Generally when a campaign wants to attack its opponent, it highlights differences between the two camps. Thus when Vice Presiden Biden delivered a lengthy address in New York Thursday to undercut Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on foreign policy, he contrasted the perceived approach of the former Massachusetts governor with that of the president of the United States.
Biden accused Romney of having a "Cold War mindset" in contrast to President Obama''s "reset" policy with Russia; Romney opposed the Iraq withdrawal that Obama carried out; Romney wants to go it alone while Obama wants to engage.
And yet, when it came to Iran, Biden took a very different approach. This subject, he said, is one of "a few core issues" where "there’s no real difference" between the two candidates.
"Governor Romney has called for what he calls for a ''very different policy'' on Iran. But for the life of me, it’s hard to understand what the governor means by a very different policy," Biden said.
Biden gave the example of Romney''s pointing to the "need for ''crippling sanctions'' -- apparently unaware that through President Obama’s leadership, we have produced just that -- crippling sanctions."
And he made a similar attack on Romney''s emphasis on "the need for ''a credible military option'' and a ''regular presence of aircraft carrier groups'' in the region -- apparently ignorant of the fact that’s exactly what our policy is and what we’re doing."
It is an interesting approach to emphasize such agreement, and is perhaps a nod to the vulnerability the administration feels on the issue of Iran. Instead of staking out a clear policy path to use offensively -- to create a difference with an opponent and argue other paths are wrong -- this tack emphasizes consonance and the lack of distinction. Presumably that would minimize the space and ability of Republicans to use it as a line of attack.
Romney''s campaign has had to go a bit on the defensive as a result. During a Romney campaign call to hit back at Biden''s attacks Thursday, advisor Dan Senor was questioned about reconciling his criticism of Obama on Iran with Israel''s military leadership''s praise of the sanctions the administration has implemented.
Senor began his remarks by noting, "There''s no question that the sanctions that we''ve imposed on Iran have imposed real damage on Iran''s economy."
So instead, he slammed Obama for moving too slowly to implement them in the first place, losing precious time.
These differences of nuance and tone are just that -- nuances and tonal contrasts that might be lost on the wider public. But as in many matters of carefully calibrated policy, they can have a big impact on steering policy on Iran, how the rest of the world responds and whether it comes to war.
- Hilary Leila Krieger