September 26th, 2008

That reminds me…boy, if life were only like this!

Remember that moment in the movie “Annie Hall” when Woody Allen gets Marshall McLuhan to come out and reprimand a blowhard Allen overhears in a movie line? Here it is (it’s all funny, but the relevant part starts at 1:47):

There was a moment in the debate when Obama quoted Kissinger to defend Obama’s comment about talking to Iran’s leaders without preconditions, and McCain said he was certain Kissinger would agree with him and not Obama on that.

Too bad McCain couldn’t drag old Henry up onto that stage to speak himself (as Allen says, “Boy, if life were only like this!”). But here’s the next best thing:

Henry Kissinger believes Barack Obama misstated his views on diplomacy with US adversaries and is not happy about being mischaracterized. He says: “Senator McCain is right. 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.”

Too bad many voters won’t ever know. And many others won’t care. Obama gets away with a great deal of this sort of thing. The audacity of audacity.

35 Responses to “That reminds me…boy, if life were only like this!”

  1. Mitsu Says:

    Kissinger is really just trying to make McCain look good here. What Kissinger actually said was this:

    “Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we — we know we’re dealing with authentic…” Sesno: “Put at a very high level right out of the box?” Kissinger: “Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are — what the outcome is that you’re trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to. Now, the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Japan and Germany, have all said nuclear weapons in Iran are unacceptable. They’ve never explained what they mean by this. So if we go into a negotiation, we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we’re trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can’t achieve what we’re talking about? But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations. We ought, however, to be very clear about the content of negotiations and work it out with other countries and with our own government.”

    In other words, he specifically said that he thought there should be no preconditions. That was the key point of dispute. As for whether it should be the presidents meeting or the secretaries of state, come on, that is really a minor detail, and not at all the substance of the disagreement that Obama and McCain were discussing.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu: Seems you and I heard a different debate. That was exactly the substance of the disagreement between Obama and McCain as I heard it. In the world of diplomacy it is not a minor detail at all.

    I guess if you were the guy in line in the Woody Allen film, you’d say you understood McLuhan better than McLuhan understood himself.

  3. Ymarsakar Says:

    Well, Neo, Bush did sort of hint with that first strike pre-emption policy that “staying on the defensive” wasn’t so good an idea.

    The advantage of the attacker is quite extended. It’s not full proof, but it’s better than sitting in a defensive crouch waiting for Obama to hit you over the head with a raid and then retreat in good order.

  4. Mitsu Says:

    No, what I’m saying is that Kissinger is mischaracterizing the nature of the dispute (as are, apparently, you, Neo). You might want to read the transcript here:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/26/debate.mississippi.transcript/

    You will see that Obama agrees with McCain that Kissinger did not say that we should start with talks at the presidential level, but begin with meetings at the secretary of state level. And, of course, Obama agreed with that, as well he should. The notion of “without preconditions” has always been conflated by many on the right (including you, Neo — and again, I say this with great affection) with “without preparation” or “without lower-level preliminary meetings.” All Obama is saying is that one should not set conditions for talks (at any level) in advance of the talks themselves, not that one should just meet willy-nilly with foreign leaders at the presidential level at the outset.

    If you read the transcript you can see that Obama characterizes Kissinger’s remarks exactly correctly: i.e., that he was in favor of talks without preconditions, not that he was in favor of talks at the presidential level to start things off. But then again, Obama never said he was in favor of that, either.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu: First Obama says something. When he gets flak for it, he explains that’s not really what he meant, he meant this other thing instead. Then sometimes he re-explains and adds a few more nuances.

    This is the statement John McCain was talking about:

    In July of 2007, Barack Obama was asked by a video questioner: “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?…..”

    “I would,” he answered.

    Now — in Obama’s answer, he broadens the predicate, saying at one point that “we need to talk to Iran and Syria,” which is not the same thing, necessarily, as talking to Ali Khamenei or to Ahmadinejad or to Assad, but contextually, given the question was about “leaders” and given that the questioner mentioned the phrase “without preconditions,” it certainly sounds as if Obama was promising to meet, within the first year of his administration, without preconditions, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc.

    Then the backpedaling and the corrections began. Of course Obama is characterizing his position differently now; he got plenty of feedback that what he said was unacceptable. He certainly did say originally that he was in favor of talks at the presidential level without preconditions.

  6. gcotharn Says:

    At the end of Kissinger’s statement, “reality” hangs in the air as a lingering condemnation of Barack. Effective writing.

  7. Mitsu Says:

    >he explains that’s not what he really meant

    You may or may not believe me, Neo, but the fact is on this point I’ve always found your position rather odd, though I suppose it’s understandable. The phrase “without preconditions” means in diplo-speak, “without demanding that the other side agree to certain demands before talks even begin.” This is a fairly well-understood meaning in the foreign policy arena; it is also the most literal reading of the phrase, and it’s certainly what Obama interpreted the question to mean. Your interpretation, in which you replace “without preconditions” with “without preparation” is, perhaps, an understandable misinterpretation, but it’s not what either the questioner or Obama said, and it’s not what I interpreted the exchange to mean, at the time.

    I understand how you can read the question to mean “without preparations” or something of that kind, and I’m not sure how I can convince you that this is clearly not what either the questioner or Obama meant, except to say that this phrase is often used in diplomatic negotiations to mean what I have been suggesting above. As Kissinger himself said, “I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations.” This is not “parsing” — it is simply both the plain meaning of the word “preconditions” and the diplomatic use of the term.

  8. Mitsu Says:

    …As TIME put it quite well — I reused their lovely word “diplo-speak”:

    “McCain was also confused about what ‘preconditions’ means in diplo-speak. The Bush Administration had, until recently, set a precondition for talks with Iran: that the Iranians had to stop processing nuclear fuel. Obama would talk to the Iranians—as Henry Kissinger and James Baker would—without setting that condition. (Diplo-speak only vaguely resembles English: precondition is redundant, all conditions for starting a negotiation are pre-.)”

  9. Peter the Alaskan Kid Says:

    It’s such a pity that anyone discusses Henry Kissinger’s opinion today, let alone the two candidates at a presidential debate. It’s common sense that you talk to other leaders in the world, legitimate or not, enemies or not, without demanding anything from them first for them to talk to you.

    If I were a third world dictator I certainly wouldn’t feel pressed to give in to U.S. demands just to start up diplomacy- especially if I was developing nukes. Talking to the evil in the world does not legitimize their power or show that they aren’t so evil. It simply recognizes the reality of the situation and the power that the person has, whether they deserve it or not.

  10. strcpy Says:

    Well, to begin with I don’t particularly find Kissinger’s endorsement to be all the great. His successes have been high, his failures have been low – it seems to me he does VERY few things just average. I’m fairly happy with average here.

    That being said – it is clear that Kissinger didn’t agree with what Obama said. Whatever my thoughts on his ability to choose the correct course my guess is that Kissinger is MUCH more familiar with the intricacies of diplomacy than Mitsu is. Further, my bet is that he is also privy to a bit more information and personal contact with candidates than Mitsu and is in a better place to comment on their beliefs. I further think it is quite clear (and one of the few clear things he said in the full, whole, unedited statement) that he strongly disagrees with Obama and agrees with McCain.

    Given that were I to be one that felt that what he believed is important (and Mitsu has implicitly ceded that thought to be true) then one should vote for McCain. Otherwise we are arguing over (and particularly care) what an idiot thinks about people that he doesn’t even know what they said/believed.

    You can not have it such that Kissinger is an idiot who can not even know what Obama is saying yet is prescient enough that we should listen to him – so that idea is pretty much a bust on my end. If Mitsu *really* wants us to think that then that is his/her choice – I’ve found over the years many will choose “stupid” when their argument has one of two reasons for being made, that is “idiot” or “partisan hack”.

    Myself he was a famous diplomat with some high profile successes and failures – I take his advice with that in mind. I’m not about to vote for Obama (there are more issues than this one), not to mention I think the quoted Kissinger’s endorsement of McCain is not very good.

    Kissinger is one of the few people that I pretty much look askew at anyone he says is a good choice – they tend towards *really* good or *really* bad. I also look at those he claims are bad – they tend towards *really* bad (if he can’t say much good about them you know there isn’t much there). In this case McCain is endorsed and I’m apprehensive about it, Obama is very much not endorsed so I’m fairly certain he is a train wreck. I prefer people he can’t say much one way or the other about and speaks in political non-deterministic talk.

  11. Mitsu Says:

    strcpy — apparently you didn’t even bother to read the transcript, which makes unequivocally clear that Kissinger misheard what Obama said.

    Here it is:

    “MCCAIN: I’m not going to set the White House visitors schedule before I’m president of the United States. I don’t even have a seal yet.

    Look, Dr. Kissinger did not say that he would approve of face-to- face meetings between the president of the United States and the president — and Ahmadinejad. He did not say that.

    OBAMA: Of course not.”

    “OBAMA: Look, I mean, Senator McCain keeps on using this example that suddenly the president would just meet with somebody without doing any preparation, without having low-level talks. Nobody’s been talking about that, and Senator McCain knows it. This is a mischaracterization of my position.

    When we talk about preconditions — and Henry Kissinger did say we should have contacts without preconditions — the idea is that we do not expect to solve every problem before we initiate talks.”

    “MCCAIN: And I guarantee you he would not — he would not say that presidential top level.

    OBAMA: Nobody’s talking about that.”

    ——

    I mean, I understand that in the back-and-forth of a debate it’s hard to follow exactly what each candidate said or didn’t say, but if you read the transcript there’s really no doubt at all that Obama was not disagreeing with Kissinger at all. Not that this is necessarily a good thing, mind you, per se, but Kissinger clearly is mischaracterizing what Obama said. There is just no doubt about that whatsoever.

  12. Vince P Says:

    Mitsu is doing the same thing that Obama did… changing the context.

    MCCAIN: 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.

    OBAMA: So let’s talk about this. First of all, Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful person in Iran. So he may not be the right person to talk to. But I reserve the right, as president of the United States to meet with anybody at a time and place of my choosing if I think it’s going to keep America safe.

    And I’m glad that Senator McCain brought up the history, the bipartisan history of us engaging in direct diplomacy.

    Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who’s one of his advisers, who, along with five recent secretaries of state, just said that we should meet with Iran — guess what — without precondition. This is one of your own advisers.

    Now, understand what this means “without preconditions.” It doesn’t mean that you invite them over for tea one day. What it means is that we don’t do what we’ve been doing, which is to say, “Until you agree to do exactly what we say, we won’t have direct contacts with you.”

    ….

    MCCAIN: I’m not going to set the White House visitors schedule before I’m president of the United States. I don’t even have a seal yet.

    Look, Dr. Kissinger did not say that he would approve of face-to- face meetings between the president of the United States and the president — and Ahmadinejad. He did not say that.

    OBAMA: Of course not.

    ….

    OBAMA: Look, I mean, Senator McCain keeps on using this example that suddenly the president would just meet with somebody without doing any preparation, without having low-level talks. Nobody’s been talking about that, and Senator McCain knows it. This is a mischaracterization of my position.

    When we talk about preconditions — and Henry Kissinger did say we should have contacts without preconditions — the idea is that we do not expect to solve every problem before we initiate talks.

    MCCAIN: By the way, my friend, Dr. Kissinger, who’s been my friend for 35 years, would be interested to hear this conversation and Senator Obama’s depiction of his — of his positions on the issue. I’ve known him for 35 years.

    OBAMA: We will take a look.

    MCCAIN: And I guarantee you he would not — he would not say that presidential top level.

    OBAMA: Nobody’s talking about that.

    MCCAIN: Of course he encourages and other people encourage contacts, and negotiations, and all other things. We do that all the time.

    LEHRER: We’re going to go to a new…

    MCCAIN: And Senator Obama is parsing words when he says precondition means preparation.

    OBAMA: I am not parsing words.

    MCCAIN: He’s parsing words, my friends.

    OBAMA: I’m using the same words that your advisers use

    ==============

    It’s clear what McCain is talking about the entire time…. top level summit meeting. Obama gives the appearance he’s on the same page at first. but then later on he shifts , saying OF COURSE he’s not talking about a summit meeting.. he’s using the same words as McCain’s advisors.

    He’s incoherent.

  13. douglas Says:

    Hey, don’t knock incoherence- it sold Mitsu.

    Look, that’s been Obama’s M.O. th whole time- just shift gears right in the middle and no one will even notice. Even if they do, you can restate it enough times, enough ways that no one can be clear on it, and so long as I sound believable, who cares what I really say?

  14. UpNights Says:

    In Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric, Couric quizzed her about Kissinger’s views on this and Palin said that Kissinger did not support Obama’s position. In a snarky factcheck after the interview, Couric stated that Kissinger indeed did support unconditional negotiations. Maybe that’s what gave Obama confidence to play the Kissinger card.
    (By the by, did Couric also factcheck Joe Biden’s comments about FDR on TV in 1929?)

  15. njcommuter Says:

    (Diplo-speak only vaguely resembles English: precondition is redundant, all conditions for starting a negotiation are pre-.)

    Yes, but not all conditions of something are preconditions for something. In the computer programming technique called “programming by contract” one uses preconditions and postconditions. (When I was introduced to proof of computer programs by Jack Schwartz at NYU many years ago they were called “assumptions” and “assertions”, terms that I still prefer.)

    If Iran or the DPRK do get nuclear weapons, we’ll be damned glad for that “unproven” and “wasteful” anti-missile program mocked as “Star Wars”–the program that gave us the Standard-3 missiles that just took down an orbiting satellite and that have achieved over 80% success in taking down incoming missles. And the laser-based missle interceptors have also been demonstrated, though they might not quite be ready to be fielded.

  16. Perfected democrat Says:

    There are the talkers and there are the doers. Talking to Saddam, as was the case with Hitler, whether at high levels, low levels, or thru press releases, accomplished nothing for close to two decades. He just became more and more dangerous, ditto for North Korea and Iran. “Preconditions” or “preparation”, blah, blah, splitting hairs about the context of legitimizing criminal behaviour by giving it any “debating” platform at all; Something which only needs to be considered when the enemy is clearly in a position to destroy you, so you buy time in the hope that your weak circumstances may improve at some future point. Are we that desperate? We’re simply “talking” ourselves into a very dangerous and tragic situation with Iran. The North Korean regime, recently, has demonstrated the futility of “talking” about anything with regimes like that. We’ve simply capitulated to their extortion game. Fool me once, fool me twice….. The poison dwarf was rewarded with widespread applause at the U.N. the other day, and several television and banquet platfoms in NYC. It’s incredible that B.O. could hammer away exclusively, compartmentalizing Bin Laden and the Taliban, seemingly as our only significant enemies; Ignoring the profound context of the alliances, formal and informal, of the fundamentalist muslim world with North Korea, PRC and Putin’s regime, and now spreading into South America, with Venezuela and Bolivia. Only in a tragically dumbed down America could we be in this situation, where B.O. has approx. 43% approval, and only six decades after WWII… NUTS!

  17. njcommuter Says:

    One other thought on “unproven” military contracts: the Garrand (M1) rifle that American soldiers carried in WWII took forty years to develop; people worked on creating a reliable and effective combat semi-auto from just after the Spanish-American war through WWI and almost until WWII. You can find the story in Geoffrey Perret’s There’s a War to Be Won in the chapter called The Right Caliber. Rugged and reliable, the only tool needed to field-strip it was the cartridge it fired, and multiple shots could be fired without taking one’s eye from the sight–a great advantage over what came before.

  18. Perfected democrat Says:

    Incidentally, I have to comment that I wasn’t particularly impressed with McCain’s performance in the debate; And as far as B.O. is concerned, what else would you expect from a serial liar? But McCain, as well as B.O., are both touting more troops in Afghanistan, etc. Now maybe McCain does have the experience and insight to recognize that the recent Iraq strategy can be useful in Afghanistan, but it looks like an ominous black hole to me, supported by up to several hundred million muslim fundamentalists in relatively close proximity. Personally I think we should keep our troops safe, and except for some limited Green Beret/Navy Seal level advisors, limit our own soldiers on the ground to training the Afghan army; If Karzai is serious, offer him virtually unlimited air support… Touting Afghanistan as the proper focus now is just political expedience, tantamount to avoiding the urgent danger of Iran on the brink of getting it’s nukes; A situation with such tragic implications, it will dwarf that of North Korea…

  19. gcotharn Says:

    Perf dem,

    I am with you re Af-Pak. I don’t see that more troops is necessarily better in that difficult terrain and difficult cultural puzzle. I have faith in Pres. Bush and Gen. Petraeus, yet must admit I do not understand Afghanistan goals and strategy as clearly as I understand Iraq. I do not see great strategic value in Afghanistan. I do not see a clear path to victory in Afghanistan – or even what victory would look like in Afghanistan. This is my own education problem, so I will pay closer attention to Afghan in future. I just want us to be completely shrewd about our objectives in
    Af-Pak. Moretroops!ism doesn’t strike me as shrewd.

  20. expat Says:

    Back to the preconditions debate: We have gotten too hung up on that word. Obama said “in the first year.” At that point in the campaign, he was appealing to the give-peace-a-chance crew which wants more than anything to believe that Obama can solve any problem with words. In reality, there has to be more involved. You have to look at timing. You have to look at the internal politics. You have to look at your allies’ positions. Sometimes, a surprise offer for meetings can work.

    Obama gave us another 16-month withdrawal plan with his comment. He doesn’t know you have to make pretty sophisticated assessments of conditions on the ground. This is tied up with his belief that the world revolves around him.

  21. Vince P Says:

    I think the Afghan – Pak border is Klingon Islam at its most fierce.

    If any part of the world is going to see the use of nuclear weapons, i bet it’s there.

  22. Mitsu Says:

    Again, the term “preconditions” in diplomatic circles simply refers to the idea that one should not have any talks without insisting the other side make a concession in advance. I’ve always felt this concept was ineffectual — in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, the Israelis would often say that if there was a terror attack they’d call off talks. Such a policy essentially gives militants veto power over any peace talks. In South Africa, by contrast, there were disruptions and violence all the way up until the peace agreement was put into effect — at which point the violence subsided. Both parties did not allow extremists to derail the peace process. For progress to be made, preconditions for talks are a bad policy. Much as I hate to agree with Kissinger, I agree with him on this.

    This is a completely separate point from the idea that prior to a summit meeting there should be no preparations whatsoever, no preliminary lower-level meetings, etc. OBVIOUSLY there should be a lot of prep before a summit meeting. That’s an entirely different issue and has nothing whatsoever to do with the term “preconditions” as used in diplo-speak as TIME so aptly put it. In fact, the whole time McCain has been attacking Obama about this I think it’s pretty clear he’s been confused about this distinction, and he was still evidently confused about it during the debate.

    This is also a separate question from whether or not we have deterrents or proceed with military and other options at the same time. The two can go hand in hand, as when Clinton threatened to bomb North Korea’s nuclear plant when they tried to throw out inspectors, but at the same time offered to negotiate. You do both, at the same time. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive.

  23. Vince P Says:

    In Diplomacy you never want to arrange a Summit unless you’re 95% sure that the deal both sides are seeking will be achieved.

  24. Mitsu Says:

    I don’t disagree. In fact, the strange thing is, McCain and Obama essentially have the same view of this. They both advocate talks without preconditions (in the technical sense of the term), as McCain specifically said. Neither of them think a summit meeting without lower-level contacts first makes any sense (and who would?) The problem is, McCain and many others apparently don’t know what the term “preconditions” means in diplomatic circles.

  25. Sergey Says:

    It does not make any sense to talk with Iran at all, at any level, with or without “precondition” whatever this means. They are not trustworthy and understand only language of force. It is time to undermine this regime with all possible means, by covert actions, by naval blockade, by arming opposition, by propaganda war and by direct sabotage of vital infrastructure.

  26. Vince P Says:

    Sergey is right. Talkiing to Iran is a fool’s game. Which describes the current US policy

  27. Sergey Says:

    And, first of all, give Israel whatever it wants to eliminate the treat by destroing Iranian nuclear sites: air space, bombs, intelligence, logistic support and access to satellite data for guiding cruise missils.

  28. Mitsu Says:

    >It does not make any sense to talk with Iran at all, at any
    >level, with or without “precondition” whatever this means.

    You’re certainly welcome to that view, but it isn’t the view Kissinger advocates, nor is it even the view McCain himself advocated in the debate (though perhaps McCain misspoke). And Bush has recently dropped this position, as well, and they have initiated lower-level contacts with Iran over the nuclear issue.

  29. Vince P Says:

    Oh lets follow Kissinger! /sarcasm

    Puh-lease. I have no idea what his position is.. but it doesn’t matter.

    The Mullahs are devoted to their program. Talking to them will just show how weak our side is.

  30. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu: This is probably my last response on the subject, but you continue to misunderstand my points. The issue was Obama’s initial statement about his willingness to meet as President with those leaders without preconditions, not his later tap-dancing and parsing. I agree that at this point Obama has changed his position so that it’s equivalent to McCain’s (not unusual for Obama, by the way).

    Also, for those who say who cares what Kissinger thinks: I don’t, especially. What I care about is that if Obama is going to use what Kissinger thinks as some sort of endorsement for Obama’s own position and not McCain’s, I care whether Obama is correct or just spinning Kissinger.

    Kissinger says Obama is just spinning Kissinger, and this post about the Woody Allen film was merely an attempt at offering an amusing perspective on how wonderful it would have been (since Kissinger agreed with McCain, it turns out) for McCain to have been able to pull Kissinger out of the audience, much as Allen did with McLuhan in the film. Period.

  31. Perfected democrat Says:

    If Iran gets it’s nukes, then Venezuela, as well as Syria, will not be far off, at least as client states. “We” talked our way into WWII, and we’re doing it again. This enemy is as relentless and ruthless as any could possibly be. We’ve not seen their most hideous face in this century only because they’ve not yet had the opportunity to show it on the level that they supported and participated in in WWII. Germany and Japan joined an enlightened future, but the communists and fundamentalist muslims nevery surrendered or changed their goals. We are embroiled in suicide by talk, and where not a day goes by in this world now when innocents somewhere aren’t murdered by someone or groups associated with the radical left, fundamentalist muslim alliance. Some strategic bombing and targeting of select “leaders” would go a long way toward calming the situation. If someone thinks some notion of “international law” should take precedence, I can only shake my head in disbelief. If America or Israel or Denmark experience their own Hiroshima, “international law” is going to sound very, very lame…

  32. strcpy Says:

    Mitsu: I read the quotes and you can quote them again all you want – still will not change the fact that I’m certain Kissinger had access too and read those same quotes – in fact Kissinger has direct access to the source and I’m fairly certain you do not. It still will not change the fact that if I were to choose which person (him or you) as to which to believe has the correct interpretation of Obama’s foreign policy platform I will go with him. Further it is clear that Kissinger said he doesn’t agree with Obama.

    Now, does that sway my opinion much? Nope, if anything I tend to side with the person Kissinger says is wrong. He isn’t one of the people that I think did a very good job – he mostly just rode on a few high profile successes and few payed attention to his long string of failures.

    However, that is a different thing than what was being argued. If you feel that your quote trumps everything Kissinger knows and that you are more informed on what the candidates believe about foreign policy then so be it. I may think Kissinger is wrong more often than not, but in no way would I call him ill-informed even to this day.

    Even more so that in order to get your interpretation out of them you have to wait until Wednesday at 4:31pm and stand under an oak tree and squint just right for it to mean just that – yea one can somewhat read what you want into them (Obama is quite good about saying nothing and allowing people to choose what they think he meant), but in this case those words were directed at a specific target audience *and* are consistent with his past voting record. Since all those are consistent with the direct reading of what Obama said, that view is consistent with the one Kissinger was commenting on, and with his general knowledge on this issue I’ll go with him and say Obama misrepresented what Kissinger believes.

    Feel free to give some more quotes and explain to me why they shouldn’t mean what they say. One day I may learn the correct squint for the words to be different.

  33. Mitsu Says:

    >The issue was Obama’s initial statement about his
    >willingness to meet *as President* with those leaders without
    >preconditions

    Okay, we’re obviously talking past each other at this point, but I’m just going to try to make clear what it is I am saying so at least we can agree about that which we disagree.

    What I am saying is that what you’re calling “subsequent parsing” is not parsing at all, but it was what Obama meant all along, from the very beginning. You think he’s changing what he meant, whereas I think it’s crystal clear that’s not the case. I vividly recall the debate you’re referring to (in fact, I recall you writing about it in your blog) and you may or may not remember, but at the time I said that what Obama meant was not “meet without any preliminary meetings or preparation” but rather “meeting without demanding the other side make a significant concession before talks even begin.” Note that that was my interpretation of Obama before Obama or his campaign issued any “parsing” of his remarks — it was obvious to me at the time what he was saying, and it is equally obvious to me that you, McCain, and many others simply misunderstood it.

    Again, it comes down to what “preconditions” means. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but this comes up a lot in diplomatic circles. I’ve long held the opinion that setting preconditions for talks is a bad idea. That’s what Obama is saying as well.

    You can believe what you like about what Obama meant — and you can say that what I am saying now is “subsequent parsing” — but you certainly should at least admit that it is *possible* for someone to interpret Obama as I am interpreting him, and in fact that this was how I interpreted his remarks in that debate from the very beginning.

    I mean, let’s get serious here: who would actually set up a summit meeting without ANY prior lower-level meetings at all? There has to be SOME preparation for such a meeting. The only question is, how much? At the time of the debate, Obama didn’t get into how much he would prepare, and I think it is a potentially legitimate criticism that he might not have prepared enough — but that’s mere speculation. But, to suggest he was saying we’d meet without any preparations at all is just absurd; it’s not what he said and I think it’s a plainly erroneous interpretation.

    strcpy: I don’t suggest you “trust” me over Kissinger, I suggest you simply read the plain text of the transcript, in which Obama very clearly says he is not talking about a summit meeting without lower-level meetings happening first. Read it yourself.

  34. strcpy Says:

    “I don’t suggest you “trust” me over Kissinger, I suggest you simply read the plain text of the transcript, in which Obama very clearly says he is not talking about a summit meeting without lower-level meetings happening first. Read it yourself.”

    I read and it isn’t clear – it is only so for those that really want him to mean “the right thing”. In those cases I defer to two things – one who he is talking too and the ones who have more in depth conversation with him. He tried to talk in such a way that people can apply what they want and people will and do so.

    In both cases they disagree highly with what you are saying. As such I do not believe it is some version of his superior intellect and technical jargon being misrepresented. You offer nothing to change that idea – only that *your* interpretation that is different from those he was addressing and those that are in the position to know such a thing is the Right One.

    You can, all you want, do so. Many do so still for Carter even though *everything* says otherwise. If Obama is elected then I suspect it will occur to an even greater extent. Heck, you can even point to thousand year old decisions and still find supporters that contradict both conventional wisdom and what really happened, especially true when it is important than one do so or loose their belief system.

  35. John in Oregon Says:

    Skipping over all the subsequent parsing and the subsequent subsequent parsing ad infinitum…I noticed that the gents over at American Thinker had the exact same observation about the Woody Allen scene…only two days later. Here’s the link:
    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/09/the_marshall_mcluhan_moment_in.html

    How coincidental is that?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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