advisers

 Two surrogates for Democrat Barack Obama visited Fredericksburg yesterday.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 2/10/2008

BY BEN SELLERS

For about 100 supporters gathered yesterday at the University of Mary Washington's Combs Hall, the only apparent flaw in Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign might be its GPS navigating ability.

A noontime speech by two of Obama's policy advisers, University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein and Harvard University government professor Samantha Power, was delayed an hour as the two explored Virginia's rural back roads.

Audience members passed the time by sharing their reasons for supporting Obama over Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton and Republican contenders.

Regional campaign coordinator Chris D'Angelo also discussed canvassing efforts leading up to Tuesday's Virginia primary. He appealed to the audience to make phone calls and go door-to-door to Democratic voters in Fredericksburg.

Sunstein touted Obama's consensus-building ability in dealing with party politics.

"He has something a little bit like [Franklin] Roosevelt," he said. "Roosevelt never attacked Republicans--he attacked Republican leadership."

Power said Obama's empirical approach to solving problems makes up for a lack of leadership experience on foreign-policy issues.

"His sweet spot--his area of greatest comfort and security--is foreign policy," she said. "That's his pleasure reading at Christmastime."

Ben Sellers: 540/374-5423
Email: bsellers@freelancestar.com


During their visit yesterday to the University of Mary Washington, Barack Obama policy advisers Cass Sunstein and Samantha Power answered audience questions about where the candidate stands on a range of issues. Here are some of them:

Supreme Court appointments: Sunstein described Obama as a "visionary minimalist," who would bring balance to activist conservative justices' efforts to "constitutionalize the Republican platform," but would not repudiate opposing views.

Domestic eavesdropping: Obama is "extremely up on legal details" regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and believes that "the tension between liberty and security can be overstated," said Sunstein. "If the government is going to spy on people, it needs to get a warrant," he added.

Iraq: Obama is "thinking about getting American troops out safely, but having full regard for those who have come to depend on us," Power said. She said Obama has a detailed withdrawal plan for Iraq that would include giving Iraqis fair notice of American departure and soliciting Iraqi opinions as to which neighborhoods should be evacuated first.

Middle East diplomacy: Obama "has said when he becomes president that he will go on a listening tour of Islamic countries," Power said. When dealing with "rogue regimes" such as Iran's, it's "better to be in the room than lobbing verbal grenades" from afar, she added.

NATO and humanitarian missions: While Obama is comfortable with using military force, Power said, "In humanitarian circumstances it should be done multilaterally." Obama would hesitate to send U.S. forces alone into places such as Sudan or Rwanda, which could potentially enflame anti-Americanism. Obama sees American treaties and alliances as the "sum of their parts," she added, and would deal bilaterally with coalition countries.

China: In addressing Chinese human rights violations, exploitation of African economies and threats to American business interests abroad, Obama "is not going to be uncritical," said Powers. However, "We have to get our own house in order" first. Once Obama has restored international support for the United States, "The same backlash seen against colonialism is going to be seen against China."

--Ben Sellers

Samantha Power: One of Obama's senior advisers in foreign policy, she teaches Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She has written extensively about human rights atrocities in places such as Darfur and Rwanda, and won a Pulitzer Prize for her book "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide." After reading her book on Rwanda, Obama invited Power to meet with him in Washington.

Cass Sunstein: One of Obama's domestic policy advisers, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and worked as an attorney-adviser in the Department of Justice before joining the faculty of the law school and political science department at the University of Chicago. There he met Obama, who is also on the law school's faculty as a senior lecturer (currently on leave of absence).

--compiled from Web resources