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Everyone asks me, why do I support Obama? It's a legitimate question to ask. After all, what has he done in the US Senate after only two years to warrant that he would be a great presidential candidate? I could list the list of bills he's sponsored, he's authored, he's passed. I could talk about his speech on faith, his speech at the DNC in 2004, how he has demonstrated tremendous leadership of example in his trips around the world and in the US.

But those aren't the reasons why I support him. In the end, people can make their own judgments about why a Presidential candidate should get their support. But for me, it's quite simple. I want a President who can analyze policy, synthesize complicated solutions, and articulate an argument to the Congress, the media, the American people, and the World about why it should be implemented.

Intelligence is a key ingredient for me in my selection of a Presidential candidate. I don't doubt that John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, or Tom Vilsack are intelligent or competent, they surely are. Some of them may even know more about particular policy issues that Senator Obama.

But Obama is the full package on intelligence. He reads voraciously, and he has very clearly studied great works of philosophy, literature, history, and theology. He understands the Constitution the way that a constitutional scholar would. He talks about foreign policy the way an analyst at the Defense Department would. He understands health care policy the way a hospital administrator would. He can talk about education the way a teacher or a principal can.

Obama said on an episode of Oprah in October that the most important quality that his mother impressed on him was empathy. She told Obama to constantly understand how other people felt, to step in their shoes, to look through their eyes, to understand what they feel, what they think, and why they act the way they do. Obama approaches every issue from that perspective, he understands people in a gut way, the way Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, and Franklin Roosevelt had the power of empathy.

I just finished a long argument with a friend of mine who is a conservative Republican, a Navy ROTC student, and a very smart kid. We talked about the surge in Iraq and what we thought the best solution to the situation would be. We didn't fight, we didn't yell, we talked calmly, and we didn't interrupt each other, something many of you probably thought I couldn't do.

But my friend and me spoke about American interests, about what we thought our nation really needed, about security in Baghdad, about terrorism, about regional catastrophe. We talked about soldiers on Haifa Street in Baghdad and how an Iraqi unit that was embedded with them accidentally fired on the Americans. We talked about cultural norms in Iraq, about increasing CIA personnel, about increasing the number of Arabic linguists in our Baghdad embassy. We discussed troop levels, but more importantly, we talked about command structure and strategic mission.

This was not a conversation I think most presidential candidates would have. Most would get too frustrated early on, give up, and stick to their position, and probably go over to another person who completely agrees with them and talk about how smart they are. They wouldn't argue, they would listen to the other side, they wouldn't challenge themselves to understand that what the other side has to say is legitimate and that we both just see things a little differently, but that when we listen and talk to one another, we may both come a little closer together in what we think.

I didn't walk away from my conversation with my friend agreeing with the idea of a surge, nor did he come away agreeing that we should redeploy to Iraq's perimeter and change our strategy. But we agreed that the President and the Democratic majorities in Congress should get off their asses and read details about what's happening there, that they should talk and agree together on what ideas are best for the situation in Iraq, that the State and Defense departments should get along for once, that we should try different political strategies in the reconciliation process. None of these ideas are certain to work, and we both agreed on that. But what I really got out of that conversation is an understanding of what my conservative friend thought and why he thought it.

He believed that security fundamentally comes first, and I believed that political reconciliation clearly precedes any advancement in security goals. He believed we had an interest in ending the Iraqi civil war, and I believed our interest lay in preventing a regional war. But we walked away from that conversation with a slightly different perspective, not exactly from each other's eyes, but closer than we had understood each other before.

I don't want our next President to dismiss the other point of view. I also don't want our next President to give in to the other side because it is politically expedient. I want our next President to believe in some strong, core principles and then talk to the other side, learn from them, step into their shoes, and come to an agreeable solution that can produce the smartest, most productive policy.

I've read Senator Obama's two books, I've listened to all of his major speeches, I subscribe to his podcast, and I read his bills. I've done the same for all of the other candidates. But what I see differently from Senator Obama and the other candidates is that the other candidates seem to not really agree with what they're saying. It's either written by a political operative, with views that are different from the views of the candidate, or by a policy wonk that seems to overwhelm the understanding that the candidate has about the issue.

When Senator Obama speaks or writes, he knows what he's talking about. He makes sure of it. He hungers for intellectual discourse, and wants to question his own beliefs constantly. He is an intellectual heavyweight. He wants to talk to the other side, he wants to be convinced of the best policy. He knows what his convictions are, but he's not beholden to a particular policy just because people are for it. He wants to go farther, he wants to be better, he wants to challenge the conventional wisdom and the talking points and delve deeper.

What else should we expect from the President of the United States?

You may not agree, you may think that I haven't provided sufficient information about why Obama is all of the things I just talked about. Maybe it is gut instinct, maybe it is real. But what I am sure of is that my gut, my heart, and my brain tell me that the other candidates, while great, are not the whole enchilada. Neither is Senator Obama, but I think he's closer to it than anyone I've seen in politics in my lifetime.

That's what I think, in all honesty and simplicity. Make up your own mind, but consider the standards you have for a candidate and truly evaluate them, and think, just a little bit, about when a crisis with a country arises, or when a Hurricane hits a major American city, how will that react? Will they rise above the politics, grasp the nation by the hand, inspire us, think deeply about what has happened, pursue alternatives, and choose the smartest policy there is, or will they give up and give in?

That is the test. Obama has passed mine.