It may be apparent that Barack Obama is caught in an untenable position on meeting unconditionally with rogue state leaders, but do not dare to say he is flip-flopping. Say, rather, that he is “evolving.” Actually, Obama’s answer is a bit of gobbledygook — “preparation” but not preconditions and lots of other clouds of dust. The ball is now in McCain’s court to explain why imprecision and inconsistency are tell-tale signs of dangerous inexperience for a potential president in wartime.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Lieberman in today’s Wall Street Journal offers an adaption of the speech he gave Sunday night at the COMMENTARY Fund dinner in New York. He explains what happened after forty-plus years of Democratic presidents who stood up to tyranny and were resolute on national security:
Today, less than a decade later, the parties have completely switched positions. The reversal began, like so much else in our time, on September 11, 2001. The attack on America by Islamist terrorists shook President Bush from the foreign policy course he was on. He saw September 11 for what it was: a direct ideological and military attack on us and our way of life. If the Democratic Party had stayed where it was in 2000, America could have confronted the terrorists with unity and strength in the years after 9/11. Instead a debate soon began within the Democratic Party about how to respond to Mr. Bush. I felt strongly that Democrats should embrace the basic framework the president had advanced for the war on terror as our own, because it was our own. But that was not the choice most Democratic leaders made.
When total victory did not come quickly in Iraq, the old voices of partisanship and peace at any price saw an opportunity to reassert themselves. By considering centrism to be collaboration with the enemy – not bin Laden, but Mr. Bush – activists have successfully pulled the Democratic Party further to the left than it has been at any point in the last 20 years. Far too many Democratic leaders have kowtowed to these opinions rather than challenging them. That unfortunately includes Barack Obama, who, contrary to his rhetorical invocations of bipartisan change, has not been willing to stand up to his party’s left wing on a single significant national security or international economic issue in this campaign.
As for Obama, Lieberman explains:
There are of course times when it makes sense to engage in tough diplomacy with hostile governments. Yet what Mr. Obama has proposed is not selective engagement, but a blanket policy of meeting personally as president, without preconditions, in his first year in office, with the leaders of the most vicious, anti-American regimes on the planet. Mr. Obama has said that in proposing this, he is following in the footsteps of Reagan and JFK. But Kennedy never met with Castro, and Reagan never met with Khomeini. And can anyone imagine Presidents Kennedy or Reagan sitting down unconditionally with Ahmadinejad or Chavez? I certainly cannot.
So what would be reassuring, I think, to those who share Lieberman’s desire for a robust, bipartisan national security is for Obama to do some evolving toward the stance taken by great Democrat presidents like Truman and Kennedy. That, rather than a lot of double talk about tea with Ahmadinejad would be welcome news. But so far we haven’t seen any hopeful signs.