Our good friend Tom suggested a post about the responses of Obama and McCain to a question in last night’s debate about their reaction as President if Iran were to attack Israel. Here’s the text:

Q. Senator, as a retired Navy chief, my thoughts are often with those who serve our country. I know both candidates — both of you expressed support for Israel. If, despite your best diplomatic efforts, Iran attacks Israel, would you be willing to commit U.S. troops in support and defense of Israel? Or would you wait on approval from the U.N. Security Council?

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, thank you, Terry, and thank you for your service to the country.

I want to say, everything I ever learned about leadership I learned from a chief petty officer. And I thank you. And I thank you, my friend. Thanks for serving. Let, let, let me say that we obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council. I think the realities are that both Russia and China would probably pose significant obstacles. And our challenge right now is, the Iranians continue on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons. And it’s a great threat. It’s not just a great threat to the state of Israel. It’s a threat to the stability of the entire Middle East. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, all the other countries will acquire them too. The tensions will be ratcheted up. What would you do if you were the Israelis, and the president of a country says that they are, they are determined to wipe you off the map; calls your country a stinking corpse? Now, Senator Obama, without precondition, wants to sit down and negotiate with them, without preconditions. That’s what he stated, again, a matter of record. I want to make sure that the Iranians are put enough — that we put enough pressure on the Iranians by joining with our allies, imposing significant, tough sanctions to modify their behavior. And I think we can do that. I think joining with our allies and friends, in a league of democracies, that we can effectively abridge their behavior.

And hopefully they would abandon this quest that they are on for nuclear weapons. But at the end of the day, my friend, I have to tell you again — and you know what it’s like to serve and you know what it’s like to sacrifice — but we can never allow a second Holocaust to take place.

MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, Terry, first of all, we honor your service, and — and we’re grateful for it. We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. So it’s unacceptable, and I will do everything that’s required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table. And it is important that we don’t provide veto power to the United Nations or anyone else in acting in our interests. It is important, though, for us to use all the tools at our disposal to prevent the scenario where we’ve got to make those kinds of choices. And that’s why I have consistently said that if we can work more effectively with other countries diplomatically to tighten sanctions on Iran, if we can reduce our energy consumption through alternative energy so that Iran has less money, if we can impose the kinds of sanctions that — say, for example, Iran right now imports gasoline even though it’s an oil producer because its oil infrastructure has broken down.

If we can prevent them from importing the gasoline that they need, and the refined petroleum products, that starts changing their cost benefit analysis, that starts putting the squeeze on them. Now, it is true, though, that I believe that we should have direct talks not just with our friends but also with our enemies, to deliver a tough, direct message to Iran that if you don’t change your behavior, then there will be dire consequences. If you do change your behavior, then it is possible for you to re-join the community of nations. Now, it may not work, but one of things we’ve learned is that when we take that approach — whether it’s in North Korea or in Iran, then we have a better chance at better outcomes. When President Bush decided we’re not going to talk to Iran, we’re not going to talk to North Korea, you know what happened? Iran went from zero centrifuges to develop nuclear weapons to 4,000. North Korea quadrupled its nuclear capability. We’ve got to try to have talks understanding that we’re not taking military options off the table

Tom is obviously a better parser of words than I which is why he believes there’s a difference between the two candidates on this issue. I don’t really see it.

I guess when McCain says he can’t allow a second Holocaust to happen, he means that he would use military force to protect Israel. But that seems to be rhetoric geared for voters who care, not a commitment to fight Iran if Israel is attacked. Obama never says anything of the like, so he may be a little more honest than McCain on this issue.

However, both candidates speak about sanctions with Obama favoring some sort of bilateral talks with “our enemies” versus McCain’s “pressure on the Iranians by joining with our allies…imposing significant, tough sanctions to modify their behavior.” So pressure without talks versus talks with milder pressure.


Well, neither endorsed military support for Israel. Neither said they would go to war. McCain’s language on never allowing another Holocaust seem like pablum to satisfy naive hearts, but doesn’t encourage faith that he would actually do something when push comes to shove. On the other hand, Obama wants to be friendly and talk. As if that would change the intentions of a regime that intends to see Israel erased off the map and not simply buy them more time.

So it’s empty, vague threat guy versus naive appeasement guy.

Both answers suck.

To be fair, it’s a virtually impossible situation if your country’s military is already engaged in two other wars.

Let’s hope that these vaunted “tough” sanctions actually work. And let’s hope that a President Obama, if that is who we have in the WH in a few months, won’t waste so much time on “talks” that the Iranians laugh all the way to the centrifuge bank.

I’d say, as of right now: Iran 2 Israel 0.

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  • I’ll take the words about military action from a war hero than from an empty political suit with no track record and a host of anti-American and anti-Israel friends and associates any day. But that’s me, and I think the logical deduction. By the way, this statement from McCain was very encouraging:

    “Let, let, let me say that we obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council.”

    I was actually waiting for Barack to say, “Well…. obviously, I would consult with my 300 foreign policy advisers naturally…”

    What I find amusing is how Obama changes his position on practically everything or introduces nuances so that you can’t nail him down on anything he says. Personally, I think this is typical political pandering which looks twice as shady from a guy who is supposed to be the model for ” the new politician”.

    Just a quick list:

    Split Jerusalem
    Nuclear Energy
    “Un-Conditional” Talks with Iran
    Knowledge of Ayers’ Past

    And the most egregious 180 from last night’s debate: Interventionism in case of Genocide

    Barack is 100% against the Iraq War (we get it), and against the Surge (why should he change his opinion when most of his supporters can’t admit it worked either?), but was there not, in fact, Genocide committed by Saddam against the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs? If Barack is Gung Ho (all of the sudden) about American Interventionism to prevent or stop Genocide, then why is he still against the War in Iraq? When’s the last time any of you have even heard of any “Grim Body Count Watch” reports coming from the MSM anyway? Is stopping the war (or what we call surrendering) THAT important to you guys still.

    What’s interesting from last night’s debate, is McCain speaking of hope and multilateralism and Obama speaking about doom/gloom and unilateralism, especially in cases of Russia and Pakistan. Are you guys sure you are voting for the correct Lefty?

  • Um, Alex, you may not have noticed but while Obama has “300 foreign policy advisers” (because go-it-alone-who-needs-advisors-let’s-fire-the-ones-who-don’t-say-what-we-want-them-to-say improvised false-pretext wars a la the Cheney/Bush Iraq debacle are really great stuff), McCain keeps harping about Petraeus (sp?) as if he’s the rebirth of Jesus.

    As for changing positions, it’s hilarious to watch John McCain talk about massive government intervention in the markets. It’s especially interesting watching him try to look assertive after last week’s flip flop with the debate attendance story and the bailout bill visit to DC.

    What’s also funny is watching you twist yourself in all kinds of knots trying to retroactively justify the Iraq War on the basis of genocide when Hussein’s actions against the Kurds took place years earlier.

    Oh, and by the way, one doesn’t need to surrender or stop wars that one hasn’t begun. McCain, one of the people who dug this hole for all of us, is now trying to claim that he has superior judgement in matters of security. Rest assured, Alex, that the US would be FAR MORE SECURE if we were not at war in Iraq. A war McCain supported with gusto.

  • Without even having read the post yet – which is, I’m sure, a good post and one that I will enjoy reading very shortly, I hereby announce my recusal from responding to it for the moment on the following grounds:

    1. I may make some strong points in contention to what is stated in the post, or I may largely agree with others but disagree with them or others on matters of degree or relevance. These subtleties will likely go unappreciated.

    2. Regardless of the intellectually unobjectionable nature of point 1, it may be asserted that everything I state has occurred on account of some type of bizarre romantic attraction to Obama, regardless of whether or not my points are actually addressed.

    3. If Point 2 doesn’t occur, I will surely arouse the consternation of an un-named someone who will accuse me of not being intelligent while simultaneously, and incredibly hypocritically, accusing me of calling others unintelligent – regardless of whether or not I have actually done that. There will also be some irrelevent grammatical observations thrown out there that have nothing to do with either the post or anything that I or others have brought up in relation to it, although this action will ostensibly bear no relation to the first part of this point.

    Until then, have fun!

  • Sadly, neither candidate is willing to go out on a limb and stand with Israel now. Their answers both are lousy in my book, maybe McCain’s less so. McCain at least spoke about the Security Council in the first paragraph of his response.

    Instead of saying we will stand with Israel in Defense of Democracy, they both tried to score points on other matters.

    I cannot tell if this McCainism “but we can never allow a second Holocaust to take place.” is related to the Iranian nuke program or defending Israel in time of attack.

    Thanks for posting this TM

  • Thanks, Middle, and best wishes for the holiday.

    McCain’s rhetoric about not allowing a second Holocaust to take place seems pretty clear to me, though it’s true he stops short of promising military action. In that regard, it may be relevant that he criticized Obama for being too explicit about (allegedly) having threatening to attack Pakistan.

    McCain speaks of significantly increasing pressure on Iran to coerce changes in its behavior. Not a lot of wiggle room there, that’s clear enough.

    Obama talks about a combination of carrots and sticks. It’s interesting he refers to No. Korea, which he believes was a Bush failure, at least early in Bush’s term. He implies that No. Korea and Iran expand their programs because we fail to put before them positive incentives and not just threats.

    I think the carrot approach has to date failed with Kim Jong Il, and puts the US at risk of being played– indeed, that seems to have happened, as the North appears unwilling to part with weapons that continue to leverage American goodies. If we take Obama at his word, he’ll paint a bright vista of such goodies for Ahmadinejad rather than go right to coercion. Does time permit that approach? And is it likely to succeed, given all we know about the Iranian regime?

  • Nice opinions TM, for that’s all what they really are. I have them too. I also support your right to have an opinion no matter how wrong it is. I feel sad that you are in a hole. I am not. I’d also like to add that we have not been attacked on our soil since 911. I’m sure your precious Messiah has done a lot for that to happen.

  • MUL, please don’t cry. You sound like the Democrats that have been threatening critics of Obama with lawsuits and the Fairness Act and like those that cried when SNL decided to blame someone other than Bush for the financial crisis and tried to have THAT skit pulled. Either post and deal with annoying people (I put up with you after all) or don’t. But don’t cry like a little girl about it. Geez. Grow some balls.

  • Who said I’m crying? Who said I don’t have balls? I mean, I think that in the spirit of the holiday, we should all be trying to not be hurtful to each other, and I don’t think I have been – at least not intentionally. I can certainly put up with criticism of my comments; I’ve put up with your criticism of my comments, and I’ve tried to maintain a sense of humor about it.

    But if others (not you) are going to refrain from addressing the relevant portions of what I say, accuse me of just wanting to sound intelligent (and I honestly don’t care whether or not I sound intelligent. I welcome disagreement from others whom I find more intelligent than me and/or who have a stronger point to make than I do), while hypocritically calling me a half-wit, then that’s an interaction I’d prefer to avoid. Not because I feel upset about it for my sake, but because then it becomes obvious that someone else is becoming way too upset about what I have to say. And I don’t want to be a part of that, especially during Yom Kippur – regardless of what they claim regarding the interaction. It is obvious that it is upsetting to them or at least poses the potential to be upsetting to them – and I’m a better person than to desire a way to profit off that in any sense of the word.

    So in that spirit, we can debate anything here, Alex. I’m pretty sure that it won’t upset you (at least not in a destructive way), but I want to take it easy around the holiday for the sake of everyone. So, L’Shana Tova to you and everyone, and Gmar hatima tova to everyone, and let’s look forward to getting back into this come sundown tomorrow so that I can contribute, once AGAIN, to vastly increasing Middle’s comment count, as he suggests. 😉

  • Wow, this is a first. I actually agree with MUL for once. A Cease-fire for Yom Kippur, now that’s something I can get behind. G’mar hatima tova eveyone.

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