The debate's Kissinger flap: Who was right?
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"Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who’s one of his advisers, who, along with five recent secretaries of state, just said that we should meet with Iran — guess what — without precondition," Obama said. "This is one of your own advisers."Skip to next paragraph
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McCain disputed that.
"Dr. Kissinger did not say that he would approve of face-to- face meetings between the president of the United States and the president — and Ahmadinejad. He did not say that," McCain stated.
Obama concurred. Then McCain began, as some pundits have called it, lecturing the Democratic nominee.
"What Senator Obama doesn’t seem to understand is that if without precondition you sit down across the table from someone who has called Israel a 'stinking corpse' and wants to destroy that country and wipe it off the map, you legitimize those comments," he said.
Not what I said
Obama protested, stating that McCain was mischaracterizing his position.
"Senator McCain keeps on using this example that suddenly the president would just meet with somebody without doing any preparation, without having low-level talks," he said. "Nobody’s been talking about that, and Senator McCain knows it."
Mix it up
Then, the two, much to moderator Jim Lehrer's seeming enjoyment, finally engaged each other.
MCCAIN: So let me get this right. We sit down with Ahmadinejad, and he says, “We’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,” and we say, “No, you’re not”? Oh, please.
OBAMA: No, let me tell…
MCCAIN: By the way, my friend, Dr. Kissinger, who’s been my friend for 35 years, would be interested to hear this conversation and Senator Obama’s depiction of his — of his positions on the issue. I’ve known him for 35 years.
OBAMA: We will take a look.
MCCAIN: And I guarantee you he would not — he would not say that presidential top level.
OBAMA: Nobody’s talking about that.
MCCAIN: Of course, he encourages and other people encourage contacts, and negotiations, and all other things. We do that all the time.
LEHRER: We’re going to go to a new…
MCCAIN: And Senator Obama is parsing words when he says precondition means preparation.
OBAMA: I am not parsing words.
MCCAIN: He’s parsing words, my friends.
OBAMA: I’m using the same words that your advisers use.
After the fire
It didn't end there of course. The Obama camp sent out a helpful email at 10:25 p.m., referencing an ABC News article stating that Kissinger "told an audience in Washington, DC ... that the US should negotiate with Iran 'without preconditions' and that the next President should begin such negotiations at a high level."
"Henry Kissinger believes Barack Obama misstated his views on diplomacy with US adversaries and is not happy about being mischaracterized," the email reads. "He says, 'Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next president of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain."
More to come
All clear now? If you think this exchange was interesting, just wait and see if Joe Biden and Sarah Palin broach the subject on Thursday night.
Here's betting this will be the most watched debate in the history of presidential politics.