The Blog

The Confusing Saga of Barack O'Borah

9:06 AM, May 23, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

I just knew that the equivocations issued by the Obama campaign and its eager surrogates like Joe Klein regarding the longtime community organizer's diplomatic plans with Iran were bound to confuse the slow-witted. Sure enough, Joe Biden has taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal and shown that he has become lost in the farrago of the Obama campaign's contradicting edicts:

Sen. Obama is right that the U.S. should be willing to engage Iran on its nuclear program without "preconditions" - i.e. without insisting that Iran first freeze the program, which is the very subject of any negotiations. He has been clear that he would not become personally involved until the necessary preparations had been made and unless he was convinced his engagement would advance our interests.

Okay, as they say, let's go to the videotape! Or the transcript anyway. Here once again is the relevant portion from the YouTube debate where Obama pronounced his foreign policy revolution:

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?

OBAMA: I would.

Careful readers will note there's nothing there about "preparations." Still more careful observers of this ridiculous sage will note that Biden, in his bewilderment, has introduced the stuff about "advancing our interests" all by his lonesome. Perhaps the following snippet from Obama's conversation with Jake Tapper from a few days ago confused him:

TAPPER: In recent days, it has seemed that some of your staffers and supporters have walked back from your statement that you would be willing to meet with the leaders of rogue nations, countries hostile to the U.S., without preconditions. Your foreign policy adviser Susan Rice said you wouldn't necessarily meet with Ahmadinejad, Sen. Daschle said of course there would be conditions -- (Obama interrupts)

OBAMA: You know, Jake, I have to say I completely disagree that people have been walking back from anything. 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 Venezula, including Cuba, including North Korea, without preconditions but that does not mean without preparation.

TAPPER: Well, what's the difference?

OBAMA: There's a huge difference.

He didn't go on to elaborate on precisely what the difference might be, but I'll take his word for it - it's huge. Some might think that by introducing this wrinkle, Obama himself tried to "walk back" the YouTube pledge, but as you know I prefer to view Obama and his campaign without cynicism. What can I say? All the talk of hope and change has moved me. I've been elevated. So I choose to believe that Obama still pines to meet with all our adversaries, and so long as he can make the proper "preparations" like finding the right caterer and an appropriate function hall, all systems will be go.

One last word - I wonder if Obama supporters who have developed an entirely appropriate disgust for Clinton-style politics are wincing over the ludicrous parsing of "preparations" and "preconditions?" Regardless, I think Obama's supporters and his detractors better get used to him trying to be on both sides of controversial issues. He may well demonstrate an aptitude for straddling that dwarfs John Kerry's formidable talent in that regard. Of all the many unnerving things we've seen of Barack Obama, this may be the biggest cause for concern - he talks one way and acts another (think of bipartisanship or earmarks), usually with the sole intention of securing his own popularity.

And one last question: Did Biden take to the pages of the WSJ with the Obama campaign's sanction, or was he merely an officious volunteer trying to butter up the presumptive nominee while tossing his weave into the Secretary of State ring?