Aftermath: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Battle of Charleston

 Update II:  Just so noone misses it (Obama supporters seem to be confused about Obama’s position too) in the long post below, Obama did say today, in Iowa the following: “Some of you noticed that this week I got into a debate with one of my colleagues who is also running for the presidency. The debate was about whether or not we talk to world leaders even when you don’t like them. My theory is you do and you do it without preconditions.” — Keep digging that hole, Obama. 

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Update: Congratulations to our very own commenter “Domma”. Domma bought to our attention the article by Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald at 8:00 p.m. on July 26. We posted a story quoting the Miami Herald article in early afternoon on the 27th (as well as in this post) and other websites followed. Politico wrote their story quoting the Miami Herald at 4:55 p.m and TPM wrote their story late on Friday.

Today, HillaryHub has the story Headlined on the front page. The headlines at HillaryHub link to an ABC News story that goes like this:

It turns out that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was for pre-conditions before he was against them.

In a pre-debate interview with a columnist for the Miami Herald, Obama said that he would meet with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez but he stipulated that he would only do so “under certain conditions.” [snip]

But once he reached the Democratic presidential debate, his position seemed to change.

Asked if he would be willing to meet separately “without precondition” during the first year of his administration with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea, Obama said, “I would.”

In the days since the debate, Obama has argued that Clinton’s foreign policy approach smacks of “Bush-Cheney lite” even though the position he is attacking Clinton for holding, seems to be one that he himself held in his pre-debate interview with the Miami Herald.

Thanks Domma. Checkmate on Obama.

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Wisps of smoke are languidly rising from the crater once known as the Obama presidential campaign.

The Battle of Charleston, which started at the CNN/Youtube debate has ended. Senator Hillary Clinton emerges with a strategic and tactical victory to add to her already formidable assets. Obama emerges with a shattered campaign message, the loss of huge segments of the American electorate in key big states, and the surrender of the national security issue to Ripublicans in any general election campaign he would lead.

At the debate Obama flopped with his answer to this question:

In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, 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?

Immediately after the debate the Obama campaign mastermind David Axelrod repudiated Obama’s answer. Obama of course had pre-repudiated his own answer the day before in an interview with the Miami Herald when he stated that any meeting with President Chavez would be “under certain conditions” (Hillary’s well thought out debate answer) .

The next morning Obama fired the first attack against Hillary in order to cover up his massive mistake. Hillary countered in response to a reporter’s question that Obama’s answer was “naive and frankly irresponsible”. Obama, too inexperienced to even know when he is in a losing fight, pulled a George Bush and doubled down his losing bet by ignorning reality and implying Hillary is “Bush Cheney lite”.

Obama’s supporters cheered when their dog barked. These supporters were so happy to finally see signs of life coming from their languid candidate.

Of course these same supporters cheered when the Obama campaign (via a roomate of Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt) oozed out a vile videotape portraying Hillary as “Big Brother”. These same supporters cheered when the Obama campaign oozed out anonymous memos unfairly attacking President Bill Clinton (utilizing right wing smear machine the Drudge Report) with an already debunked smear and tagging Hillary as “(D-Punjab)”. The tears of joy by these supporters turned to tears of remorse when these vile tactics were exposed and Obama’s poll numbers sunk further.

Today, after flopping then flipping out, Obama has officially flipped and flopped on the “preconditions” question and we have our final answer from Obama himself (in an appearance that demonstrates he knows little about agriculture too):

“Some of you noticed that this week I got into a debate with one of my colleagues who is also running for the presidency. The debate was about whether or not we talk to world leaders even when you don’t like them. My theory is you do and you do it without preconditions.”

Obama in his Charleston debate answer cited John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan as Presidents who spoke with their enemies. This is true. Hillary too wishes to reverse the Bush years and actually have some diplomacy. Obama is too inexperienced to realize that what passes for diplomacy these days is not diplomacy. Secretary Rice is not a diplomat. The State Department (like FEMA) is not functioning.

Hillary wants to bring back diplomacy. Hillary wants a functioning State Department. Hillary wants the type of diplomacy Bill Clinton initiated when he met with enemies of the United States in mutual respect and after proper preparation. The type of diplomacy Bill Clinton initiated when he brought together the United Kingdom and the Irish political factions to bring about the lasting peace enjoyed in Ireland today. The type of diplomacy which engaged the Middle East and though it failed (due to the shortsightedness of Arafat who recognized his own failure when he eventually accepted the accords Bill Clinton had worked so hard to achieve) made the United States a respected world influence.

Obama needs to take a refresher course in “international relations”. Ronald Reagan met with his enemies, after many preconditions and years of preparation, in his second term. And Kennedy? Here is what JFK thought (from the 1960 debates):

MR. SPIVAK: Mr. Vice President, according to news dispatches Soviet Premier Khrushchev said today that Prime Minister Macmillan had assured him that there would be a summit conference next year after the presidential elections. Have you given any cause for such assurance, and do you consider it desirable or even possible that there would be a summit conference next year if Mr. Khrushchev persists in the conditions he’s laid down?

MR. NIXON: No, of course I haven’t talked to Prime Minister Macmillan. It would not be appropriate for me to do so. The President is still going to be president for the next four months and he, of course, is the only one who could commit this country in this period. As far as a summit conference is concerned, I want to make my position absolutely clear. I would be willing as president to meet with Mr. Khrushchev or any other world leader if it would serve the cause of peace. I would not be able wou- would be willing to meet with him however, unless there were preparations for that conference which would give us some reasonable certainty – some reasonable certainty – that you were going to have some success. We must not build up the hopes of the world and then dash them as was the case in Paris. There, Mr. Khrushchev came to that conference determined to break it up. He was going to break it up because he would – knew that he wasn’t going to get his way on Berlin and on the other key matters with which he was concerned at the Paris Conference. Now, if we’re going to have another summit conference, there must be negotiations at the diplomatic level – the ambassadors, the Secretaries of State, and others at that level – prior to that time, which will delineate the issues and which will prepare the way for the heads of state to meet and make some progress. Otherwise, if we find the heads of state meeting and not making progress, we will find that the cause of peace will have been hurt rather than helped. So under these circumstances, I, therefore, strongly urge and I will strongly hold, if I have the opportunity to urge or to hold – this position: that any summit conference would be gone into only after the most careful preparation and only after Mr. Khrushchev – after his disgraceful conduct at Paris, after his disgraceful conduct at the United Nations – gave some assurance that he really wanted to sit down and talk and to accomplish something and not just to make propaganda.

MR. McGEE: Senator Kennedy.

MR. KENNEDY:
I have no disagreement with the Vice President’s position on that. It – my view is the same as his. Let me say there is only one uh – point I would add. That before we go into the summit, before we ever meet again, I think it’s important that the United States build its strength; that it build its military strength as well as its own economic strength. If we negotiate from a position where the power balance or wave is moving away from us, it’s extremely difficult to reach a successful decision on Berlin as well as the other questions. Now the next president of the United States in his first year is going to be confronted with a very serious question on our defense of Berlin, our commitment to Berlin. It’s going to be a test of our nerve and will. It’s going to be a test of our strength. And because we’re going to move in sixty-one and two, partly because we have not maintained our strength with sufficient vigor in the last years, I believe that before we meet that crisis, that the next president of the United States should send a message to Congress asking for a revitalization of our military strength, because come spring or late in the winter we’re going to be face to face with the most serious Berlin crisis since l949 or fifty. On the question of the summit, I agree with the position of Mr. Nixon. I would not meet Mr. Khrushchev unless there were some agreements at the secondary level – foreign ministers or ambassadors – which would indicate that the meeting would have some hope of success, or a useful exchange of ideas.

Obama has stumbled on national security issues before. When Brian Williams asked at a prior debate what Obama would do

“Senator Obama, if, God forbid a thousand times, while we were gathered here tonight, we learned that two American cities have been hit simultaneously by terrorists and we further learned, beyond the shadow of a doubt it had been the work of Al Qaida, how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas as a result?”

Obama responded with “Well, the first thing we’d have to do is make sure that we’ve got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans.”

Hillary’s response was again to the point and correct and decisive and yes, presidential:

“Well, again, having been a senator during 9/11, I understand very well the extraordinary horror of that kind of an attack and the impact that it has, far beyond those that are directly affected.

I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate.

If we are attacked, and we can determine who is behind that attack, and if there are nations that supported or gave material aid to those who attacked us, I believe we should quickly respond.”

The Des Moines Register reported on the Aftermath of the Battle of Charleston:

Barack Obama’s message of hope – along with his promise to run a clean presidential campaign – could be jeopardized by comments such as calling Hillary Clinton “Bush-Cheney Lite,” several Iowa political experts warned today.

“It puts him in a box, because now it sort of paints him, anytime he attacks, that he’s not being the candidate of hope,” said Cary Covington, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa. [snip]

Bardwell added, however, that the more Obama uses such tactics, the harder it will be for him to continue to claim he is running a clean campaign.

“I think as his campaign wears on he is going to get increasingly locked up in fights like this and it will become harder and harder for him to say he’s running a new kind of campaign that doesn’t engage in those types of fights,” Bardwell said.

Ana Marie Cox at Time magazine is blunt:

Perhaps the most remarkable thing in this debate is the tacit agreement on both sides that comparing Hillary to Bush/Cheney is new lowest of the low. I think Republican candidates would agree as well.

Also, free advice to Obama: You’re losing this round. Stand down. [snip]

The stark difference between the two lies almost exclusively in how they answered the question and, obviously, in how they’ve conducted themselves in the aftermath. Obama’s team has tried a variety of spins in the last week, ranging from “she actually agrees with me” to the tragically hyperbolic “Bush/Cheney light.” The Clinton team has been forceful but consistent in simply pointing out how Obama’s answer betrays a lack of experience — as does his “evolving” spin.

I can almost already read the comments this will provoke, namely, that it’s the policy and not the publicity that should matter. But at some point, you have to judge the potential president he/she might be with the candidate he/she currently is. Barack may make a fine president. What about his candidacy tells us that?

Ripublican Rich Lowry sounds the warning about Hillary’s firepower to his Ripublican friends:

Hillary Clinton has led in almost every national poll among the Democratic presidential candidates, usually by double digits. She has turned in a solid, self-assured performance in all the debates, has revved up an impressive organization and hasn’t made a major mistake under the glare of a media that magnify everything she does.

Clinton is the underestimated front-runner. How much will-he-or-won’t-he commentary has been devoted to almost-certainly-won’t Al Gore, and how many glossy pages and adoring column inches to Barack Obama, as she continues her steady march toward the nomination?

Conservative commentators like me have especially tended to discount her. We have argued that she’d never dare to run for Senate in New York; that if she ran, she’d be a terrible candidate; and that if she really ran for president, she would collapse under the weight of her own dullness and high negatives. Alas and alack, it is instead incontrovertible that — in her own way — she’s a talented politician who has a clear path to the Democratic presidential nomination and to the presidency. [snip]

She was ready for the question, unsurprisingly. Her campaign operation is like something out of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” It knows how to attack and parry and do it efficiently. It is inconceivable that she would ever be embarrassed by her campaign the way Obama has been by his a few times this year — and if she were, someone would probably get fired.

Obama has generated a lot of excitement. Maybe he will end up swamping Clinton, or she’ll be done in by some unforeseeable issue or gaffe, or her high negatives will convince Democrats that someone else is a safer bet to get elected next year. But it doesn’t look likely when Clinton has run a nearly flawless campaign and has done more than any other Democrat to show she’s ready to be president.

I will never support her, but nor will I ever again underestimate her.

Obama will continue his presidential run. He has now retreated to his final sole asset: money. Obama has much earlier than he wanted to begun to advertise. Obama is advertising extensively on the internet. Obama has expanded his advertising into all the early primary states. All that advertising, all that spent money will not do him any good. The Obama campaign has cratered.

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