5 sep. 2008

Palin reeled off a few statements that had a nice cadence, but were light on facts.

America needs more energy; our opponent is against producing it. Victory in Iraq is finally in sight, and he wants to forfeit. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay; he wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he's worried that someone won't read them their rights.

We have factual problems with three of these statements.

* Obama's not against producing more energy. In fact, he's not even against drilling for oil any more, within limits. He has a $150 billion clean energy program and says that he wants to develop clean coal technology, advance the next generation of biofuels, prioritize construction of the Alaska gas pipeline (surely a measure Palin agrees with) and take a host of other steps to both conserve energy and produce it, in various forms.

* If Obama's comments about meeting with "terrorist states" are worthy of ridicule, then perhaps so are those of the Bush administration and other Republicans. Obama made his first statement on this in an answer to a video question at a Democratic debate last year, when he said "I would" when asked whether he'd meet "separately, without precondition" in his first year with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Reagan, JFK and other presidents had spoken to the Soviet Union regularly, he noted.

In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in June, Obama elaborated, saying that he would take an aggressive diplomatic approach – carefully preparing for such meetings, setting a clear agenda, coordinating with U.S. allies, and not conducting the meetings at all unless they were clearly in the U.S. interest. He also stressed he would "do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

In recent months, the Bush Administration has been more open to beginning a dialogue with the same nations that it once referred to as the “axis of evil.” In July, the president sent a high-level official to Geneva to sit in on nuclear talks with Iran and authorized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to speak with North Korean diplomats about ending that country’s nuclear weapons program. Reports in the Washington Post and the New York Times noted the stark contrast between the administration’s current position about meeting with “foes” and its attitude several years ago.

Further, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in May that we should "sit down and talk" with Iran. So did former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in March. As did Sen. Dick Lugar, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as far back as 2006.

* Obama isn't worried, as Palin said, "that someone won't read them their rights" when it comes to suspected terrorists who are detained by the U.S. He does, however, support the right of detainees to challenge their imprisonment in federal court. That's the same position the Supreme Court took in June in a case called Boumediene v. Bush.