Obama’s Iraq Trip: Political Quagmire?

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John McCain is making hay of Barack Obama not having been to Iraq since 2006, when the Democrat made his only visit. (Can you blame him? It's last on our list of places to go.) There's even a clock on the RNC's Website counting the number of days since that trip. McCain has offered to travel with Obama to Iraq and show him around, since McCain been there so many times, but while Obama declined, saying he's planning his own visit, he's been forced into a defensive posture anyhow. Meanwhile, Obama is facing scrutiny over his aspirations to personally meet with leaders of evildoing countries. The general election is (almost) in full swing!

• Joe Klein thinks McCain has "half a point" that Obama could learn something from visiting Iraq. On the other hand, McCain was wrong on Iraq from the beginning, has been a biased cheerleader for the surge, and has used some of his own Iraq trips as "promotional gimmicks," like when he took that lovely stroll through a Baghdad market. Obama should visit Iraq and "come away with a greater sense of humility" than McCain. [Swampland/Time]

• Maeve Reston and Scott Martelle write that McCain challenged Obama on Iraq "with evident condescension," in an attack that fits into the narrative the Republican nominee is trying to create for Obama — "too young and inexperienced to lead the nation." [LAT]

• Chuck Todd and friends wonder if McCain has "boxed in" Obama on visiting Iraq, because if Obama does go, it could "look like McCain's idea." The Iraq line of attack helps McCain by moving the conversation to McCain's home turf of foreign policy and makes him look experienced. But it could also hurt him by dredging up old video of that Baghdad market stroll, as well as providing Obama a real "commander-in-chief moment" if he does go. [First Read/MSNBC]

• Jennifer Rubin looks at a potential Obama visit to Iraq from both sides: McCain hopes it will demonstrate a "divergence" between Obama's sour position on Iraq and the improvements made on the ground. Obama would hope to silence doubts about his credibility on national security and show he's willing to meet with the troops and commanders in Iraq. But, overall, having McCain essentially shaming Obama into going would put McCain in control and give him "the upper hand." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny examine the challenge Obama faces on his willingness to meet with foreign leaders. While Obama views the issue as "a winner," he'll face accusations that he's shifting his position as he tries to "add nuance" to his argument. Since a debate last summer when he explicitly said that he would meet the leaders of unfriendly nations without preconditions, Obama and his campaign has been trying to clarify precisely what he means and have drawn distinctions between "preconditions" and "preparations." [NYT]

• Jake Tapper implies voters should be forgiven if they're unable to follow Obama's views on the topics and notes that, though Obama said yesterday there's no reason he would necessarily meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he gave the impression that he would in September 2007. [Political Punch/ABC News]

• Kevin Drum puzzles over why nobody cares about McCain's own Iranian diplomacy gaffe. On Tuesday, McCain contended that we've talked to Iran for two decades without success, which isn't true, since it's been America's policy since 1980 to not talk to Iran. Being wrong about our history with Iran should be receiving a lot more attention than, say, Obama's Auschwitz gaffe. [Political Animal/Washington Monthly] —Dan Amira

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.