Escalation

One of the more contentious aspects of Monday’s debate spawned from a simple question. Would you meet some of the more nefarious and notorious world leaders in this country in the name of diplomacy?

The answers were quick, Anderson Cooper, probably not realizing how significant of a debate he was looking at, went to the next question before Senator Clinton and Senator Obama could launch themselve into all out war.

But yesterday, the frontrunner lambasted the Illinois Senator, calling his willingness to meet without precondition leaders such as Fidel Castro, “irresponsible,” and “naive.”

Now, I want to pause here and bring up this one observation. During the first debate, Obama was obviously out of his element, it often took him sixty seconds of “Senate Speak” just to get around to answering the question, at which point his time would be up. The one shining point for him in that first debate game when Senator Gravel, and Congressman Kucinich mounted a dual assault on Obama late in the debate. In seconds, Obama had transformed. He had rebutted their attacks quickly, forcefully, and effectively and in that moment he was more presidential than he was in the rest of the entire debate.

The lesson was, whatever you may think, the man knows how to defend himself.

Fast forward to Monday’s debate and he’s no longer stumbling around his answers, he’s streamlined his message, and learned how to cram his townhall stump speech charisma into the sixty second answer format of the debates. Now, thanks to NBC, we see he still knows how to defend himself well.

“I think what is irresponsible and naive is to have authorized a war without asking how we were going to get out — and you know I think Senator Clinton hasn’t fully answered that issue.

“The general principle that I was laying out is that we should not be afraid as America to meet with anybody.

“Now, they may not like what we want to hear — so if I’m talking to the President of Iran, I’m going to inform him that Israel is our stalwart ally, and we are going to do what’s necessary to protect them — that we will not accept a nuclear bomb in Iran, but that doesn’t mean we can’t say that face to face. And obviously, the diplomatic spadework has to be done ahead of time.

“The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous.

“But the general principle is one that I think Senator Clinton is wrong on — and that is if we are laying out preconditions that prevents us from speaking frankly to these folks, then we are continuing with Bush-Cheney policies, and I am not interested in continuing that.

“I know that she has said in the past that we have to talk to our enemies — well that’s what this is about. And if we say that we will not talk to them unless they meet a series of preconditions, then that’s the same position that Bush and Cheney have maintained over the last six years, and it has made us less safe. And that’s what I think is going to be a significant part of this debate in 2008.

“We responded to her in this situation, and I think there is a genuine difference, if there isn’t a difference, then Senator Clinton should explain it. I think that we should talk to everybody.

“That ultimately is what’s going to create the environment in which we can reduce some of the threat levels we are facing. To fail to do that is the same conventional Washington thinking that led many including Senator Clinton to go ahead with the war without having asked adequate questions.”

I don’t think anyone coming into this debate had the slightest doubts that Hillary Clinton would not be intimidated into submission, but I also think we are now getting a very clear message from the Obama camp. He too will not be intimidated, and he is learning very very fast.

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