In an exclusive on-camera interview yesterday with NBC, Obama escalated his criticism of Clinton. "I think what is irresponsible and naive is to have authorized a war without asking how we were going to get out -- and you know I think Senator Clinton hasn't fully answered that issue.The general principle that I was laying out is that we should not be afraid as America to meet with anybody." More: "Now, they may not like what we want to hear -- so if I'm talking to the President of Iran, I'm going to inform him that Israel is our stalwart ally, and we are going to do what's necessary to protect them -- that we will not accept a nuclear bomb in Iran, but that doesn't mean we can't say that face to face. And obviously, the diplomatic spadework has to be done ahead of time. The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous."
The Clinton campaign released this statement from former Clinton Administration UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke: "As she has said many times, Senator Clinton believes we need to engage in vigorous diplomacy after the cowboy approach of the Bush years. She has said she would initiate serious, responsible dialogue with nations with whom we don't agree in order to further the national security interest of the United States. But she is right not to risk the prestige of the presidency by unconditionally committing to meet with leaders of adversarial nations."
The New York Times Caucus blog reports on Obama's comments yesterday: "Having a presidential candidate actually make such a charge against another on camera lends it more weight than it carries in print. It shows the candidate is willing to stand behind his remarks. And it can be much more compelling."
The Washington Post notes that Richardson said he'd meet with rogue leaders, and that Bill Clinton even "met with both Hafez Assad of Syria and President-elect Hugo Chavez of Venezuela while he was in office. But Phil Singer, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said on Wednesday: 'Bill Clinton never agreed to meet with rogue leaders without preconditions his first year in office.'"
The AP provides us with the context: "Obama's comment about meeting with foreign foes came in response to a question in a Democratic presidential debate Monday night. The Clinton campaign immediately highlighted his statement as evidence that he doesn't have the foreign policy skills to be president. 'I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive,' she told the Quad-City Times of Iowa."
And the Politico's Simon takes a deeper look at the spat.