Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain Hits Obama Hard On Meeting With Ahmadinejad (Bonus: Kissinger To Obama: I Didn't Say That!)

Whoever you want to say won the debate, it's clear there was no knockout punch. Among McCain's best shots came in addressing Obama's willingness to meet personally with Ahmadinejad--among other dictators--without precondition. Jennifer Rubin gives the play-by-play:
John McCain’s shining moments came in large part when discussing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. McCain had this to say:
My reading of the threat from Iran is that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat to the State of Israel and to other countries in the region because the other countries in the region will feel compelling requirement to acquire nuclear weapons as well. Now we cannot a second Holocaust. Let’s just make that very clear. What I have proposed for a long time, and I’ve had conversation with foreign leaders about forming a league of democracies, let’s be clear and let’s have some straight talk. The Russians are preventing significant action in the United Nations Security Council. I have proposed a league of democracies, a group of people - a group of countries that share common interests, common values, common ideals, they also control a lot of the world’s economic power. We could impose significant meaningful, painful sanctions on the Iranians that I think could have a beneficial effect. The Iranians have a lousy government, so therefore their economy is lousy, even though they have significant oil revenues. So I am convinced that together, we can, with the French, with the British, with the Germans and other countries, democracies around the world, we can affect Iranian behavior. But have no doubt, but have no doubt that the Iranians continue on the path to the acquisition of a nuclear weapon as we speak tonight. And it is a threat not only in this region but around the world. What I’d also like to point out the Iranians are putting the most lethal IEDs into Iraq which are killing young Americans, there are special groups in Iran coming into Iraq and are being trained in Iran. There is the Republican Guard in Iran, which Senator Kyl had an amendment in order to declare them a sponsor of terror. Senator Obama said that would be provocative. So this is a serious threat. This is a serious threat to security in the world, and I believe we can act and we can act with our friends and allies and reduce that threat as quickly as possible, but have no doubt about the ultimate result of them acquiring nuclear weapons.
But when Obama suggested that talks with Iran wouldn’t be a bad thing, McCain pounced:
Senator Obama twice said in debates he would sit down with Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Raul Castro without precondition. Without precondition. Here is Ahmadinenene [mispronunciation], Ahmadinejad, who is, Ahmadinejad, who is now in New York, talking about the extermination of the State of Israel, of wiping Israel off the map, and we’re going to sit down, without precondition, across the table, to legitimize and give a propaganda platform to a person that is espousing the extermination of the state of Israel, and therefore then giving them more credence in the world arena and therefore saying, they’ve probably been doing the right thing, because you will sit down across the table from them and that will legitimize their illegal behavior. The point is that throughout history, whether it be Ronald Reagan, who wouldn’t sit down with Brezhnev, Andropov or Chernenko until Gorbachev was ready with glasnost and perestroika. Or whether it be Nixon’s trip to China, which was preceded by Henry Kissinger, many times before he went. Look, I’ll sit down with anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions. Those pre-conditions would apply that we wouldn’t legitimize with a face to face meeting, a person like Ahmadinejad. Now, Senator Obama said, without preconditions.
But Obama gave him yet another shot when he again claimed that direct talks would be a good idea, one supported by Kissinger. McCain correctly stated that this was not Kissinger’s view and then swooped in for the kill “What Senator Obama doesn’t seem to understand that if without precondition you sit down across the table from someone who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” and wants to destroy that country and wipe it off the map, you legitimize those comments.”

And then Obama insisted that some talks were in order. McCain delivered the knock-out blow:
So let me get this right. We sit down with Ahmadinejad, and he says, “We’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,” and we say, “No, you’re not”? Oh, please.
If there are voters for whom national security and Israel are key that portion of the debate may be decisive.
And here is the Annie Hall moment, where Henry Kissinger talks about what he actually did say:
Obama claimed that Kissinger approved of his view that an American president should meet with adversaries without preconditions. John McCain disagreed. And Kissinger, who is advising McCain’s presidential campaign, not surprisingly thinks that McCain is right.
“Senator McCain is right,” said Kissinger. “I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.”
Indeed, in a recent appearance at George Washington University, Kissinger said that while he is “in favor of negotiating with Iran,” he “preferred doing it at the secretary of state level.”
Now we wait and see what effect, if any, tonight's debate has on the polls.

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