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Debbie Stabenow Gets It Right On Iran

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Iran's missile launch has helped to renew a focus on foreign policy in the Presidential campaign diminished by economic issues. As a result, the competing policies of Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have been put into stark contrast. McCain responded to Iran's missile launch with the following statement:

Their behavior is obviously, has obviously, not changed, and their behavior is more and more threatening to the existence of the state of Israel, but far more as important as that, leading to a conflict in the Middle East which could draw the United States of America into that conflict and put brave young Americans' lives at risk.

Of course, it would be imprudent of McCain to point out the obvious: that Iran's increasing bellicosity is the natural and predictable outcome of the Bush administration's policies - which McCain wants to continue, despite the fact that they have hardly aided in avoiding "conflict" or taking "brave young Americans" out of harm's way. The Democrats should not assume that this will be a debate they can avoid, and they will have to counter the GOP's attempts to, as Matt Yglesias puts it, "spin the continuing failure of their approach to the region as evidence of their own correctness."

Serving that end today is Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, who was shown McCain's statement by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC this afternoon. Stabenow's response, defending Barack Obama's contention that only a change in policy will reverse the negative trend in Middle East tensions, managed to hit all the right notes:

Well, actually, I say, no. A very strong no. Because, first of all, we've seen the relationship with Iran only get worse in the last eight years under the Bush/McCain policies. Eight years ago there were zero centrifuges, today there are 3,000 centrifuges. What we have seen is Iran being the biggest beneficiary from the war in Iraq, and policies that have gotten us to this point over the last eight years. I don't know how John McCain can argue that more of the same is going to make us safer. So, I believe very strongly that Barack Obama's focus on aggressive diplomacy, a focus on Iran as well as ending the war in Iraq, combining those two things, turning our focus to Iran, that is very serious threat, is a much better approach than what we've seen the last eight years.

[As a side note, the media has, obviously, been all atwitter with alarm over these missile tests, but it sort of makes you wonder how seriously they take the story when an anchor shifts, after a single question on the matter, to that other tremendous threat to the Republic, the Clinton debt.]

[WATCH]

MITCHELL: Joining me now, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat from Michigan and originally a Clinton supporter, now supporting Barack Obama. Good to see you.

STABENOW: Good to see you.

MITCHELL: First of all, here we have this Iranian missile test, which certainly throws a lot of issues up between John McCain. And listen to what McCain had to say during a press conference in Pittsburgh today --

MCCAIN: Their behavior is obviously, has obviously, not changed, and their behavior is more and more threatening to the existence of the state of Israel, but far more as important as that, leading to a conflict in the Middle East which could draw the United States of America into that conflict and put brave young Americans' lives at risk.

MITCHELL: The Republicans are going to say that Barack Obama has been too soft on Iran in talking about negotiating with Iran, without preconditions. Does actions such as Iran's set the whole campaign on edge and make it tougher for someone with less foreign policy experience?

STABENOW: Well, actually, I say, no. A very strong no. Because, first of all, we've seen the relationship with Iran only get worse in the last eight years under the Bush/McCain policies. Eight years ago there were zero centrifuges, today there are 3,000 centrifuges. What we have seen is Iran being the biggest beneficiary from the war in Iraq, and policies that have gotten us to this point over the last eight years. I don't know how John McCain can argue that more of the same is going to make us safer. So, I believe very strongly that Barack Obama's focus on aggressive diplomacy, a focus on Iran as well as ending the war in Iraq, combining those two things, turning our focus to Iran, that is very serious threat, is a much better approach than what we've seen the last eight years.