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If campaigns highlight what divides us as Americans, then elections emphasize what unites us as a people living in our proud democracy. President Bush was not our choice in this election, but he was the people's choice. Like all Americans who believe in the democratic experiment that began 228 years ago, we congratulate the president, and wish him well.

When a sitting president runs for re-election, the contest is largely a referendum on him. Pundits and pollsters have already begun to dissect the exit polls, and it's clear that national security, specifically the war on Islamic terrorism, played a major role in the president's re-election victory.

And just as the administration's direction of that war gave us pause before the election, so it does afterward. Too many Americans, persuaded by the misinformation promulgated by the administration, believed that the war in Iraq was linked to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. That was never the case. In fact, this mishandled war, begun for spurious reasons, has only increased the hatred of America throughout the Islamic world.

Worse, it has left the country with what looks increasingly to be an untenable situation in Iraq that may require an American presence for years to come just to keep the country from either becoming an anti-American Islamic state or disintegrating into civil war. How Bush resolves this seemingly intractable problem could affect generations to come.

Domestically, there will be no shortage of major issues for the president to deal with, from reforming Social Security to nominating Supreme Court judges to lessening our dependence on Persian Gulf oil. This page will support the president's policies when we think they are in the best interests of the country, and we will point out, as we always have, when we think his policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

The defeated candidate, Sen. John Kerry, conceded the race this morning. He was counted out a little more than a year ago as his campaign in the Iowa caucuses was floundering. He fired his campaign manager and mortgaged his house to continue the primary campaign. It now appears that his remarkable comeback ended just a few electoral votes short of victory.

The closeness of the election will no doubt leave the country as divided as it has been over the past four years. But even as the political wars continue to rage -- what could be more American? -- the exercise that we conducted Tuesday should serve as a reminder that more unites us than divides us.

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