US Representative William Delahunt of Massachusetts, a leading foreign policy voice in the Democratic Party, will endorse Barack Obama for president today, saying he believes the senator will repair the image of the United States overseas.
"If Barack Obama is elected president, I daresay America will present a new face to the world, will restore, simply by his election, hope - not just within the United States, but from all corners of the world, that America's claim to moral authority is back on track and that our leadership in world affairs will see a renaissance," Delahunt told the Globe.
Delahunt's endorsement - Obama's first from the Massachusetts congressional delegation - will be made as Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York spar about their respective foreign policy credentials. Clinton has argued that her experiences during her husband's presidency, including extensive international travel, make her the better candidate to deal with foreign leaders and potential terrorist threats.
But Delahunt, declining to criticize Clinton by name, dismissed that notion. "Please do not equate experience with judgment. That's what this is about," Delahunt said. Voters should not "confuse experience with time in Washington," he said, noting that John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton all had limited direct foreign policy experience before taking office.
Obama opposed the Iraq war from the start, Delahunt noted, while veteran lawmakers voted to authorize force. Delahunt said he was also influenced by Obama's stated willingness - criticized by the Clinton campaign - to meet with rogue world leaders. Delahunt has met with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, negotiating a deal for home heating oil for his constituents from a Latin American leader who once referred to President Bush as "the devil."
Delahunt's backing has elevated significance for Obama, who is seeking to convince voters he would be able to deal with myriad foreign policy challenges after just three years in the Senate. The Massachusetts lawmaker is a prominent member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was selected to represent the Congress at the UN General Assembly in September.
Clinton has racked up numerous endorsements from foreign policy figures, but Obama counts several former Clinton administration officials among his foreign policy advisers.