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Obama Defends Foreign Policy, Attacks Bush, McCain

Yesterday Bush played the Nazi card, insinuating before the Israeli Parliament that Obama would negotiate with terrorist groups. Furor ensued.

Today Obama struck back.

"After almost eight years, I did not think I could be surprised by anything George Bush says, but I was wrong," Obama, avec flag pin, said.

"The president did something that presidents don’t do..that is launch a political attack targeted toward the domestic audience…in front of a foreign delegation."

Obama also went on offense, attacking Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for their foreign policy positions, which he called one and the same. "I want to be perfectly clear," he said, "if George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate I am happy to have any time, any place. And it is a debate that I will win."

Obama called his approach to foreign policy "tough diplomacy" and also said he never claimed he would negotiate with terrorist groups like Hamas.

A couple thoughts on this entire exchange: First, it is interesting how forcefully Bush, with his sub-30 point approval rating, can influence the presidential race. And there is no question he knew what he was doing. Second, the Obama camp clearly views the perception of Obama being weak in his support of Israel as a soft-spot. Consequently, Obama has been on a all out media tour to promote his support of Israel. (Obama has recently given interviews on Israel to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Republic’s Martin Peretz, and the New York Times’ David Brooks.)

Third, that being said, Bush’s remarks may actually be a gift for Obama since they shift the campaign narrative from his big loss in West Virginia and have unified the party behind him (even Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) criticized Bush), as MSNBC’s First Read noted.

Fourth, even so, does Obama want his campaign to be defined by his position on Israel? Bush certainly framed the campaign debate yesterday, it will be interesting to see how long this dialogue plays out.

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