The Exchange

SEN. OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this: That the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous. (Applause.) Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to the Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them, they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we have the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward. And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We've been talking about Iraq. One of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria, because they're going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses. They have been acting irresponsibly up until this point. But if we tell them that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force, we are in a position to say that they are going to have to carry some weight in terms of stabilizing the region.

SEN. CLINTON: While I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these during my first year, I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort, because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse.
But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration. And I will pursue very vigorous diplomacy, and I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be. (Applause.)
To many who have been waiting for an end to civility, the fight finally arrived. Obama and Clinton sparred. To Clinton it felt like victory: she had scored in the so-called experience department. To Obama it felt like vindication: Clinton was not into the new kind of politics that Obama has been promising. She is "Bush light."

Obama mentioned Reagan. I would also mention Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton talked to Kim Jong Il. That engagement was necessary to prevent that state from going ahead with its nuclear plans. Ronald Reagan talked to Gorbachev. He got engaged.

The chances of North Korea, or Iran, or Venezuela, or Syria, or Cuba physically attacking the United States are nil. The next attack on the US, if there is one, will not come from some state with a standing army. It will come from a non-state actor with no standing army: the Al Qaeda.

So talking to Kim Jong Il,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Bashar al-Ashad is not security stuff, or at least not directly. By the way, Bill Clinton also talked to the president of Syria, the current president's father.

It might not have been intentional on the part of Hillary, but she twisted what Obama said. When a President of the United States says he wants to talk to a head of state, he is not talking about having a cup of tea. He has an entire state machinery at his disposal. That whole machinery talks, in part or full, as might be ordered to do. When you send an envoy, you are talking. When you hold a summit, you are talking. When you together participate in an international conference, you are talking.

The US does not face physical threats from any of these countries directly, but it does want to see each of these countries turned into full fledged multi-party democracies. And engaging their governments at all levels and possibly opening doors for much trade and people to people exchange and interaction is what will bring about such desirable change. Shunning them will keep the status quo in place in those countries.

Reagan talked from a position of strength, but he still talked. That talking is what helped.

When Obama says new kind of politics, he really means it. This exchange reveals that. The difference between them is obvious.

Talking is also the thing to do when the need is to talk tough. Talking is not a sign of weakness.

To keep these states engaged in dialogue is also to make sure they don't forge a strong, undemocratic alliance with a power like Russia.

And all the big problems of the day have global dimensions: terrorism, global warming, nuclear proliferation. A power like America has to get engaged and stay engaged with as many countries as possible.

Talking is also the way of global trade and overall globalization. Disengaging is less and less often an option.

Hillary missed all these points in claiming victory in this brief exchange.

In The News

Poll: Rudy could be a contender Newsday
Bihar to market brand Bhojpuri to woo diaspora in Mauritius Hindustan Times
The Democrats' Contempt Play TIME
Obesity Is Contagious, Study Finds
Barack Obama's People Problem
Obama's Viral Marketing Campaign
Obama Says Iraq Has 'Distracted' Us
Is Baghdad Safer Than Chicago? The candidate has proven he can draw rock-star-like crowds across the country. But he is having trouble limiting audiences so that he can focus on what is known as "retail" campaigning, in which candidates meet voters in calmer settings and spend more time answering their questions. .... His challenge now is to build relationships with voters in early primary states without tripping over his greatest strength: his own celebrity. .... then he got down to the business he clearly enjoys, engaging people one-on-one .... when hundreds of people are willing to drive as far as they did to hear Obama speak, retail campaigning becomes Wal-Mart campaigning: It's all about volume. .... six stops per day on the weekends ..... I have never seen him stay longer than 90 minutes from entrance to exit. ... the traveling circus that surrounds him — the pack of national press, a grueling fundraising pace, and Secret Service protection — all serve as hurdles to making those personal connections. ...... planned on making more surprise stops at shops and diners in order to better connect with voters ...... chatted up Maggie Wells and Sara Morrow while stealing some of their French fries (buying and delivering more to them on his way out) ...... ultimately they have to overcome the impression that they are mere media celebrities
India's first female president takes office
Obama Stirs Up the Duel With Clinton
New York Times “It goes to the heart of whether or not we’re going to have a fundamental change in how the Bush administration has conducted foreign policy,” Mr. Obama said, “or we’re going to have a version of Bush light.” ...... one poster wrote: “At last, Obama is starting to counterpunch.” ...... Known for its strategic savvy and hardball politics, her campaign is no doubt debating whether it would serve Mrs. Clinton’s interest to have her own video out there countering Mr. Obama
Obama Tries to Turn Clinton Words on Her Washington Post Obama told NBC News it's obvious that the diplomatic spade work must be done before any such meeting. But he wants to change Bush administration policies that freeze out enemies and move to a principle that says the United States should talk with everybody. ..... New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes plans to endorse the Illinois senator Thursday. Hodes is the first member of the four-member congressional delegation from the nation's first primary state to make an endorsement.
Hillary: Obama 'naive' Chicago Sun-Times An underpinning of Obama's presidential bid is his belief that solutions to problems -- domestic and international -- can be found through a search for common ground and consensus. ...... The exchange in the debate marked the sharpest divide between Clinton and Obama, the Democratic front-runners. .... He stood by his response and that Clinton's position was not that different from the Bush administration policy, so she "can't claim the mantle of change." ..... two leaders who top South Florida's most-hated list: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez." ..... If he met with Chavez, Obama told the Iowa paper, it would be to tell him "what I don't like" while finding areas to "potentially work together." "I didn't say these guys were going to come over for a cup of coffee some afternoon," Obama said.
Hillary Clinton attacks Obama on diplomacy
The New Democratic Scapegoat New York Times
Clinton, Obama in war of words over 'rogue leaders'
Clinton and Obama campaigns keep sparring after debate International Herald Tribune
Clinton criticizes Obama for lack of experience Kansas City Star
Clinton vs. Obama MSNBC Obama responded swiftly, saying the Clinton campaign was concocting a ‘fabricated controversy.’ He also contended that Mrs. Clinton’s skeptical view of such meetings was similar to that of President Bush.” .... Obama argued that America needs to chart a new course.” ..... “It's finally on!” The paper adds that Clinton will use the spat “to shore up her standing among key voter blocs, such as Cuban-Americans in bellwether Florida and Jewish voters who may find the idea of a sitdown with the Holocaust-denying president of Iran disturbing.” ...... header: "Clinton, Obama spar over `meeting Castro'"
Obama's Strategy: Emulate Reagan CBS News relies on a surge of momentum from early-state victories and faces a make-or-break test in the South Carolina primary. ..... that hope and optimism that was Ronald Reagan" allowed him to "transcend" ideological divisions within his own party and the general electorate. ..... Clinton, who he hopes to portray as an old-hat conventional politician whose varied positions on the Iraq war reflect calculation rather than leadership. ...... He boasts best-selling books and magazine cover spreads and — most relevant to his 2008 ambitions — is winning the fundraising race in both total dollars and with a record number of contributors. ..... her nearly two-to-one advantage with Democratic women. ..... Obama is already on the air with television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire and so far is out-spending Clinton in every early state. ..... more than twice as much spending in Iowa ($1.6 million to Clinton's $839,000) and nearly three times as much in South Carolina ($350,000 to $120,000) in the first half of this year. ..... Nearly every Democratic nominating contest for the past 40 years has featured some variation on the same script: reform candidates trying to use grass-roots energy and media momentum to beat rivals with more traditional profiles and, usually, more support from the party establishment. ...... "She's one of the best-known women in the world," Hart added. "She's been in the White House for eight years. She's a senator from one of the largest states. And 60-plus percent of the Democratic Party wants somebody else." ........ Obama's goal is to draw contrasts with Clinton without drawing blood. .... The country's first viable female candidate wins 41 percent of women and splits men with Obama at 30 percent each. ..... Obama's greatest challenge in winning South Carolina is wooing black women, who are swaying between him and Clinton. "When you talk about the broken politics of Washington, the people who are most affected by it are single women, working moms," Axelrod said. ....... people are looking for something rock solid and predictable when it comes to presidential voting
‘Obama time’ MSNBC
Obama Launches Radio Ads in SC Forbes
Feinstein backs Clinton's bid for president San Francisco Chronicle
Feinstein endorses Hillary Clinton Los Angeles Times