Saturday, May 24, 2008

Obama: It's Not Preconditions, Just Preliminary Extensive Diplomatic Work!

Hat's off to the Daily Howler and its post on Barack Obama's folly of "no preconditions" for talks with America's enemies:

Last July, Obama said he “would be willing to meet” with unfriendly foreign leaders “without preconditions,” in his first year (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/21/08). Has Obama changed his position? You can decide that for yourself, after reading this part of Rick Klein’s report for ABC:

RICK KLEIN (5/20/08): Asked about Obama's original statement Tuesday morning on CNN, former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., a top Obama adviser and supporter, said top-level meetings would not be immediate—and would not happen without preliminary extensive diplomatic work.

"I would not say that we would meet unconditionally," said Daschle. "Of course, there are conditions that we [would] involve in preparation in getting ready for the diplomacy... 'Without precondition' simply means we wouldn't put obstacles in the way of discussing the differences between us. That's really what they're saying, what Barack is saying."

Man! It sure is easy once Daschle explains it! According to his bone-simple limning, Obama will still be meeting “without preconditions;” he just won’t be meeting “unconditionally!” Indeed, when Obama said he’d be willing to meet “without preconditions,” he really meant that he “wouldn't put obstacles in the way of discussing the differences between us.” And of course, none of that alters a basic fact; “there are conditions that we would involve in preparation for the diplomacy.”

But these clarifications surely don’t mean that anything Obama said has changed! (Careful! John Judis might “recoil” if you said that.) A few grafs later, Klein explained Obama’s own thinking, as explained to Jake Tapper:

RICK KLEIN: "I have to say I completely disagree that people have been walking back from anything," Obama said. "They may be correcting the characterizations or distortions of John McCain or others of what I said. What I said was I would meet with our adversaries, including Iran, including Venezuela, including Cuba, including North Korea, without preconditions, but that does not mean without preparation."

Preconditions and preparations are different! What an outrage, that McCain has been out there distorting these simple adumbrations!

I like this section:

...Obama has said—specifically, by name—that he would negotiate with Ahmadinejad. There’s nothing automatically wrong with that, of course—especially after adding all the qualifiers, buzzers, gadgets and doodads which have now been employed to “clarify” Obama’s position (without “walking anything back,” of course—unless you want to “distort” things). But Klein was sure that Obama hadn’t said such a thing. (He doesn’t seem to know that “the crack Time Magazine research department” isn’t real good at crack research.) Using Nexis, it took us roughly a very few minutes to find the event last September where Obama was asked about this matter—and answered. In real time, Beth Fouhy reported it for the AP. And uh-oh! On Thursday, Robert Novak ran transcript:

NOVAK (5/22/08): Time columnist Joe Klein turned up in Savannah, Ga., on Monday for McCain's news conference, declaring that McCain had misrepresented Obama as proposing unconditional talks with the Iranian president. After asserting that "I've done some research" and "also checked with the Obama campaign," Klein said that Obama "never mentioned Ahmadinejad directly by name. He did say he would negotiate with the leaders."

In fact, Obama has repeatedly been questioned specifically about Ahmadinejad. At a news conference in New York last September, Obama was asked whether he would still meet with Ahmadinejad. He replied: "Yeah...I find many of President Ahmadinejad's statements odious....But we should never fear to negotiate.” On NBC’s Meet the Press in November, he defended "a conversation with somebody like Ahmadinejad."

Obama to Russert, last November: “Look, part of the reason it's important for us to talk to countries we don't like and leaders we don't like—it's not that I think that in a conversation with somebody like Ahmadinejad that I am going to somehow change his mind on everything. But what we do is we send a signal to other leadership in Iran, to the Iranian people, and to the world community that we are listening, and that we are willing to try to resolve conflicts peacefully.” But Joe Klein simply knew in his soul that Obama couldn’t have said such things. (Apparently, Time’s crack research staff hasn’t heard about Meet the Press yet.)

Can we talk? Joe Klein played the fool in that post—and when he badgered McCain in Savannah. But that’s the way the world starts to look when major journos start taking your side. They’ve run these games against your hopefuls for years—but now, they’re tired of the GOP War Machine. Result? More and more, excited scriveners are playing dumb games on your side.

We’d like reporters to do their jobs. It seems that just isn’t an option.

Final point: Something else happens when hacks take your side—Josh Marshall rushes to praise their hackistry. And omigod! The bamboozlement spreads! This time, he even hoodwinked Greg Sargent!

Obama's website notes that "Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions."

So while all the quibbling's a riot, the more play this issue gets the more unqualified Obama appears for the Oval Office.