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A worthy Obama-McCain clash

Both aren't consistent on talking with US enemies. But then, that isn't the real issue.

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At last. The largely character-driven race for the White House has a full-throated policy dispute, this one between John McCain and Barack Obama: Should a president talk to terrorists or terror-backing states? Americans may be scratching their heads, however, as to exactly where these candidates stand on this primal security issue.

So far, the dispute consists mainly of sound bites, even though it isn't rhetorical. Israel, for example, admitted Wednesday it is in talks with Syria. And that comes despite US objections and despite Syria's support of two groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, that purposely shower rockets on Israeli civilians.

And strangely, Israel's announcement came a week after President Bush told Israeli lawmakers that anyone who negotiates with "terrorists and radicals" has fallen for the same "false comfort of appeasement" as did Neville Chamberlain in 1938 with Hitler.

But lest anyone think Israel has gone wobbly on terror, its talks with archfoe Syria were in process months ago when Israeli jets destroyed a secret nuclear plant in Syria. Israel also attacks Hamas fighters in Gaza even as it negotiates (through Egypt) for a truce.

Israel's example of talking softly and carrying a big stick may well serve this US campaign debate.

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