Robert Novak

While on this attack, Obama rails against any responsive fire from McCain. He has lashed out against criticism of his declared willingness to sit down with Ahmadinejad and Cuba's Raul Castro. McCain's strategists are infuriated by prestigious political reporters and commentators whom they see supporting Obama's position. Time columnist Joe Klein turned up in Savannah, Ga., Monday for McCain's press conference, declaring that McCain had misrepresented Obama as proposing unconditional talks with the Iranian president. After asserting that "I've done some research" and "also checked with the Obama campaign," Klein said Obama "never mentioned Ahmadinejad directly by name. He did say he would negotiate with the leaders."

In fact, Obama has repeatedly been questioned specifically about Ahmadinejad. At a press conference in New York last September, Obama was asked whether he still would meet with Ahmadinejad. He replied: "Yeah ... I find many of President Ahmadinejad's statements odious. ... But we should never fear to negotiate." In November on NBC's "Meet the Press," he defended "a conversation with somebody like Ahmadinejad."

The debate over such "a conversation" was heightened by Bush's speech last week to the Israeli Knesset, suggesting "appeasement" by Obama. The White House has privately informed the McCain campaign it had no intention of leaping into presidential politics, but Obama's defensive response enabled him again to link McCain with Bush. Although the Republican candidate would like the unpopular president to get offstage politically, McCain is not about to run a campaign about health care mandates and home foreclosures.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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