The ever-diplomatic Barack Obama seems to have just backpedaled slightly on diplomacy. Ynet reports that Obama now shares George W. Bush’s policy of rejecting talks with Hamas. At a campaign stop in San Antonio, the senator said, “You can’t negotiate with somebody who does not recognize the right of a country to exist so I understand why Israel doesn’t meet with Hamas.”
Did he flip through a foreign policy folder, put his finger down at random and decide to look tough on whatever issue was there? That’s the only explanation for his Hamas stance. After all, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has exhausted his thesaurus finding words for “destruction” in regard to Israel, yet Obama remains eager to chat with the man who is, as one analyst put it, trying to “hotwire” the apocalypse. Maybe Ahmadinejad’s feel for inclusive annihilation appeals to Obama’s multicultural sensibilities.
In any event, it is clear that Obama felt the need to appear strong. Perhaps the above-it-all, heaven-on-earth love-in has actually started to go stale. This little shift could be a response to Hillary’s recent efforts to prove she’s more of a force to be reckoned with than is Obama. Maybe he thinks he didn’t excel in Hillary’s Farrakhan challenge. It also may have to do with larger trends: the continued progress in Iraq makes talk of troop withdrawal look more transparently political by the day and reminds Americans that the military option remains a viable one. Obama’s campaign experiment in hardball is ultimately meaningless. As easily as he’s adopted this stance, he could reverse it with the flimsiest of justifications. There’s no reason to take this as evidence that he’s ceased to romanticize “talk.”