Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 11, 2008

Schoenfeld’s October Surprise

“Are we due for an ‘October surprise?’” asks Gabriel Schoenfeld in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. “Several factors have converged to make this more probable than in any recent election.”

According to the famous COMMENTARY editor and blogger, we should look for Iraqi insurgents to step up violence as a means of discrediting John McCain. J. E. Dyer, who often posts comments in this forum, replied to Schoenfeld by saying that the “October surprise” may be Iran temporarily appearing reasonable in order to give a boost to Barack I-will-talk-to-any-tyrant Obama. In any event, as Schoenfeld notes, the world’s worst leaders are hoping to defeat the Republican candidate in November. Unfortunately, they essentially get to “vote” in our election by perpetrating-or refraining from perpetrating-horrible acts.

There are two ways for American presidents to undermine autocrats. One is to adopt a conciliatory posture, deprive them of a foreign enemy, buy off crucial segments of their regimes, and expose them as the despicable creatures that they are. The second is to confront them at every turn and destroy them when the opportunity arises.

Of course, our enemies do not actually want to negotiate with us or be our friends. Fidel Castro, for instance, did all he could to derail attempts to end the American embargo because he needed an excuse for his own economic failures. Kim Jong Il, similarly, has worked hard to make sure the United States remains an enemy so he can keep his people in line.

Yet, as Schoenfeld notes, the world’s rogues are now publicly endorsing the Democrat. Why do they ostensibly favor him? Of course, as a matter of appearances they have to say they like Obama’s friendly approach. But there is a much more important reason. At this moment, they fear American military might. Yet they think trends are with them and that we will only weaken over time. In other words, our adversaries believe they can wait us out and think Obama’s engagement will buy them time.

I don’t buy their prediction of American decline, but they are acting on their beliefs and, as Schoenfeld notes, are already trying to elect the next American leader. They obviously think the contest in November is that important. So should we.

“Are we due for an ‘October surprise?’” asks Gabriel Schoenfeld in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. “Several factors have converged to make this more probable than in any recent election.”

According to the famous COMMENTARY editor and blogger, we should look for Iraqi insurgents to step up violence as a means of discrediting John McCain. J. E. Dyer, who often posts comments in this forum, replied to Schoenfeld by saying that the “October surprise” may be Iran temporarily appearing reasonable in order to give a boost to Barack I-will-talk-to-any-tyrant Obama. In any event, as Schoenfeld notes, the world’s worst leaders are hoping to defeat the Republican candidate in November. Unfortunately, they essentially get to “vote” in our election by perpetrating-or refraining from perpetrating-horrible acts.

There are two ways for American presidents to undermine autocrats. One is to adopt a conciliatory posture, deprive them of a foreign enemy, buy off crucial segments of their regimes, and expose them as the despicable creatures that they are. The second is to confront them at every turn and destroy them when the opportunity arises.

Of course, our enemies do not actually want to negotiate with us or be our friends. Fidel Castro, for instance, did all he could to derail attempts to end the American embargo because he needed an excuse for his own economic failures. Kim Jong Il, similarly, has worked hard to make sure the United States remains an enemy so he can keep his people in line.

Yet, as Schoenfeld notes, the world’s rogues are now publicly endorsing the Democrat. Why do they ostensibly favor him? Of course, as a matter of appearances they have to say they like Obama’s friendly approach. But there is a much more important reason. At this moment, they fear American military might. Yet they think trends are with them and that we will only weaken over time. In other words, our adversaries believe they can wait us out and think Obama’s engagement will buy them time.

I don’t buy their prediction of American decline, but they are acting on their beliefs and, as Schoenfeld notes, are already trying to elect the next American leader. They obviously think the contest in November is that important. So should we.

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Losing Ground

In today’s New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin has composed a classic head-scratcher in writing about the new truce between the Iraqi government and Sadrists in Sadr City:

The decision to negotiate a cease-fire came as both parties appeared to realize that they were losing ground.

Not every interaction contains a zero-sum dynamic, but I’m pretty sure warfare does. If both parties are losing ground, then this is truly a new kind of combat. Rubin writes: “It is not clear who won . . .” and then strains to make it so. Note the novel use of “as well” in the second paragraph:

The Iraqi government has done little to ease the crisis and allow medical and other aid to reach people. There has been almost no effort to repair the shattered neighborhood, where burned-out cars and piles of bricks from bomb-damaged houses are common sights..

For the Shiite militias, losses have been rising as well. They are suffering more casualties and are also being blamed for the deaths of some civilians, who frequently bear the brunt of the gun battles. More than 30 people have been killed there since Thursday.

Furthermore, the political establishment appears to have turned against them, at least for now.

While it’s obvious that the Sadrist militias are taking heavy losses, the truth is that the fight is still raging, despite the cease-fire. Check out Bill Roggio for genuinely insightful coverage of ongoing operations.

In today’s New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin has composed a classic head-scratcher in writing about the new truce between the Iraqi government and Sadrists in Sadr City:

The decision to negotiate a cease-fire came as both parties appeared to realize that they were losing ground.

Not every interaction contains a zero-sum dynamic, but I’m pretty sure warfare does. If both parties are losing ground, then this is truly a new kind of combat. Rubin writes: “It is not clear who won . . .” and then strains to make it so. Note the novel use of “as well” in the second paragraph:

The Iraqi government has done little to ease the crisis and allow medical and other aid to reach people. There has been almost no effort to repair the shattered neighborhood, where burned-out cars and piles of bricks from bomb-damaged houses are common sights..

For the Shiite militias, losses have been rising as well. They are suffering more casualties and are also being blamed for the deaths of some civilians, who frequently bear the brunt of the gun battles. More than 30 people have been killed there since Thursday.

Furthermore, the political establishment appears to have turned against them, at least for now.

While it’s obvious that the Sadrist militias are taking heavy losses, the truth is that the fight is still raging, despite the cease-fire. Check out Bill Roggio for genuinely insightful coverage of ongoing operations.

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Still Waiting For A Real Answer

Barack Obama was asked about Hamas at a press availability yesterday, although the media accounts did not mention it. The transcript contains this exchange:

Q: The other night John McCain suggested Hamas was a big supporter, and he would be their biggest nightmare?

BO: Well I actually responded to it fairly explicitly the other day. What I said was that this was ridiculous, that my position with respect to Hamas was identical to John McCain’s. That I’ve said we should not meet with them until they recognize Israel, until they cease terrorist activities, until they support previous agreements that have been made between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I went on to say that this was an example of I think a distorting of my record that John McCain has been engaging in over the last couple of weeks, that again is not consistent of the image or what he said he wants this campaign to be about. I suggested he maybe lost his bearings. His team somehow took this as an ageist comment. How that was interpreted in that fashion is still not clear to me. Last I checked people lose their bearings at every age, but as I’ve said before: I think that Hamas is a terrorist organization that should be isolated until such time as they recognize that terrorism is not a strategy is not a strategy for them to obtain their political goals.

Alas, no one saw fit to ask about Robert Malley’s meetings with Hamas. (Malley is the foreign-policy adviser Obama just let go.) Nor did reporters push Obama on the issue that started this discussion and that Obama is studiously avoiding: Hamas’ endorsement.

It’s fine and well for Obama to say in a general election setting that Hamas is a terrorist organization, but John McCain’s central point is correct: Hamas endorsed Obama. It is worth considering why. Is it because he favors direct, presidential talks with Hamas’ sponsor Iran.? Or because Hamas sees him as lacking resoluteness or as excessively sympathetic to the Palestinian cause? And it’s not as if Hamas is an isolated case of fringe groups and individuals favoring Obama.

The issue did come up in the Meet The Press roundtable. To his credit, Tim Russert repeated the basic facts of the Hamas endorsement. However, because the McCain team chose to respond last week by pouncing on the “lost his bearings” comment by Obama, the MTP conversation quickly digressed into the age issue. No mention was made of Malley’s meeting with Hamas. Jerry Seib did manage to work in this observation:

We’ve seen in our Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling all year, the one area where Republicans can still claim an advantage is national security and military affairs. The McCain people are going to go at that time and time again, and that’s why John McCain jumped on the Hamas statement so quickly.

So the bottom line: if the Hamas issue and Obama’s general popularity with fringe international groups are issues which the McCain team believes are relevant and helpful it will be up to them to articulate the issues (without diverting the attention of the press to McCain’s age or other unhelpful topics) and push Obama to answer.

Barack Obama was asked about Hamas at a press availability yesterday, although the media accounts did not mention it. The transcript contains this exchange:

Q: The other night John McCain suggested Hamas was a big supporter, and he would be their biggest nightmare?

BO: Well I actually responded to it fairly explicitly the other day. What I said was that this was ridiculous, that my position with respect to Hamas was identical to John McCain’s. That I’ve said we should not meet with them until they recognize Israel, until they cease terrorist activities, until they support previous agreements that have been made between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I went on to say that this was an example of I think a distorting of my record that John McCain has been engaging in over the last couple of weeks, that again is not consistent of the image or what he said he wants this campaign to be about. I suggested he maybe lost his bearings. His team somehow took this as an ageist comment. How that was interpreted in that fashion is still not clear to me. Last I checked people lose their bearings at every age, but as I’ve said before: I think that Hamas is a terrorist organization that should be isolated until such time as they recognize that terrorism is not a strategy is not a strategy for them to obtain their political goals.

Alas, no one saw fit to ask about Robert Malley’s meetings with Hamas. (Malley is the foreign-policy adviser Obama just let go.) Nor did reporters push Obama on the issue that started this discussion and that Obama is studiously avoiding: Hamas’ endorsement.

It’s fine and well for Obama to say in a general election setting that Hamas is a terrorist organization, but John McCain’s central point is correct: Hamas endorsed Obama. It is worth considering why. Is it because he favors direct, presidential talks with Hamas’ sponsor Iran.? Or because Hamas sees him as lacking resoluteness or as excessively sympathetic to the Palestinian cause? And it’s not as if Hamas is an isolated case of fringe groups and individuals favoring Obama.

The issue did come up in the Meet The Press roundtable. To his credit, Tim Russert repeated the basic facts of the Hamas endorsement. However, because the McCain team chose to respond last week by pouncing on the “lost his bearings” comment by Obama, the MTP conversation quickly digressed into the age issue. No mention was made of Malley’s meeting with Hamas. Jerry Seib did manage to work in this observation:

We’ve seen in our Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling all year, the one area where Republicans can still claim an advantage is national security and military affairs. The McCain people are going to go at that time and time again, and that’s why John McCain jumped on the Hamas statement so quickly.

So the bottom line: if the Hamas issue and Obama’s general popularity with fringe international groups are issues which the McCain team believes are relevant and helpful it will be up to them to articulate the issues (without diverting the attention of the press to McCain’s age or other unhelpful topics) and push Obama to answer.

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Obama Stares Down Hezbollah

Yesterday Barack Obama released a statement about the crisis in Lebanon that surely must be cause for celebration in Tehran, Damascus, and Bint Jbeil. First of all, there is the alternate-reality feel to it:

This effort to undermine Lebanon’s elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately.

Does Obama understand that the people who “have influence with Hezbollah” happen to be the same people on whose behalf Hezbollah is rampaging through Lebanon?

Then there is the absurd prescription:

It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.

So that’s the problem in Lebanon? Economics and the electoral system? As Lee Smith points out in a scathing post,

Obama’s language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it’s essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! — and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level. But the solution, says, Obama, channeling the man he fired for talking to Hamas, is diplomacy.

In the Lebanon crisis, Obama is rhetorically cornered. Since his only prescription for the Middle East is diplomatic engagement, every disease gets re-diagnosed as something curable through talking.

Yesterday Barack Obama released a statement about the crisis in Lebanon that surely must be cause for celebration in Tehran, Damascus, and Bint Jbeil. First of all, there is the alternate-reality feel to it:

This effort to undermine Lebanon’s elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately.

Does Obama understand that the people who “have influence with Hezbollah” happen to be the same people on whose behalf Hezbollah is rampaging through Lebanon?

Then there is the absurd prescription:

It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.

So that’s the problem in Lebanon? Economics and the electoral system? As Lee Smith points out in a scathing post,

Obama’s language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it’s essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! — and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level. But the solution, says, Obama, channeling the man he fired for talking to Hamas, is diplomacy.

In the Lebanon crisis, Obama is rhetorically cornered. Since his only prescription for the Middle East is diplomatic engagement, every disease gets re-diagnosed as something curable through talking.

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Arab Assimilation

“If the Germans could not succeed in eliminating the Jewish people in the Holocaust, then neither will the campaign that the Israelis are now perpetrating against millions of Palestinians and billions of Arabs and Muslims succeed.” Thus spoke Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, in observance of the 60th anniversary of what Palestinians call the “naqba,” or the catastrophe — the birth of Israel.

Leaving aside the implicit compliment about Jewish resilience in the Holocaust (did he really mean that?), it goes without saying that the Final Solution is a weird comparison to what Israeli Arabs, among whom Khatib is one of the leaders, are experiencing. In this week’s Forward, the social linguist Philologos writes about the gradual assimilation of Arabs into Israeli society, as evidenced by their increasing use of Hebrew words when speaking in Arabic. As with any dual-lingual discourse, the majority are terms that have no easy Arabic equivalent–not just “machsom” (roadblock) or “ramzor” (traffic light) but also “glidah” (ice cream) and “sulamit” (the pound sign on your phone). But the most interesting of these is “m’anyen,” which means “interesting.” After checking around, the columnist confirms that there is no such word in Arabic. “Is this just a linguistic oddity,” Philologos asks, “or is it indicative of a deeper feature of Arab culture – the absence, perhaps, of the very concept of ‘interesting’ that is so basic to the Western mind, since what isn’t unusual enough or noteworthy enough to arouse curiosity is not considered worthy of attention?” Interesting!

In Jewish history, Jews tended to assimilate much more in countries that gave them freedom than in those that persecuted them. If Israeli Arabs are so upset by Israeli independence, why are they assimilating? Why do they generally support national service and insist they would never become part of the Palestinian state? And while we’re at it: Isn’t it a little odd that they observe the naqba on the same day that Israel celebrates its independence? What I mean is, Israel celebrates the fifth of Iyyar, which corresponds to May 14, 1948, on the Jewish calendar. Americans, by contrast, tend to observe May 14. Given the choice between the Muslim, Western, and Jewish calendars, why would Israeli Arabs pick the last of the three?

M’anyen m’od.

“If the Germans could not succeed in eliminating the Jewish people in the Holocaust, then neither will the campaign that the Israelis are now perpetrating against millions of Palestinians and billions of Arabs and Muslims succeed.” Thus spoke Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, in observance of the 60th anniversary of what Palestinians call the “naqba,” or the catastrophe — the birth of Israel.

Leaving aside the implicit compliment about Jewish resilience in the Holocaust (did he really mean that?), it goes without saying that the Final Solution is a weird comparison to what Israeli Arabs, among whom Khatib is one of the leaders, are experiencing. In this week’s Forward, the social linguist Philologos writes about the gradual assimilation of Arabs into Israeli society, as evidenced by their increasing use of Hebrew words when speaking in Arabic. As with any dual-lingual discourse, the majority are terms that have no easy Arabic equivalent–not just “machsom” (roadblock) or “ramzor” (traffic light) but also “glidah” (ice cream) and “sulamit” (the pound sign on your phone). But the most interesting of these is “m’anyen,” which means “interesting.” After checking around, the columnist confirms that there is no such word in Arabic. “Is this just a linguistic oddity,” Philologos asks, “or is it indicative of a deeper feature of Arab culture – the absence, perhaps, of the very concept of ‘interesting’ that is so basic to the Western mind, since what isn’t unusual enough or noteworthy enough to arouse curiosity is not considered worthy of attention?” Interesting!

In Jewish history, Jews tended to assimilate much more in countries that gave them freedom than in those that persecuted them. If Israeli Arabs are so upset by Israeli independence, why are they assimilating? Why do they generally support national service and insist they would never become part of the Palestinian state? And while we’re at it: Isn’t it a little odd that they observe the naqba on the same day that Israel celebrates its independence? What I mean is, Israel celebrates the fifth of Iyyar, which corresponds to May 14, 1948, on the Jewish calendar. Americans, by contrast, tend to observe May 14. Given the choice between the Muslim, Western, and Jewish calendars, why would Israeli Arabs pick the last of the three?

M’anyen m’od.

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Sure Beats a Hallmark Card

Yesterday, Mark Steyn weighed in on Israel’s 60th. From his birthday greeting:

The modern Middle East is the misbegotten progeny of the British and French colonial map-makers of 1922. All the nation states in that neck of the woods date back a mere 60 or 70 years — Iraq to the Thirties, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel to the Forties. The only difference is that Israel has made a go of it. Would I rather there were more countries like Israel, or more like Syria? I don’t find that a hard question to answer. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East (Iraq may yet prove a second) and its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than they would living under any of the kleptocrat kings and psychotic dictators who otherwise infest the region. On a tiny strip of land narrower at its narrowest point than many American townships, Israel has built a modern economy with a GDP per capita just shy of $30,000 — and within striking distance of the European Union average. If you object that that’s because it’s uniquely blessed by Uncle Sam, well, for the past 30 years the second largest recipient of U.S. aid has been Egypt: Their GDP per capita is $5,000, and America has nothing to show for its investment other than one-time pilot Mohammed Atta coming at you through the office window.

Kind of says it all.

Yesterday, Mark Steyn weighed in on Israel’s 60th. From his birthday greeting:

The modern Middle East is the misbegotten progeny of the British and French colonial map-makers of 1922. All the nation states in that neck of the woods date back a mere 60 or 70 years — Iraq to the Thirties, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel to the Forties. The only difference is that Israel has made a go of it. Would I rather there were more countries like Israel, or more like Syria? I don’t find that a hard question to answer. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East (Iraq may yet prove a second) and its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than they would living under any of the kleptocrat kings and psychotic dictators who otherwise infest the region. On a tiny strip of land narrower at its narrowest point than many American townships, Israel has built a modern economy with a GDP per capita just shy of $30,000 — and within striking distance of the European Union average. If you object that that’s because it’s uniquely blessed by Uncle Sam, well, for the past 30 years the second largest recipient of U.S. aid has been Egypt: Their GDP per capita is $5,000, and America has nothing to show for its investment other than one-time pilot Mohammed Atta coming at you through the office window.

Kind of says it all.

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In Case You Thought She Didn’t Have Fans

Pundits marvel at how and why Hillary Clinton would keep going when her chances of winning the nomination are now essentially nonexistent. We can all examine the psychological and political motives that keep her going long past the point when common sense would dictate that she throw in the towel. But they underestimate the fervor of her support, and perhaps the difficultly many Democrats will have in moving on to support Barack Obama.

Emily’s List founder Ellen Malcolm penned a heartfelt plea for Clinton to stick in the Washington Post that included this:

It’s not surprising that low-income working women are the cornerstone of Hillary’s success. Many of these women live on the edge of disaster. A pink slip, a family member’s illness, a parent who can no longer live alone, a car that won’t start or a mortgage rate that goes up — all are threats that could devastate the family. And yet these women do what women have done for ages. They put on a confident face, feed their children breakfast and get them off to school. They don’t quit. They suck it up and fight back against whatever life throws their way.

They see in Hillary Clinton a candidate who understands the pressures they face. As they watch her tough it out against all odds, refusing to quit and continuing to compete against whatever the media and her opponents throw her way, they see a woman as tough and resilient as they are. They clearly want her to win. Her victory, I believe, is their victory.

We might scoff at the identity politics run wild in this election cycle. But this personal identification and the sense that once again one of their own has been aced out by a young, glib, and underqualified male will be a bitter pill to swallow for many of Clinton’s staunchest supporters.

Will they eventually make their way to the ballot box and vote for Obama? Perhaps. But many won’t be making calls for him or walking precincts. And some would rather vote for the other experienced, qualified candidate than let that whipper-snapper (whose surrogates are now demeaning her in the most personal terms) win. The “You’re nice enough, Hillary” condescending debate comment was one of those moments that is going to be hard for some to forget.

You say it’s irrational and contrary to their own fervent political views to take it out on Obama? Welcome to identity politics and the results of a year of Clinton cementing a bond with her female peer group. We’ll find out soon whether McCain can capitalize on this by outreach to the aggrieved Clinton female voters (or by putting a woman on the ticket). But at the very least Obama will need to spend considerable time and maybe money trying to lock down women voters who up until now have become one of the Democrats most reliable voting blocs.

Pundits marvel at how and why Hillary Clinton would keep going when her chances of winning the nomination are now essentially nonexistent. We can all examine the psychological and political motives that keep her going long past the point when common sense would dictate that she throw in the towel. But they underestimate the fervor of her support, and perhaps the difficultly many Democrats will have in moving on to support Barack Obama.

Emily’s List founder Ellen Malcolm penned a heartfelt plea for Clinton to stick in the Washington Post that included this:

It’s not surprising that low-income working women are the cornerstone of Hillary’s success. Many of these women live on the edge of disaster. A pink slip, a family member’s illness, a parent who can no longer live alone, a car that won’t start or a mortgage rate that goes up — all are threats that could devastate the family. And yet these women do what women have done for ages. They put on a confident face, feed their children breakfast and get them off to school. They don’t quit. They suck it up and fight back against whatever life throws their way.

They see in Hillary Clinton a candidate who understands the pressures they face. As they watch her tough it out against all odds, refusing to quit and continuing to compete against whatever the media and her opponents throw her way, they see a woman as tough and resilient as they are. They clearly want her to win. Her victory, I believe, is their victory.

We might scoff at the identity politics run wild in this election cycle. But this personal identification and the sense that once again one of their own has been aced out by a young, glib, and underqualified male will be a bitter pill to swallow for many of Clinton’s staunchest supporters.

Will they eventually make their way to the ballot box and vote for Obama? Perhaps. But many won’t be making calls for him or walking precincts. And some would rather vote for the other experienced, qualified candidate than let that whipper-snapper (whose surrogates are now demeaning her in the most personal terms) win. The “You’re nice enough, Hillary” condescending debate comment was one of those moments that is going to be hard for some to forget.

You say it’s irrational and contrary to their own fervent political views to take it out on Obama? Welcome to identity politics and the results of a year of Clinton cementing a bond with her female peer group. We’ll find out soon whether McCain can capitalize on this by outreach to the aggrieved Clinton female voters (or by putting a woman on the ticket). But at the very least Obama will need to spend considerable time and maybe money trying to lock down women voters who up until now have become one of the Democrats most reliable voting blocs.

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You Know, It’s On YouTube

Barack Obama’s promise to meet with the world’s dictators without preconditons has been a subject of intense debate in the Democratic primary race and a focus of much ridicule by John McCain and conservatives for over a year. Now that Obama is heading into the general election, he is claiming, or rather his advisor is, that it’s all a misunderstanding.

Susan Rice, his foreign policy advisor ( I think even he admits she really is an “official” one), argued that it’s those mean Republicans telling tales and that “nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.” She also contends that Obama never said that he would meet unconditionally with rogue states like Iran.

Huh?

Others have pointed out that Obama said exactly this in the CNN/You Tube debate and that his liberal cohorts in the media have been defending this position for almost a year.

What’s more, after that initial debate, the two candidates spent days arguing about their respective positons. Obama defended his position in an NBC interview. If there were any doubt, this should refresh your recollection:

“The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous,” he said in an interview outside his Senate office. “But the general principle is one that I think Senator Clinton is wrong on, and that is if we are laying out preconditions that prevent us from speaking frankly to these folks, then we are continuing with Bush-Cheney policies.”

Moreover, when Clinton appeared to flip flop on her position in the fall of 2007, Obama chastized her and restated his own view – that direct talks with Iran was part of a smart, new foreign policy.

Most damning  is this exchange from the Texas debate on February 21:

CAMPBELL BROWN: Senator Obama, just to follow up, you had said in a previous CNN debate that you would meet with the leaders of Cuban, Iran, North Korea, among others, so presumably you would be willing to meet with the new leader of Cuba.

OBAMA: That’s correct. Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba after over half a century.

I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.

But I do think that it’s important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, that’s where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.

In short, it is a lie, plain and simple, that Obama never promised direct, unconditional presidential talks with Iran, Syria, Cuba, and North Korea. He took pride in that position and tried to beat Clinton over the head with it for a year. Now that it has proved to be the subject of ridicule and unsustainable in a general election context he’s pretending to have never said it. Is this the New Politics? Or is it rather lame and transparent double-talk?

Barack Obama’s promise to meet with the world’s dictators without preconditons has been a subject of intense debate in the Democratic primary race and a focus of much ridicule by John McCain and conservatives for over a year. Now that Obama is heading into the general election, he is claiming, or rather his advisor is, that it’s all a misunderstanding.

Susan Rice, his foreign policy advisor ( I think even he admits she really is an “official” one), argued that it’s those mean Republicans telling tales and that “nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.” She also contends that Obama never said that he would meet unconditionally with rogue states like Iran.

Huh?

Others have pointed out that Obama said exactly this in the CNN/You Tube debate and that his liberal cohorts in the media have been defending this position for almost a year.

What’s more, after that initial debate, the two candidates spent days arguing about their respective positons. Obama defended his position in an NBC interview. If there were any doubt, this should refresh your recollection:

“The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous,” he said in an interview outside his Senate office. “But the general principle is one that I think Senator Clinton is wrong on, and that is if we are laying out preconditions that prevent us from speaking frankly to these folks, then we are continuing with Bush-Cheney policies.”

Moreover, when Clinton appeared to flip flop on her position in the fall of 2007, Obama chastized her and restated his own view – that direct talks with Iran was part of a smart, new foreign policy.

Most damning  is this exchange from the Texas debate on February 21:

CAMPBELL BROWN: Senator Obama, just to follow up, you had said in a previous CNN debate that you would meet with the leaders of Cuban, Iran, North Korea, among others, so presumably you would be willing to meet with the new leader of Cuba.

OBAMA: That’s correct. Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba after over half a century.

I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.

But I do think that it’s important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, that’s where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.

In short, it is a lie, plain and simple, that Obama never promised direct, unconditional presidential talks with Iran, Syria, Cuba, and North Korea. He took pride in that position and tried to beat Clinton over the head with it for a year. Now that it has proved to be the subject of ridicule and unsustainable in a general election context he’s pretending to have never said it. Is this the New Politics? Or is it rather lame and transparent double-talk?

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