In the fewer than four weeks since John Edwards bowed out of the presidential race--and yes, it's only been four weeks--I've been going back and forth on whether I lean Clinton or Obama, and generally giving Obama the edge based on one thing: foreign policy judgment. The war vote means a lot to me. Clinton has never repudiated that vote the way Edwards did, and Obama is even better on that issue.

But it's more than just that one vote that makes me lean toward Obama. It's his willingness to sit down and talk with people, without preconditions, that matters to me. I'm tired of the US being a belligerent nation, a bully that tells smaller nations what to do and how to do it, that threatens instead of communicates. The US is no longer a hyperpower, assuming it ever was in the first place, and our status as a superpower is dependent, in large part, on whether or not smaller nations are willing to deal with us.

"We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. "But we simply cannot legitimize rogue regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn't meet the real world test of foreign policy."

That sounds like the sort of thing that John McCain would say, or even George W. Bush (assuming that one has cleaned up the malapropisms), but that's Hillary Clinton. We don't legitimize rogue regimes? Seriously? This nation has a history of not only legitimizing rogue regimes, but putting them into place when we felt it served our interests. And after fifty years in power, Castro's rule is hardly rogue anymore. It's no more illegitimate than that of China (our trading partner) or Pakistan (ally in the "war on terror"), so explain to me again how refusing to talk to Raul Castro "doesn't meet the real world test of foreign policy."

Here's what Obama's campaign said about Cuba in particular:
Obama's campaign said Monday that Clinton "may agree with John McCain in supporting the status quo, but the fact is our Cuba policy has failed to advance American interests or freedom for the Cuban people for 50 years.

"Barack Obama's policy will be guided by the principle of liberty for the Cuban people, and he will pursue that goal through strong and direct diplomacy without preconditions, and unlimited family visitation and remittances to the island."
You know who that sounds like? Bill Clinton--the pragmatist, the man who said in a speech that if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging, not ask for another shovel. But Hillary Clinton keeps up the same belligerent stance toward nations that, frankly, should be our trading partners and allies by any reasonable definition.

One more thing on this, and then I'll let it go.
Clinton said Monday that if elected, "I will not be penciling in the leaders of Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or Cuba on the presidential calendar without preconditions, until we have assessed through lower-level diplomacy the motivations and intentions of these dictators."
This happens all the time, and it drives me crazy--one of those nations is not like the other. Yes, there are reasons to worry that Hugo Chavez wants to become a dictator, but the facts are these: he was elected in a monitored election, and when his recent reform requests were defeated, he accepted that defeat. He's not a dictator, and it's dishonest to lump him in with the likes of Ahmedinejad or Kim Jong Il.

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