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Tilting at Windmills

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February 3, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

EDWARDS AND IRAN....Here is John Edwards two weeks ago, speaking about Iran to the Herzliya Conference in Israel:

Edwards: Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons. For years, the US hasn't done enough to deal with what I have seen as a threat from Iran.....To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep ALL options on the table. Let me reiterate -- ALL options must remain on the table....

Question: ....Would you be prepared, if diplomacy failed, to take further action against Iran?....Secondly, you as grassroots person, who has an understanding of the American people, is there understanding of this threat across US?

Edwards: ....As to what to do, we should not take anything off the table....As to the American people, this is a difficult question. The vast majority of people are concerned about what is going on in Iraq. This will make the American people reticent toward going for Iran. But I think the American people are smart if they are told the truth, and if they trust their president. So Americans can be educated to come along with what needs to be done with Iran.

Italics mine. And I'm left wondering: I don't think the American people have any real problem with economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure against Iran. So just what is it that Edwards thinks they need to be educated about? Military action?

Now, here is John Edwards speaking to liberal American Prospect reporter Ezra Klein yesterday:

Klein: So, I just want to get it very clear, you think that attacking Iran would be a bad idea?

Edwards: I think would have very bad consequences.

Klein: So when you said that all options are on the table?

Edwards: It would be foolish for any American president to ever take any option off the table.

Klein: Can we live with a nuclear Iran?

Edwards: I'm not ready to cross that bridge yet. I think that we have lots of opportunities that we've ... We're not negotiating with them directly, what I just proposed has not been done. We're not being smart about how we engage with them. But I'm not ready to cross that bridge yet. And I think the reason people react the way they do -- I understand it, because, when George Bush uses this kind of language, it means something very different for most people. I mean when he uses this kind of language "options are on the table," he does it in a very threatening kind of way -- with a country that he's not engaging with or making any serious diplomatic proposals to. I mean I think that he's just dead wrong about that.

Let me say first off that I like Edwards. I always have. And I'd very much like to go along with the conventional wisdom that he "backed off" his hawkish Iran comments when he talked to the Prospect yesterday.

But, really, does anyone believe that? I don't. Instead, he was engaging in Politics 101: telling different audiences what they each want to hear. When he's talking to an Israeli conference, he emphasizes the supreme danger Iran presents and implies strongly that military action is a real possibility, while barely even mentioning the idea of engagement and economic aid. When he's talking to a liberal American magazine, he emphasizes engagement and economic aid and downplays the possibility of military action as vanishingly unlikely during an Edwards presidency.

Technically, there was no contradiction between what he said in these two venues. At the Israeli conference he did mention direct engagement with Iran, even if it was only in response to a question at the end. And with the Prospect, he did say that all options had to be left on the table -- including, presumably, military action. Still, you'd barely know it was the same person talking if you read both conversations with no names attached.

There's nothing new about this. It's standard issue politics. But the internet is making this game harder to play, because every word you speak, at every venue, is now easily accessible to people who aren't quite as jaded about this kind of thing as most political reporters are. People like me. And I'll tell you: I'd sure feel a lot better if even a small part of Edwards' comments to the Prospect had made their way into his speech at Herzliya.

Kevin Drum 8:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (77)

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Comments

I hadn't read those earlier comments, so I feel compelled to admit that I was suckered by the snake-oil salesman. The worst part is when he criticizes Bush for being too "threatening" by saying "options are on the table" when Edwards was clearly using it in the exact same way.

Posted by: AP on February 3, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: Technically, there was no contradiction between what he said in these two venues.
You've got to be kidding! Look again at what Edwards said at the Herzliya Conference.
Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons.
Now compare that with his answer to Klein's question.
KLEIN: Can we live with a nuclear Iran?
EDWARDS: I'm not ready to cross that bridge yet.
This goes beyond even a technical contradiction--it's blatant. There is a wide gulf between "under no circumstances" and "not ready to cross that bridge." That you don't see it contradicts your reputation for being a good analyst.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 3, 2007 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

I too was excited by Edwards until the Herzilya conference andhis comments there. I am embarrassed that I was so eager to fall for Edwards' line. I might in the end support him; but for now I am backing off. Clark, Kucinich and maybe Gore. Edwards seems to be selling the same stuff as he did in 2002; but now the consequences are even more dire.

Posted by: della Rovere on February 3, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK


Edwards, the populist two-Americas candidate who whose new home has 28,000 square feet, is hopelessly compromised, as are all of the current crop of Dems. Blogs and activists need to start recognizing this and pushing for the only ticket that would bring meaningful change: Gore-Feingold.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 3, 2007 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, that must have been on a Friday. Gosh - how many hours is that after Wednesday? (Oh, right - 48)

He's learning how to play the game - not fast, but he's learning. At least he seems to understand that "all options" does not automatically mean "all military options". He just hasn't been able to express that difference to the voters yet. The diplomatic options with Iran are clear as mud to the American public.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 3, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Jayarbee: Those two comments come within a hair's breadth of being in direct contradiction. That's why I chose to excerpt them. But they aren't quite there. In the Prospect interview, Edwards basically punted. He didn't repeat the formula he used at Herzliya, but neither did he repudiate it. You can still come away from it believing that Edwards believes a nuclear Iran is unacceptable and would have to be stopped by military action if necessary.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on February 3, 2007 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it takes a lawyer to know how to parse a lawyer. When I read Ezra Klein's interview, I said to myself: "That's it; no way am I supporting Edwards (except in the general if it came to that)."

Simply, in both statements, he is clearly OK with preventative war. Even with Klein, and even given ample opportunity, he refuses to take any option off the table, and is simply positioning himself to be able to criticize if (when) Bush does start bombing Iran.

Edwards, out of conviction or fund-raising opportunism, is, in both quotes, adhering to Cheneyism lite. Haven't we had enough? Do we want to be even more a pariah, even more a lawless, rogue state than we already are?

Posted by: dell on February 3, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

But talk similar to Edwards' is having positive results - eh? I mean, the neo-cons want war - yes, but the garden conservatives just want Iran to believe our seriousness, in order to affect internal change.

And there is evidence that this is occuring - like the Iranian elections in Dec. '06. Krugman's article today makes this point as well.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 3, 2007 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

When Edwards talks of a "nuclear Iran", he might well be thinking of an Iran with nuclear reactors, but no nuclear weapons. Of course, it's not obvious how easy it might be to prevent Iran from using its nuclear reactors to create nuclear weapons. Presumably, though, that's a "bridge" that might be crossed if Iran allowed inspectors, generally behaved like a peacable nation, etc.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 3, 2007 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, thanks for pointing out how hypocritical and what a liar Edwards was by saying he supported military preemption to liberate Iran in front of AIPAC and saying he was against it when talking to the American Prospect.

Another example of this hypocrisy exposed by ace Washington Post reporter John Solomon was when Edwards sold his house to the Klaasens who are being attacked by labor unions. This is another hypocrisy of Edwards pretending he supports unions on the one hand while selling a house to someone attacked by unions on the other hands. Edwards is just a two faced liar and hypocrite and can't be trusted.

Link

"John Edwards finally succeeded last month in selling his imposing Georgetown mansion for $5.2 million after it had languished on the market"
"the buyers were Paul and Terry Klaassen"
"They are also the focus of legal complaints by some of the same labor unions whose support Edwards has been assiduously courting for his presidential bid."

Posted by: Al on February 3, 2007 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn Greenwald has a post up that touches upon this topic in oblique fashion. Here is the link:

http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2007/02/enforced-orthodoxies-and-iran.html

The gist is that large amounts of money flow to candidates that take a very hard-line toward any of Israel's avowed enemies. And thus, despite polls that make it clear that most Americans do not want more war in the Middle East, campaign rhetoric will favor the desires of the extreme right-wing members of the Jewish community.

Wes Clark was vilified for saying as much just recently.

Personally, I think our foreign policy should be predicated by what is in the best interests of this country, not Israel. Further, I do not feel that all this carnage & instability in the Middle East serves Israel's interests either.

But what we have is the extreme right-wing leadership in Israel, calling for further death and destruction; the extreme right-wing (the neocons, et alia) in America calling for more death and destruction; Christianists calling for more death and destruction to hasten the second coming; and just about all the Presidential candidates taking an equally hard-line stance despite the wishes and desires of the majority (including apparently the majority of Jewish Americans, according to Greenwald's post).

Congratulations to both Clinton & Edwards, who managed to turn me off both of them with this nonsensical and asinine rhetoric. What both candidates are showing me is that neither of them are interested in representing the people, which was supposed to be what our democracy was all about.

Posted by: zhak on February 3, 2007 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the real problem for Democrats when it comes to Iran.

Yes, Iran does present a true danger, and, I believe, should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. It has always represented a far greater real threat to the US and Israel than Iraq ever did.

But the trick is that Democrats must find a way to convince the American people of a very key point: confrontation of Iran, if it must come to that, can almost certainly wait for a few years, and, in particular, past the time Bush will remain President.

Democrats must, I believe, argue that Bush has proved himself utterly incompetent to deal with Iran effectively. They must maintain that that job should be handled instead by the NEXT President, and NEED be handled only by the next President.

Indeed, if Democrats can make that case, and they certainly have a good case, the politics couldn't work out better: the Democrats will be seen as the ones strong on national security because it would be they, and not the Republicans, who will have coped with a key issue for our national security.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 3, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

Al - such vigilance!

If voters had done the same homework on GWB's Texas record during the 1999/2000 campaign, we wouldn't be in this spot.

Keep the watchtower fires burning.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 3, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

With regard to Iran, Democrats should really ask themselves: would they have a real problem if a DEMOCRATIC President were to confront Iran?

I think most Democrats would trust a Democratic President to deal with Iran with some real competence, and would believe that if such a President were to get to a point where he/she threatened Iraq, it would for a good reason.

The real problem for Democrats, and I'm sure by now for the American people, is the notion of GEORGE BUSH threatening Iran. We all know at this point that that could end only in tragedy and chaos.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 3, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK


AL: Another example of this hypocrisy exposed by ace Washington Post reporter John Solomon was when Edwards sold his house to the Klaasens who are being attacked by labor unions.

Ass reporter, Solomon, you mean. And you're both idiots. The seller of a house has no legal right to turn down a buyer's bona fide offer at the asking price on the basis of not sharing the buyer's political views.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 3, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

One way to think of Edwards remarks is that he is position himself, should he become President, to take forceful actions against Iran if necessary.

If Edwards were instead to indicate that he would under no real circumstances threaten Iraq, he would be grossly inconsistent were he to become President and he chose to do so.

And, you see, the problem is that it WOULD be a very bad thing for Iran to have nuclear weapons, and keeping the military option open IS important for the President.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 3, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Edwards has shown he is as good an AIPAC bootlicker as the best of them. As such he should be completely ignored as a prospective progressive candidate that is willing to take this country in a new direction. Lobbyists will own him and will not be accountable to tbe American people.

Posted by: jman_nyc on February 3, 2007 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: Those two comments come within a hair's breadth of being in direct contradiction. That's why I chose to excerpt them. But they aren't quite there.

They're there in the English language I grew up speaking. When Edwards told Herzliya attendees that under no circumstances could Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons, he crossed the bridge regarding his position on a nuclear Iran. Telling Klein he hadn't crossed it was a direct contradiction.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 3, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee,

Iran could be "nuclear" if it had reactors, but no weapons - pretty much what N Korea agree to at one point, I believe.

I don't see the direct contradiction.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 3, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly0, I disagree. I think many Democrats have (rightly) concluded that in the absence of compelling evidence of an imminent threat, preemptive war is a bad idea, full stop.

Posted by: Robert Merkel on February 3, 2007 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

Robert,

Democrats didn't have a problem, I believe, when Clinton attacked Serbia without provocation toward us. I doubt that they would have a major problem if a Democratic President launched a similar air attack against Iran. An actual invasion, of course, would be another thing.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 3, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

They're there in the English language I grew up speaking. When Edwards told Herzliya attendees that under no circumstances could Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons, he crossed the bridge regarding his position on a nuclear Iran. Telling Klein he hadn't crossed it was a direct contradiction.

Agreed. Edwards contradicted himself. The problem here, as Kevin so astutely pointed out, is that there's a more-intense-than-ever focus on these contradictions due to the collective journalism of blogs.

Edwards tries hard to be really clear about where he stands on things, but what candidates like him really need to do is to get scientific about not contradicting themselves. A great way to do that is to have integrity. You can't just throw out the red meat one day, and deny you did it the next.

Posted by: mk on February 3, 2007 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK


FRANKLY0: Iran could be "nuclear" if it had reactors, but no weapons

That's parsing Klein's meaning regarding a "nuclear Iran," which clearly was in the context of conflict and weapons. Besides, Edwards had already stated he was open to the possibility of "civilian use" of nuclear fuels in Iran; so it would be redundant for Klein to ask the question in a context other than weapons. What's more, for Edwards to respond with civilian use in mind by saying he hadn't crossed that bridge yet would be still another contradiction, since he'd previously said such use could be acceptable.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 3, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

With regard to Iran, Democrats should really ask themselves: would they have a real problem if a DEMOCRATIC President were to confront Iran?

Or if it were a pure air war like Clinton's attacks on Iraq and Yugoslavia?

Bush met with congressional Democrats at their private retreat. Have the congressional Democrats started submitting a bunch of binding resolutions restricting his freedom of action in Iraq since that meeting?

Posted by: spider on February 3, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

I said "the problem here... is that there's a more-intense-than-ever focus"

but it's not a problem at all, it's a very good thing.

The problem is that this might cause candidates to be really vague. Kevin made this same point about YouTube -- that candidates may retreat altogether from ever saying anything meaningful.

Posted by: mk on February 3, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

This is a delicious speech.

It shows several things. First, the two headedness of the Democrat hydra, speaking out both sides of its mouth, speaking much but saying nothing. Standing for nothing. Limp.

Secondly, it shows that as you get closer to the Presidency, you have to start speaking more responsible. That means talking tough. That means NOT TAKING OPTIONS OFF THE TABLE. The next President will not swerve from the current Bush policy, because the Republicans stand for hard headed realism and not the mush mouth Democrat party.

If hairboy Edwards wins control of the Presidency, I tremble for my country. By my soul, I do.

Posted by: egbert on February 3, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Very disappointing, Kevin. I like John Edwards too - at least I did until I read this thread.

I wonder what Edwards thinks about Pakistan? Now there is a real threat!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 3, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

When the American voter stops confusing "strong" with "mighty" perhaps otherwise decent pols such as Edwards can stop with this ludicrous pandering to American exceptionalism.

Posted by: bobbyp on February 3, 2007 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

"That means NOT TAKING OPTIONS OFF THE TABLE."

Up to and including the death of every Iranian, man woman, and child, egbert? That is an option, ya' know. Given the current state of technology, it is eminently feasible.

Is that option off the table or not? Does all mean "all" or does it not?

Posted by: bobbyp on February 3, 2007 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

Lots of trial lawyering and a little Senatoring might predispose someone to sprinkling words around in ways that a powerful leader, whose every word and nuance can come back to haunt, must avoid.

Is there anything wrong with answering things like this by saying, "I'm assessing that in my mind right now, and it's complex; as time moves on, and things evolve, everyone will know where I stand AND my rationale ... in plenty of time for the elections."

Sometimes I think candidates are too eager to talk about things they're not very sure about (yet). I try not to get "locked in" until circumstances require. That may just be me; is it time for a 2008 candidate to have a firm position on everything right now?

Posted by: Terry Ott on February 3, 2007 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

This is an historical political problem. Zachary Taylor won the presidency in 1850 saying completely different things to different audiences, and nobody found out until well after the election. You're right that technology has changed the game. I wish politicians had more courage of their convictions.

Posted by: dday on February 3, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

This is a generic problem. Candidates want to please their audiences. Edwards went to Israel to raise money. Maybe he didn't believe what he said at Herliza. In an honest world (we don't have it) you would be able to review all speeches by all candidates for President. I'm afraid that very few would say the same thing to each group. I despise the two senate weathervanes, Clinton and Edwards. They are smart but unscrupulous. I'm waiting to make up my mind about Obama. I think that Clark may be the only candidate with the courage to offend Jewish audiences. I don't blame Jewish audiences for being worried about Iran. I reject however their hysterical propaganda about Iran, which is much more democratic than Saudi Arabia. Iranians have carried out terrorist acts. Israelis have oppressed Palestinians.

Pulling out of Iraq will serve no purpose if we keep grubbing for oil. The only way to stop grubbing for oil is to put lots of tax money into real alternative fuels, not corn ethanol (which boosts ADM). Decreasing gasoline consumption will require tax increases. Decreasing carbon dioxide production will be painful. Our politicians and our advertising agencies say, "don't do anything that hurts". If we can’t do painful things for long term gain, we deserve to die out.

Posted by: hammerhead on February 3, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

I really bought into Edwards thoughtful positions. Now I see him pandering to the Israel lobby and mouthing the Iranian Threat mantra. He just lost me.

So what is the big deal about Iran having nuclear weapons. I have missed any debate on this issue. It seems to be taboo. If Israel has the things why shouldnt the rest of the middle east. Mutually assured destruction is a powerful motivator for peace. As we are seeing now without it we are subject to perpetual war.

M

Posted by: Mike Alpha on February 3, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

But the trick is that Democrats must find a way to convince the American people of a very key point: confrontation of Iran, if it must come to that, can almost certainly wait for a few years, and, in particular, past the time Bush will remain President.

Democrats must, I believe, argue that Bush has proved himself utterly incompetent to deal with Iran effectively. They must maintain that that job should be handled instead by the NEXT President, and NEED be handled only by the next President.

Oh, thanks LOADS.

Posted by: Hillary on February 3, 2007 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Robert Merkel:

I think many Democrats have (rightly) concluded that in the absence of compelling evidence of an imminent threat, preemptive war is a bad idea, full stop.

Can we get an example of what you might consider a true "imminent threat" from a nuclear-armed Iran?

Posted by: whitecastle on February 3, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Edwards is finished as a viable Democratic presidential candidate.

Posted by: aj on February 3, 2007 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

How long are we gonna have to wait before Edwards does an interview with Drum? I think we all know that's the real test here...

Posted by: mk on February 3, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Vote Green. Or at least, vote for Kucinich.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 3, 2007 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see what the fuss is. Edwards is doing what politicians do, emphasizing different points to different audiences and leaving his options open. Yeah, it'd be nice to have a straighter-talking president but my very strong reading is that Edwards as president would not attack Iran without widespread international participation. And since this wouldn't come without a pretty dang clear case, there is no real de facto fear of gut-based attacks. Were I American, I wouldn't change my vote for him based on this (Hillary though strikes me as much more finger in the air...)

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 4, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

The minute Edwards thought that it was a good idea to campaign for the US presidency in a foreign country, he lost the race.

The contradictions in his words pale in comparison to that.

Posted by: Disputo on February 4, 2007 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

DDay,
The only politician with the true courage of his convictions is not running this time. :-(

Posted by: This Machine Kills Fascists on February 4, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Besides, Edwards had already stated he was open to the possibility of "civilian use" of nuclear fuels in Iran; so it would be redundant for Klein to ask the question in a context other than weapons. What's more, for Edwards to respond with civilian use in mind by saying he hadn't crossed that bridge yet would be still another contradiction, since he'd previously said such use could be acceptable.

I think you're overinterpreting what was really said. Certainly Edwards might have taken the question of adjusting to a "nuclear Iran" to be talking about what he, Edwards, had just talked about, namely giving them fuel under certain conditions. His response that he hadn't crossed that bridge yet might simply have meant that he didn't yet think that those conditions had been met, or were even likely to be met.

I'm not really defending Edwards here -- probably the most natural interpretation is the one you suggest, but I do think that the alternative I've presented is not implausible and therefore give him enough room to weasel out of what seems to be getting said.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 4, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

I should amend that. There are 2 other senators that I like, but since they just got elected, I will reserve judgment to make sure they don't get polluted by the swamp that is DC.

Posted by: This Machine Kills Fascists on February 4, 2007 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

One further observation about Edward's "problem" in talking about Iran.

The "problem" Edwards has is the problem I think EVERY Democratic politician is going to have. Namely, it really IS important that all options be on the table when it comes to Iran -- just as it was so for Iraq. They're pretty much one and all obliged to make that statement, because that is what sound and firm foreign policy requires. There's no way out of it. Nuclear proliferation is an unadulterated evil thing, and Iran would be one of the worst possible places in the world where nuclear weapons might be introduced.

Look, if Iraq WERE about to have produced nuclear weapons, that WOULD have been a good reason to eliminate them by an attack -- and I don't think that Iraq was ever as malicious a foe of the US as is Iran.

So if you're going to hate Edwards for what he said, be prepared to hate ALL the Democratic candidates -- or at least all the serious ones.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 4, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

John Edwards has other troubles.... Instapundit and Michelle Malkin have info and links about the piece of work (Amanda Marcotte) Edwards hired as his campaign "Blogmaster."

Edwards has a whole lot of 'splaining to do.

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on February 4, 2007 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

And another point.

Simply because Edwards and other Democratic candidates will talk about keeping all the options on the table does NOT mean that they will, in fact, ever have to launch a strike of any kind against Iran.

The true and deep stupidity of the Bush administration in its treatment of Iraq and Hussein is that when it had really won the thing it needed to win from Iraq, namely unfettered inspections of their sites, they chose instead like complete idiots to invade nonetheless.

Threats from a country like the US MEAN something to other countries, even, I think, at this stage, after Bush has so much diminished the reputation for power that the US has enjoyed. Such threats are VERY effective to achieve important ends.

And we need not even get to that level of threat explicitly to achieve what we want: we may well succeed simply by implying such a threat and conducting diplomacy.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 4, 2007 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

Al wrote:

"Kevin, thanks for pointing out how hypocritical and what a liar Edwards was by saying he supported military preemption to liberate Iran in front of AIPAC and saying he was against it when talking to the American Prospect."
______________________

Al, you are wrong here. In response to the American Prospect, Senator Edwards merely said that attacking Iran "would have very bad consequences." He did not say he wouldn't do it.

Likewise, his refusal to state that we could live with a nuclear Iran merely acknowledges that he is keeping all options on the table. To admit that we could live with Iranian nukes is (for much of the public) nearly the same thing as saying that military force should not be an option.

The Senator was just triangulating in the fine tradition of most careful politicians.

Posted by: Trashhauler on February 4, 2007 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

There is a reason why Senator Edwards, or any other careful politician, won't ever say that we'll rule out the use of force. There is a term used in developing various action scenarios called, "upon the receipt of unambiguous warning." In a way, the phrase is merely a convenient placeholder because warning is almost always somewhat ambiguous. Even if one were somehow intercept an enemy's spoken intent to attack, that doesn't mean the enemy cannot change his mind.

That means the decision to use force is largely up to the judgment of the National Command Authority. In the case of Iranian nukes, one can hypothesize about what might happen if we received what amounted to "unambiguous warning" that Iran was about to strike Israel or some other ally. Can we "live" with Iranian nukes in that circumstance? Would we want to rule out the use of force beforehand? Probably not.

Posted by: Trashhauler on February 4, 2007 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

Good. My Dem presidential decision just got narrowed by one. Hillary, Barack, Clark, Gore remain (not necessarily in that order; in fact, pretty much in reverse order). G'bye John Boy.

Posted by: fel on February 4, 2007 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid you then have to also remove Hillary and Obama from your list.

Hillary speaking at AIPAC:


...a nuclear-armed Iran would shake the foundation of global security to its very core. Israel would be most immediately and profoundly threatened by this development, but Israel would not be alone. ...how would we feel, here in America, if the Iranians could start producing nuclear weapons at will? ...So let us be unequivocally clear. A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable

Obama quoted by the Chicago Sunday Tribune:


Obama said the United States must first address Iran's attempt to gain nuclear capabilities by going before the United Nations...

But if those measures fall short, the United States should not rule out military strikes to destroy nuclear production sites in Iran, Obama said.
"... launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us... On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse."

"I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. ... And I hope it doesn't get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I'd be surprised if Iran blinked at this point."


Posted by: JS on February 4, 2007 at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK

From the same article:

As for Pakistan, Obama said that if President Pervez Musharraf were to lose power in a coup, the United States similarly might have to consider military action in that country to destroy nuclear weapons it already possesses.

Isn't he a bit ahead of Cheney here?

Posted by: JS on February 4, 2007 at 4:01 AM | PERMALINK

Molehill, meet mountain. A lot of people here seem to be swayed by the relatively trivial - a single sentence, basically.

Further, if he were president now, it would be in our best interest for him to state both: "We will not stand for a nuclear Iran" and "We can live with a nuclear Iran" with Iran being the assumed target of these messages. This type of contradictory, ambiguous message gives them a strong push but doesn't paint them into a corner.

Posted by: mcdruid on February 4, 2007 at 6:15 AM | PERMALINK

Funny how American presidential candidates feel that telling Israeli audiences what they want to hear is a necessary part of their campaign. Last time I checked Israel was not a swing state.

I knew Obama was running for president when I heard he had visited Israel. Forget New Hampshire. Jerusalem is the real first primary.

Don't you find it a bit embarrassing that a potential president and former Democartic nominee for vice president is explaining to a foriegn audience how he intends to help their national interest by manipulating the American public? Don't you have any self respect left?

Posted by: still working it out on February 4, 2007 at 6:19 AM | PERMALINK

The anti-Jew hate seen here is disgusting. Know this and know this well: NOBODY with a realistic chance of being elected President is going to condemn Israel the way you want. If you don't like that just ask President Kucinich or President Nader.

Posted by: Sage on February 4, 2007 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

How long are we gonna have to wait before Edwards does an interview with Drum? I think we all know that's the real test here...

How about Elizabeth Edwards? She can come here and defend her husband's position. Mrs. Edwards, are you reading? Your comments please?

Posted by: Gabriel on February 4, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Precious how some think this one tidbit means, darn it, can't vote for Edwards. Would have uptil that moment!

Likewise, I'm unclear why it is shockingly clear that it would be disastrous if Iran GOT THE BOMB! Ack! Oh wait ... it has acted no less insane than various other places that already have that capability, including Pakistan. I guess just maybe the reality that the genie can't be put back in the bottle has to be faced up to. With stupid action.

I do agree that just because an option is 'on the table' doesn't mean he will actually do it w/o compelling need and int'l support. Unlike some people, you can trust him to some point not to eat the cookie just because he can. And, the ability of the Internet to make being a politican harder is a pretty obvious, if important, fact to underline.

Betcha each candidate will fall to these 'gotchas.' Sorry, Kucinch isn't going to win, btw.

Posted by: Joe on February 4, 2007 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

The anti-Jew hate seen here is disgusting.

Where please? (if you're not merely trolling)

You see what you want to I guess. Perhaps I could say that your ability to see anti-Jew hate (a very real phenomenom I will add) everywhere is... well, disgusting would certainly not be the right word but there are some very interesting studies on how different groups of people view opposing biases in the same report or utterance.

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 4, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

This a.m. on Meet The Press, Edwards spoke at length on his views, and even though he said all options need to remain on the table, he noted a military strength by America against the Iranian leader would strengthen him -- the Iranian people would rally around him, whereas now, he is not politically stable in his country, some leaders have left him. Although the Iranian leader was elected on a platform to address poverty, he instead travels around giving speeches and is bellicose about America and Israel. Edwards says he would continue to tap into the growing isolation with the Iranian leader and his people, work with European governments in financial leverages, using an offer of sticks and carrots-- economical incentives to people in Iran, but consequences, i.e., acceleration of economic decline resulting from sanctions from banks of Europe.
Regarding Iran developing a nuclear weapon, as president he said he would have to talk to them. Says we don't know, it is a difficult question.

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 4, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting how numerous are the Edwards spinmeisters on this blog.

Won't do any good, boys.

Edwards pulled a Goldwater.

He's done.

Posted by: aj on February 4, 2007 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

The anti-Jew hate seen here is disgusting.

Christ, just shut up.

Since you're looking for the Paranoia room, it's down the hall.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 4, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Republican Chuck Hagel's on tv saying he is not an anti-war candidate. Says to have a different position on the war does not qualify one to be an anti-war candidate. Now-- how will that be spun? He has been the voice of reason about the war. Yet, how will that statement be analyzed/dissected/examinined in its parts/traced/resolved?
The realist in me thinks this is part and parcel of people in politics being all things to all people, but even more so, being human, and inconsistent, perhaps, and I wonder, if as John Kerry said, it could in part come from years in the Senate, filibustering, speaking endlessly to everyone...it has happened to Senators Biden, Clinton and Obama even recently. I find myself leaning towards Al Gore and Wes Clark. The inconsistencies do wear on ya-- I don't disagree with that!

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 4, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

"..it could in part come from years in the Senate, filibustering, speaking endlessly to everyone..."

Absolutely. The Dems need more governors and mayors, etc. to balance out the field. I think people are turned off by the oratory of Senators as prez candidates, generally.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 4, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

What would the US do when confronted with "all options" by another power? What else are the Iranians going to do?
This kind of bully talk is not a deterrent, it's an incentive for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
This is widening any candidate's options domestically and narrowing them on the international scale. If you talk threat, you are percieved as a threat.

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on February 4, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid you then have to also remove Hillary and Obama from your list.

I’m afraid that Fel will have to remove all candidates from both of the major parties from his/her list. All of them, if pressed, will say that Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable. They will say it even though they can conceive scenarios whereby they would have to allow Iran to have nuclear weapons. They will say it for the simple reasons that Trashhauler has delineated.

Why will they say it? To keep the pressure on Iran not to develop them and/or to at least remain within the community of nations who participate in non-proliferation agreements, inspections, etc. Also, to avoid taking a card out of our hand (keep an option on the table). Also, to avoid sending a “green light” message to Iran.

The commeters here who are equating Edwards’ statement to preemptive war are getting carried away. Understandable in the wake of GWB.

I’ve enjoyed the back and forth between jayarbee and frankly0. jayarbee, I do think Edwards backed off on his statement before the Herzliya Conference, and I’m glad he did. But I give him more slack, for the time being, that you. I don’t assume this a blatant pandering. Let’s watch and see if he thinks he overstated the case at the conference and learned a lesson.

But, I agree even more with the measured reaction of frankly0 and the points he makes about the Democratic candidates versus Bush. I think the following statement by Edwards addresses this and is the kind of thing I want to hear:

I mean when he [Bush] uses this kind of language "options are on the table," he does it in a very threatening kind of way -- with a country that he's not engaging with or making any serious diplomatic proposals to. I mean I think that he's just dead wrong about that.

The threats coupled with non-engagement and lack of serious diplomatic proposals turn me off.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on February 4, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Kevin. It looks like the number of Dem candidates for whom I could vote with any conviction gets smaller by the day. I'm not too surprised by Edwards' flip-flop. I still remember seeing him on TV in the pre-war days talking up the huge threat from Iraqi WMD. I had hoped he might have turned over a new leaf. Guess not.

Posted by: nepeta on February 4, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

HR 6198 - Iran Freedom Support Act - US House Bill, Public Law 109-293:
The above act is what worries me--no matter what the democrats say and do, there was a bill passed by the republican congress back in the fall that allows the US to with deal with Iran by force.
And, of course, the original authorization agaisnt Iraq--
AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ RESOLUTION OF 2002
[[Page 116 STAT. 1498]]
Public Law 107-243.
There is already a dictatorship in our country aided and abetted by the Republican Congress in the past 6 years.


Posted by: consider wisely always on February 4, 2007 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

And the left begins feasting on its own pols, just like the righties did once the thought they had control...And look at how it ends up. Christ.

Edwards is saying the same thing to both audiences, albeit more forcefully to the Israeli audience: Iran with nuclear weapons is bad, and the exercise of a US military option should only be performed after other options are exhausted...That's all.

Y'all need to stop your damn hyperventilating.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 4, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent point, Kevin. Not just about Edwards and Politics 101 - but about the Web giving us eyes to see the truth, if we want them.

Posted by: Dr. Applebreath on February 4, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

And I agree with those who ask 'why' Iran having nuclear weapons would be much worse than things stand now. If Iran ever launched a nuclear attack on Israel it would get annihilated either by Israel's own much superior nuclear arsenal or by that of the US. Iran obviously knows this. One problem that I do see is that the two countries are close enough geographically that the 'lead' time to an Israeli response would be very short and this would increase the danger of a mistake (shades of Dr. Strangelove). But the same situtation exists with India and Pakistan.

I don't agree with those who always bring up the fact that Iran is ruled by crazy Islamic clerics as if these clerics, although they possess an extreme 'religious' ideology, are not human beings who possess a value system that is comparable to our own in the grand scale of things. This comparison isn't particularly comforting but is worth consideration at least The ruling clerics have, in fact, stated that they don't want nuclear weapons. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel the propaganda machine at work here in the US as usual. The military/industrial complex needs enemies.

Posted by: nepeta on February 4, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone please explain to me how Iran is a threat to the U.S. when we have a dictator in the white house and global warming threatens to destroy the entire planet. I think Iran should be far down the list of problems considering the NIE on Iran said they're at least 10 yrs away from getting nukes anyway. If we learned anything from this administration it should be how to prioritize threats and deal with them appropriately.

Posted by: D. on February 4, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Edwards is the guy who put on his Senate financial form that he is worth between 12 and 60 million dollars.
How can you vote for someone who doesn't know if he is worth 12 or 60 million dollars?
Edwards collected a check the last year he was in the Senate while campaigning, which is illegal and this while he is a multi-millionaire.
Why is anybody for this phony, sleazey, scumbag is beyond me.
He is such a shallow shit.

Posted by: Terry on February 4, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Trolls, detractors and posters attempting to lessen the worth of our comments --
google search something as simple as "conservatives against the surge" and the pages you find will be endless. The article "Hawks Knock Surge Plan's Command Structure" in Salon.com even includes your buddy McCain...

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 4, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

wishIwuz2:

He's learning how to play the game - not fast, but he's learning. At least he seems to understand that "all options" does not automatically mean "all military options".

Yes it does Wish... it may well include a lot of other things as well, but if you say "all" options, you automatically include "all military options." Sheesh, elementary my dear Wish!

Posted by: GM Roper on February 4, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

After you clowns finish trashing Edwards, you'll move on to Obama, Clinton - the whole gang. Then you'll wonder why you can't elect a president who suits you. Pathetic.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! on February 4, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, he seems to have adopted the position Clark has been working so hard for with the more liberal audience.

It struck me just the other day to wonder about his Two Americas theme of the last campaign.

Has Edwards actually ever done anything for the poor? He was never an activist for the poor, was he? Has he worked for any legislation to redress these problems?

Posted by: catherineD on February 4, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

HAA!!!

Just when I thought the Left had reached the limit of their duplicitousness, we get some lefties here saying (in effect):

If Bush bombs Iran, that is horrible, illegal, immoral, cause of chaos, etc.

If Dem bombs Iran, that's OK, and the chaos, no biggie. (Yes, I see that many of you don't agree, and don't want force used, period.)

And, the apologists for Edwards are a hoot, there is no honest way to reconcile his two statements.

Posted by: mockmook on February 4, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK


FRANKLY0: I'm not really defending Edwards here -- probably the most natural interpretation is the one you suggest, but I do think that the alternative I've presented is not implausible and therefore give him enough room to weasel out of what seems to be getting said.

Grudgingly, I will allow that with sufficient massaging, some plausibility emerges..:) In any case, we do appear to be in agreement regarding Edwards' propensity for weaseliness. I expect we might also agree that Klein's question about a "nuclear Iran" was, unhelpfully, less than precise.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 4, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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