Clinton and Obama themselves didn't exactly take the chance to elevate this into a scholarly colloquium themselves, did they? Instead we got Clinton calling Obama "naive" and "irresponsible," and Obama hitting back by accusing Clinton of endorsing a "Bush/Cheney lite" foreign policy. Enlightening stuff, no? Is it any wonder the press covered this as a food fight rather than a serious debate?
Well first of all, I think that "naive and irresponsible" and "Bush/Cheney lite" are actually fairly good distillations of the two candidates beliefs about their opponent's policy ideas.
But what's more, here's what Hillary Clinton said. In context, she provides a significant rationale for her position that, in fact, a year might not provide her with enough time to get the right diplomatic concessions from Chavez, Castro, et al, before she'd agree to meet in person to get yet more diplomatic concessions from them.
And here's what Barack Obama said, "I don't want more Bush-Cheney. I don't want Bush-Cheney lite. The times are over when talking tough or refusing to talk to your enemies is an emblem of toughness. We will meet and talk and discuss our values and our ideals, because our values and our ideals, when we're true to them, are ideas and values the entire world looks to."
What happened next is that, instead of reporting that the two leading Democratic candidates were actually having a rather important policy disagreement, the media reported that they were trading barbs with each other for political points. Moreover, they were wrong about the question of who "won" the barb trading. My hope is that, now that it looks as if Obama's point proved to be fairly popular with the public, the media will refocus its reporting--away from what the media incorrectly believed the political ramifications of Obama's position would be, and on to the merits of the dispute itself. Now, commence laughter.