Having had time to read Barack Obama's foreign policy speech and talk with some of his advisers and some of his rivals advisers, I'm drawn to the conclusion that yesterday was meant to be a launch pad of sorts for the final stage of Obama's campaign argument.

Obama, an aide said, wrote the speech himself. It is much less cerebral and much more direct than his usual forays into policy. Actually, it wasn't a foray so much as a surgical strike. Half the speech was a sustained, detailed criticism of the foreign policy establishment. The rest was a precis of the ways in which president Obama would challenge conventional wisdom.

One reason Obama has had to up the volume of his Iraq critique is that it simply has not worked the way it was supposed to. Voters forgive Hillary Clinton -- enough of them do -- the cognitive dissonance factor plays in her favor. The challenge of basing any argument on the Iraq question comes in the form of a "so what" question. How is past judgment relevant to future judgment? One cannot simply assume that voters will make that link, particularly if there are external forces to blame for the past judgment -- i.e, George W. Bush.

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