Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Can we talk?

Obama blew it. That headline and other rather overblown readings of Senator Obama's response that he would be ready to hold talks with the bad guys are everywhere today and sadly Senator Clinton's website seems to be one of those places.

"irresponsible and frankly naive" said Mrs. Clinton to an Iowa Newspaper today, adding that such a meeting should only be attempted after lower level diplomatic exchanges had been exhausted. Obama's response was to raise the question of her responsibility and naivete in voting for Bush's war along with pointing our her self serving interpretation of his answer.
"What she's somehow maintaining is my statement could be construed as not having asked what the meeting was about. I didn't say these guys were going to come over for a cup of coffee some afternoon,"
Sometimes I wonder if we're listening to adults here, but Obama was, in my opinion, right in calling this a manufactured controversy. There was nothing in his response that indicated he would try some reckless act nor am I sure the kind of diplomatic dance that she advocates would really be a reflection of her greater foreign policy know-how rather than just an opportunity to pose as a wise statesman. Obama never said he'd ignore diplomatic channels.

Is this attempt at differentiation another example of Freud's narcissism of small differences, or is it just childish political ritual of the type that has given us so much formally stupid discourse over the years?

Katrina Vanden Heuvel in her blog at The Nation, writes that
"In signaling that he was willing to meet with the leaders of these countries, Obama was signaling that the United States has the confidence in its values to meet with anyone. But he also signaled a certain humility that reflects the understanding that the next president must reach out to the rest of the world and not merely issue conditions from the White House and threaten military force if it does not get its way."

I agree and perhaps it would also be a signal that the traditional formality of ignoring everyone who disagrees with us, that has brought us this traditional hostility, can be set aside. The Viet Nam era policy of negotiating only from "strength" and never having a discussion without a predetermined outcome has proved to be a great system for eliminating constructive conversation as well as for losing conflicts.

I don't know if Hillary Clinton really represents the same old, same old, or whether she's doing what her same old strategists tell her, but if the country ever wanted a change in the way it's affairs are conducted more than it does now, I'm not aware of it. The idea of cutting through the BS, bluster and bravado and sitting down to talk may just be the kind of refreshment this weary electorate wants.

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