From Weekly Standard:
First of all, I’m not clear on what the difference is between preconditions and preparations. I’m just a knuckle-dragging warmonger, and perhaps I don’t perfectly understand the distinction, so someone will have to spell it out for me. Preparations sounds like scheduling, catering, and protocol, i.e. there is a huge difference, because preparations are meaningless. Unless, of course, the preparations consist of making sure A’jad doesn’t blurt out something about wiping Israel off the map in the middle of the summit–but that sounds suspiciously like a precondition to me.
I don’t think Michael is a knuckledragging warmonger, but the difference between a precondition and preparation is pretty clear or should be. If not, here it is.
Relative to Iran (since this is the context of the statement & analysis):
A precondition: Just that. Without a condition beforehand.
A precondition for talks would require the other country to do something tangible in order to achieve talks. Talks in this regard are like a reward for good behavior.
e.g. Iran would stop all material aid to Hezbollah and/or Hamas prior to talks. Prior to Iran taking such action no talks. Unless they do so, forget about it.
Preparation is preparing, laying groundwork–i.e. process. Imagine a scenario where Obama sends the Secretary of State say to meet with their Foreign Minister. They describe what will be on the agenda. They lay out the terms of the debate, what is open to discussion, what is not, what are the go/no-go lines diplomatically. Whether back channels are to be employed or not. If so, how. So that if and when there are another set of higher level talks (perhaps involving President Obama) there are no surprises.
But no preconditions put on these talks.
An easy way to put this is a precondition is an if-then statement. If you Iran Do X, then we the US will meet with you. If you do not do X, then we will not.
And contrary to Goldfarb’s argument, Obama was asked about being willing to meet with the leaders of said rogue nations (from the US pov) in his first year without preconditions and he said yes. And Joe Klein’s point still holds–that he hasn’t explicitly stated Ahmadinejad. Goldfarb’s evidence to the contrary here, is not as conclusive as he thinks. Obama goes meta in answering a direct question about Iran’s President.
McCain on the other hand is now arguing that Ahmadinejad represents the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader. That’s a charitable read of McCain’s statement I might add. A less charitable one is that he doesn’t know the President of Iran is not the read leader of the country. An even less charitable read is that he does know that and is lying to play the anti-Semite card via implication against Obama.
Even the most charitable interpretation is open to serious dispute given all the reports of the Supreme Leader balking at Ahmadinejad. e.g. Letting students Chant “Death to Mahmoud” in public without a crackdown. Taking A’Jad off the nuclear power/weapon issue. Pushing for anti-A’jad clerics in the latest round of elections for the Guardian Council (which elects the Supreme Leader).
But McCain doesn’t care about subtlety on this issue. All he has at this point is Obama is a weak Democrat who loves terrorists and can’t protect America.