In the Arena

Here We Go…

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Greg Sargent over at TPM has the transcript of remarks Barack Obama just made slamming Hillary Clinton, a continuation of the tiff that began during Monday night’s Youtube debate.

So, reality check: Substantively, this isn’t about very much at all. Both candidates would go about–finally!–talking to the rogue states in the same way: cautiously, but actively. As I’ve written and written, the U.S. government’s diplomatic non-recognition policy is quite stupid and counterproductive. It began 90 years ago, with the non-recognition of the Soviet Union. It should end in the next administration.

Then, Hillary was wrong to slag Obama? Not entirely. She made a teeny-tiny point about experience and judiciousness. You don’t flat-out say you’re going to meet with anyone without doing the groundwork first. If, say, Hugo Chavez, is going to come to the oval office with a deodorizer to clear the sulphuric smell from the air, you want to have some hint of his intentions in advance. You want to go into the meeting with at least one (small) point of agreement, if possible, that you can hold up as progress.

But the real significance of the exchange had nothing to do with foreign leaders: It showed that the ultra-programmed Hillary has a lightning fast political intelligence, something I never quite realized before. She siezed the moment and pounced. You want a candidate like that in general election debates. (I’ll have more on Hillary’s candidacy in my print column this week.)

Finally, I’m not sure about the wisdom of Barack Obama keeping this thing alive, launching nuclear war during a slow, slow week of summer. He may have to go after Clinton eventually–she’s the front runner–but, as with meetings with foreign leaders, the groundwork should be laid in advance, the attacks should be smart and thorough, especially when coming from a candidate whose selling point is his desire for post-partisan, anti-attack politics. He should wait until people are actually paying attention–like next November. He should not go nuclear in a week when people are focused on Lindsey Lohan.