John McCain’s campaign scheduled a media conference call immediately after Barack Obama’s appearance at AIPAC today to ensure that they got the last word on the AIPAC debate. If nothing else, it shows that McCain wants to wage an aggressive campaign for the general election, especially on national security and foreign policy.

Randy Schueneman (sp?) introduced Senator Joe Lieberman and Rep. Eric Cantor. Lieberman didn’t hear the speech but read the prepared remarks, and started off by congratulating Obama on his victory in the Democratic primaries. Lieberman found much to like in the speech, but noted that a lot seems to have changed in Obama’s estimation about Iran. Obama says now that Iran represents a “grave threat”, as I predicted, but just a couple of weeks ago dismissed Iran as a threat to the US. Lieberman also pointed out Obama’s opposition to Kyl-Lieberman, and wonders why Obama won’t admit now that his opposition to sanctions against the IRGC was a mistake.

Lieberman also disagrees that the Iraq war helped elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran has always been a radical state since its Islamist revolution in 1979 and has nothing to do with our actions in Iraq.

Cantor says that Obama gave a “nice speech”, but did nothing to dispel doubts on his position on Israel nor show him to have the character to stand in defense of Israel and the US alliance. McCain has been part of that defense for years; “it’s just in his DNA”.

Schueneman talked about Obama’s “distorted reality” in asserting that the presence of our troops in Iraq harms Israel’s security. He also pointed out that Obama agreed today that the IRGC is a terrorist force, but in September he took the opposition on Kyl-Lieberman. Obama also offered some preconditions to those unconditional talks, in essence flip-flopping on his stated policy — still on his website — that he would meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “without preconditions”. Schueneman noted that our EU partners do not want meetings without preconditions.

Questions:

  • USA Today – Does Team McCain expect foreign policy to be the primary issue for this campaign, or will it be economics? Schueneman says “that’s out of my lane”, but it will be a big part of the campaign. McCain will be “eager” to address all topics.
  • Fox News – Obama criticized the policy of “subcontracting” the Iranian talks, saying that we won’t succeed until we take over leadership on the talks. Is the multilateral approach under European leadership still viable? — Cantor answers that Iran is a “severe and radical” government that scoffs at international law. The entire world needs to be engaged in isolating this regime to force it to adhere to international norms, especially on terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Schueneman says that Obama is disparaging our European partners; McCain values them. Schueneman says Obama wants to conduct “cowboy summitry”.
  • Obama complained about McCain’s lack of support on a divestment bill, which has gone nowhere — Obama should talk to the Senate Democratic leadership to find out what’s happening with the bill, and Schueneman denies that McCain has a hold on the bill. If Obama has that much concern, he should hold a meeting of his subcommittee to highlight the bill and force it past Harry Reid to the floor. Cantor says that Obama’s speech does nothing to dispel doubts about Obama’s commitment to Israel security.