COMMENTS: Arguing About Iran but not Hamas

After a focus on that earthquake in China all this week and on that cyclone in Myanmar for most of last week, President George Bush managed to reset the news agenda towards US foreign policy. NBC led Thursday with the President's diplomacy in Israel, when he denounced negotiations with "the terrorists and radicals" as tantamount to appeasement. Friday, ABC and NBC followed up with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the next stop on Bush's regional tour. CBS selected the response by Presidential candidate Barack Obama to Bush's Knesset speech: "The American people have had enough of the division and the bluster. Both Bush and McCain represent the failed foreign policy and fearmongering of the past." Obama's speech--and the retort it provoked from Republican John McCain--was the Story of the Day.

Obama's speech "was one of the most pugnacious" Obama has given, CBS' Dean Reynolds reckoned. The candidate argued that the President, whose policies he paired with those of McCain, was "without answers for the Iraq War or the resurgence of Iran and the terrorist groups al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah." NBC's Lee Cowan saw Obama try to shift the debate away from his declared intention to initiate talks with Teheran to McCain and Hamas. Cowan quoted Obama thus: "McCain has repeated this notion that I am prepared to negotiate with terrorists. I have never said that. I have been adamant about not negotiating with Hamas."

To complicate things, video from Sky News from 2006 appeared in which McCain appeared, himself, to envision negotiations with Hamas. ABC's David Wright (embargoed link) played the soundbite--"They are the government and sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them in one way or another"--before explaining that the "sooner or later" referred to Hamas' renunciation of violence and recognition of the state of Israel. When it comes to "this narrow issue" of US diplomacy with Hamas, ABC's Wright concluded, "all three men," referring to Bush and Obama and McCain, "have the same position." So that leaves a genuine disagreement just about Iran.


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