Yesterday’s speech by Barack Obama to AIPAC, the American Israel lobby, drew critical responses from a diverse group: Hamas, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, and Joe Lieberman (remember the old Sesame Street game, “Which of these is not like the other?”). McCain supporter Lieberman in particular took umbrage with Obama’s position on Iran, which along with “diplomacy” in general, is likely to be a major issue throughout the general election, especially since foreign policy is clearly where McCain feels he’s stronger than Obama. Of course, the punditry is divided over whether that’s actually the case.
• John Bolton writes that Obama’s willingness to meet with rogue leaders without preconditions is a “a naive and dangerous approach to dealing with the hard men who run pariah states.” The most naïve belief is that it’s “actually U.S. policy that motivates Iran rather than Iran’s own perceived ambitions and interests.” [LAT]
• Fred Kaplan contends that a presidential visit doesn’t carry the same weight or value as it did, say, during the Cold War. Obama’s willingness to meet with rogue leaders reflects “a more instinctive understanding of the post-Cold War world than either of his opponents seem to possess.” [Slate]
• Jonathan Schanzer thinks that though the “notion of a productive meeting with Iranian leaders is fantasy,” the debate is important because it reveals the candidates’ knowledge of Iranian government and power, specifically, how those who support engagement “fail to understand the realities in Iran.” [Weekly Standard]
• Mark Halperin, in a list of things McCain underestimates, warns of how “little most Americans care about foreign policy (beyond the Iraq War) when the economy is in the tank.” [Page/Time]
• Jonathan Karl writes that in front of AIPAC yesterday, Obama sounded as hawkish as the Bush administration and that the senator’s position on Iran “has been evolving for some time.” [ABC News]
• David Alexander reports that Obama’s problem of being “ridiculed, criticized and generally harassed” for being favored by Hamas might have disappeared after his AIPAC speech, as Hamas has now “unendorsed” him. [Tales From the Trail/Reuters]
• Jake Tapper notes Hamas never really “endorsed” Obama, but regardless it now sees Obama and McCain as interchangeable. Members of Hamas weren’t the only ones upset with Obama’s AIPAC speech, as Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat criticized Obama’s support for an “undivided” Jerusalem. [Political Punch/ABC News]
• Sam Stein says that Joe Lieberman’s attack on Obama’s Israel stance following the AIPAC address “fit into a traditional GOP rallying cry, that the Democrats have a blame-America-first mentality,” even though “most objective metrics indicate that Iran has, in fact, been strengthened by America’s involvement in Iraq.” He also relays a Roll Call report (which is behind a registration wall) reporting that Obama cornered Lieberman in the Senate and using “forceful, but not angry, hand gestures … appeared to be trying to dominate the conversation.” [HuffPo] —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.