Aijaz Ahmad examines the Democratic campaign and debate (1 of 2)
AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: The Obama-Clinton debate of January 31 was something of a watershed during the presidential campaign of this year. Most contenders for the Democratic Party nomination had by now quit the field, and the two major ones, Obama and Clinton, were now face to face. The tone on the part of both of them was so amiable, the compliments that each paid to the other were so profuse, that one was not quite sure that one was actually watching a debate. However, the format itself, the pressure of Super Tuesday, and simply the fact that just the two of them were there debating the issues made it imperative for both of them to state more or less clearly where they stood on the principal issues that were posed to them: the issue of health care, the issue of immigration, and the issue of foreign policy. What was very striking was that Obama, who has often been criticized for dealing in generalities and inspirational speech-making rather than the specifics of policy, turned out to be far more specific, and it was Hillary Clinton who seemed to be now trading in generalities. The most interesting and the most significant differences between the two of them came out in foreign policy, specifically on the issue of Iran, the issue of negotiating or not negotiating with Iran, and the issue of a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. And that is where the sharpest differences now came. Obama is very well-known for holding the position that differences with Iran have to be dealt with diplomatically and through negotiations. Clinton very early in the debate made an extraordinary statement. She said that the president of the United States should not be staking the prestige of the presidency in meeting without conditions any of the five main dictators in the world. She didn’t say who these five main dictators were, nor did she quite specify who precisely in Iran is the dictator. Is it Ahmadinejad, who’s merely a prime minister? Or the supreme leader, who is in fact in charge of the foreign policy in Iran? And in saying that you should not meet without conditions, she is implicitly endorsing the Bush administration’s position that negotiations can take place with Iran on condition that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment program first. Obama came back strongly upholding his position, cited the recent National Intelligence Estimate, and said that Iran’s behavior would indeed change if the US were to offer it a combination of carrots and sticks, that is to say, certain concessions alongside whatever pressure is being put, and he said this is the way to go, without risking billions of dollars in cash, lives perhaps of American soldiers, and even the reputation of the country—a clear-cut position in favor of negotiations and in favor of making certain concessions.
(SUBTEXT ON SCREEN)
Watch Part Two
the sharpest difference
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.