I just got off a media conference call with Barack Obama in which he addressed the subject of his burgeoning foreign policy debate with Hillary Clinton.
Asked whether his personal life experience gives him an advantage over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards when it comes to formulating foreign policy, he said, “At this point it is not just about life experience, though that informs my perspective.” The important thing, he said, is how that perspective informs “how the United States should present its interests and ideals around the world.”
Obama also went back to the original argument which started during this week’s YouTube/CNN debate, in which he was criticized by Hillary Clinton for saying that he would be willing to talk to international dictators.
“I think it is a debate over the same conventional thinking that led people to authorize the vote over Iraq without asking questions,” he said. He compared this with a different line of thinking that “asks questions and is not informed by a lot of received wisdom.”
(Shades of Howard Dean's argument in 2004 about John Kerry's vast Senate experience and Kerry's vote, later lamented, to authorize the war.)
Obama did say that he agreed with Clinton’s position on whether America should commit ground troops to Darfur. “It is absolutely true that given what is going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is difficult for us to mount the kind of troop strength that would be necessary,” he said. “But more important, it would be disastrous for even our policy in Darfur to send U.S. troops unilaterally into another Muslim country. It’s very important for the sake of our success there that it’s done as part of an international effort.”