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One of Barack Obama's offhand YouTube debate answers from last year—that he would meet "without precondition" with the leaders of Iran, Venezuela and North Korea—has stuck to him ever since. Obama, who isn't much for admitting mistakes (assuming this was one), claims he's talking about a foreign policy in the tradition of FDR, Truman, and other presidents people liked. Clinton, McCain, and now Bush claim he's an easily-led appeaser. Yesterday McCain used a conference call with bloggers to attack Obama: "What do you want to talk about with him? President Ahmadinejad's statement that Israel is a 'stinking corpse'? That they want to wipe Israel off the map? That they continue to supply these terrible, most lethal, explosive devices that are killing young Americans? What do you want to talk to him about?"

But it seems ex-Clintonite Jamie Rubin, who interviewed McCain two years ago, has him dead to rights.

Rubin rubs it in: "For some Europeans in Davos, Switzerland, where the interview took place, that's a perfectly reasonable answer. But it is an unusual if not unique response for an American politician from either party. And it is most certainly not how the newly conservative presumptive Republican nominee would reply today." But "conservative" isn't the right word for what McCain's doing. "Pandering," maybe. "Moronic swill that he doesn't believe." If McCain's going to cash this check, after all, he's going to… what? Break off all communications with Iran? If they're funding terrorism, and we don't talk to people who fund terrorism, wouldn't you have to? Is the most offensive thing about Iran is that its president called Israel a "stinking corpse?" You'd think so, given how much the campaign reiterates that… but I can hardly think of a stupider reason to break ties with a foreign power than "their leader made a threat he can't back up!"

Related, this clip from yesterday's Hardball, in which Chris Matthews de-bones a war-hungry talk show host, is good for five or six laughs.

MATTHEWS: You are talking about a critical point in American history, in European history, and you can't tell me what Neville Chamberlain did in Munich. What did he do in '39, '38?

JAMES: Chris, Chris, Chris, I wasn't the one that raised the Hitler comment. My point is—my point is, what President Bush has done is, he has taken this shot across the bow, all right?

MATTHEWS: You don't know what you're talking about, Kevin. You don't know what you're talking about.

JAMES: … know what I'm talking about.

MATTHEWS: Tell me what Chamberlain did wrong.

JAMES: Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, Chris. Neville Chamberlain…

MATTHEWS: What did he do?

JAMES: Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, all right?

MATTHEWS: What did he do?

JAMES: Neville Chamberlain, his—but his policies, the things that Neville Chamberlain supported, all right energized, legitimized…

MATTHEWS: Just tell me what he did.

JAMES: … energized, legitimized, and made it easier for Hitler to advance in the ways that he advanced.


MATTHEWS: I have been sitting here five minutes asking you to say what the president was referring to in 1938 at Munich.

JAMES: I don't know what the…

MATTHEWS: You don't know. Thank you.

You have to assume this spat is less about foreign policy principle and more about peeling 10 or 15 percent of the Jewish vote from Obama. Hey, what could be better for Israel than more empty threats and destabilizing regional wars?

Headline explained here.