At Monday's debate, Sen. Barack Obama tried to give a broad answer to a specific question.
In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, 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, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?
Obama's first words were, "I would." But, he was responding to the broader question of whether he would talk to these folks at all, not talks over tea. This idea of diplomacy isn't Obama's alone — it's shared by the other Democratic candidates. But Hillary Clinton scored a point with her quick clarification of Obama's point — noting that any diplomacy would have to go through the grinder of lower level talks.
Now, Obama is trying to turn the argument around, accusing Hillary of extending the isolationist policies of the Bush administration — something the GOP candidates wouldn't even want to be be accused of. In the end, I think the argument hurts Obama more than Clinton. After all, she basically said she would speak to the same folks, she just added the point that she wouldn't be made a fool of.
Leave it to Sen. Chris Dodd (who can almost be considered an unbiased third party, considering the mountain his presidential campaign would have to climb to get to the Clinton-Obama plateau) to wrap this up.
"Diplomacy is essential both to repair our nation's fractured world relationships and move forward with a more global perspective to our foreign policy. However, there are some leaders - like Iran's Ahmadinejad, who denies the Holocaust ever took place - which cannot and should not be diplomatically rewarded with visits from the American president."
That's roughly translated to Hillary: 1; Barack: 0
"Unfortunately, this false debate, which has now lingered for days, has become just another personal argument among politicians and that's lamentable given the stakes in this election. There is nothing new about this kind of politics and it certainly doesn't demonstrate a readiness to lead the nation when our reputation around the world is in tatters."