April 17, 2008
Obama's Debate Mussitations on Iran
A mussitation is a low continuous indistinct sound sometimes accompanied by lip movement without the production of articulate speech. Obama mussitated last night in an exchange concerning Iran and nuclear weapons.
The criticism of ABC's handling of the Democratic debate in Philadelphia last night is starting to roll in from the MSM. For example, this morning Washington Post columnist Tom Shales accused accused Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of turning in "shoddy, despicable performances." Here's a sample of the tone of Shale's piece:
"Gibson sat there peering down at the candidates over glasses perched on the end of his nose, looking prosecutorial and at times portraying himself as a spokesman for the working class. Blunderingly he addressed an early question, about whether each would be willing to serve as the other's running mate, ‘to both of you,' which is simple ineptitude or bad manners. It was his job to indicate which candidate should answer first.
"The boyish Stephanopoulos...looked like an overly ambitious intern helping out at a subcommittee hearing, digging through notes for something smart-alecky and slimy."
When the columnist of a major newspaper resorts to ad hominem arguments to offer a critique of media colleagues, you know he's mad about something. Eventually, Shales reveals why he's angry.
"To this observer, ABC's coverage seemed slanted against Obama."
So Shales had a dog in the fight. His dog got bloodied. He blames the moderators. But Obama bears responsibility for his poorest debate performance to date. That's particularly clear when you examine Obama's response to a question about Iran. (emphasis added)
"MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, let's stay in the region. Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States. Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, our first step should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians, and that has to be one of our top priorities. And I will make it one of our top priorities when I'm president of the United States.
I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearly for them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not only development of nuclear weapons but also funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israel rhetoric and threats towards Israel. I believe that we can offer them carrots and sticks, but we've got to directly engage and make absolutely clear to them what our posture is.
Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region. (Not hearing an answer, Stephanopoulos tries again.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?
SENATOR OBAMA: As I've said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we -- one whose security we consider paramount, and that -- that would be an act of aggression that we -- that I would -- that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action."
(Note the heavy-duty mussitation in that response.)
The question was, "Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?" Obama's answer was,
"...I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons."
That's not an answer to the question. Obama emphasized direct talks with the Iranians and the Dumb Donkey Strategy - carrots and sticks. But, on a table full of unlimited options, doing nothing remains an option. He also said,
"I would consider an attack [against Israel as] unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action."
It's a relief to hear that he wouldn't take inappropriate action. Can't have that. But his response begs this question: How can he make "absolutely clear" to the Iranians what our "posture" is if he can't make it clear to us?
Twenty-eight years ago this week, Castro initiated the Mariel Boatlift that eventually brought 125,000 Cubans, some fresh from prison, to the U.S. President Carter said that was "unacceptable." He, too, speaks Mussitatian. When translated into English it means: I don't like it, but I can't or won't do anything about it.
Obama's response to the Iran question last night was, well, it was unacceptable.