The mystery continues to swirl around Obama's "foreign policy by gaffe" lauded by Matt Yglesias - what is the world could he have really meant when he gave a seemingly straightforward answer to a clear question during the You-Tube debate:
“Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?” asked Stephen Sixta, a video producer who submitted the question for the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate.
Mr. Obama, the first candidate to respond, answered, “I would.”
Times reporters tried to sort through the latest Obamafuscations:
In the interview Wednesday, Mr. Obama conceded that he might need to do a better job explaining his policy.
“It’s not like this is something that I’ve hid from,” Mr. Obama said. “But there’s no doubt that in a general election, I want the American people to understand exactly what my position is, which has not changed.”
What has changed, he said, is that he now has to rebut accusations by the McCain campaign.
“I didn’t say that I would meet unconditionally as John McCain maintained, because that would suggest whether it was useful or not, whether it was advancing our interests or not, I would just do it for the sake of doing it,” he said. “That’s not a change in position, that’s simply responding to distortions of my position.”
He added: “I think if we lay out repeatedly and clearly my position, ultimately I think I’ve got the majority of the American people on my side on this issue.”
The McCain campaign, which did not respond to requests for comment, has said Mr. Obama’s approach would elevate the stature of leaders with ill intentions.
Susan E. Rice, a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, said Mr. Obama had conveyed similarly nuanced policy positions on meetings with foreign leaders of enemy nations months before the YouTube debate.
For instance, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in May 2007, he said that he believed talks with Iran should begin at a low governmental level even if enrichment continued. But, he said, higher-level talks “will not be appropriate without some sense of progress.” The newspaper also quoted him as saying “we need to check” whether there were leaders with a “more sensible attitude” than that of Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Some supporters of Mr. Obama’s position say he nonetheless offered a less-complete answer at the debate that gave fodder to his critics.
Former Senator Gary Hart, an Obama supporter and a former presidential candidate, said he believed Mr. Obama had learned an important lesson from the experience: “Don’t use that shorthand, particularly when you’re facing a national election and an opposition that’s going to take advantage of everything that can be misconstrued — you’ve got to almost bend over backwards to be explicit.”
I guess that once he "explains" his position to the American people we will understand that his "shorthand" answer of "I would" actually concealed a tremendous amount of detail and nuance. Silly us for misunderstanding.
And if Obama lapses into similar shorthand while President and raises unrealistic expectations all around the world, well, silly world.
I think it is fair to say that the NY Times has not yet cleared the fog. Karl at Team Protein is a skeptic; Jake Tapper of ABC News remains baffled. Allow me to offer a helpful photo of the Obama decision process in action.
The Discerning Texan
All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
-- Edmund Burke
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Oh...OK, NOW I get it.... (Barack explains "No Preconditions"....)
The always spot-on Tom McGuire analyzes Barack Obama's recent "explanation" about what he really meant when he straightforwardly stated to a national TV audience that he would meet with the leaders of Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Hamas with "no preconditions." Enjoy:
Are we clear now?