From NBC's Mark Murray
In a conference call with reporters this morning, Barack Obama launched another volley in his spat with Hillary Clinton, equating her answer at Monday's debate -- saying she would NOT meet with world dictators without preconditions -- to the Bush Administration's current policy. The Bush Administration says "we're not talking to these countries unless they meet these preconditions. That is the explicit policy," Obama said during a Q&A session after announcing the endorsement he won from New Hampshire congressman Paul Hodes (D).
"You'll have to ask Sen. Clinton what differentiates her position from their position." He added that his answer at the debate -- that he WOULD be willing to meet with the leaders of Syria, Iran, etc. with preconditions -- "sends a message that we're willing to sit down and talk, and that increases over leverage and our capacity to get something done."
Responding to another question on the matter, Obama then referred to Clinton's 2002 war authorization vote. "It's a debate over the same conventional thinking that led people to authorize the war in Iraq without asking questions." He said that thinking was "talking tough and not acting very smart." He continued, "Part of what I believe we have to have is a willingness ... to talk tough, but be tough and smart enough to engage our enemies."
Clinton allies have disputed that Clinton's answer at the debate can be compared to the Bush Administration's foreign policy, noting that she has called for vigorous and robust diplomacy. But she doesn't think it makes any sense to pursue vigorous diplomacy without getting the most of it. You just can't promise to meet with leaders. There need to be conditions. There needs to be leverage.