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New Hampshire, Iran and Afghanistan

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Mitt Romney’s very narrow win in Iowa that was not settled until late in the evening combined with the daylong run up to the caucuses to overshadow two stories that ought to matter very much to New Hampshire voters and should be a focus for Saturday’s and Sunday’s debates.

First, the Guardian reported that a deal with the Taliban has been reached to open “peace talks” and also on the release of some prisoners from Gitmo. The Wall Street Journal confirms that the Taliban is gearing up for negotiations with the U.S. in Qatar.

“The US has agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay in return for the Afghan insurgents’ agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations in Qatar,” the Guardian reported, which would be an enormous departure from past American policy not to negotiate with terrorists.

While the U.S. appears to be preparing to sit down with the Taliban, Iran threatened the United States. From Reuters:

Army chief Ataollah Salehi said the United States had moved an aircraft carrier out of the Gulf because of Iran’s naval exercises, and Iran would take action if the ship returned.

“Iran will not repeat its warning … the enemy’s carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf….we are not in the habit of warning more than once,” he said.

John McCain is endorsing Mitt Romney today, (credit BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith with a big scoop for his new organization) and while the 2008 nominee doesn’t rally many conservatives to Team Romney, his endorsement comes as these two stories underscore the seriousness of the choice in front of voters and the stark contrast which the GOP’s nominee must present to the president’s policies of appeasement.

Most of the takes on the Iowa results —a symposium on that subject to which I contributed is here at— are focused on the horserace, and the coverage of the New Hampshire primary will be pulled towards process questions when it very much needs to focus on the substance of the collective GOP argument against Obama. Romney, Santorum and Gingrich agree on 90% of issues but present very different personalities and skills sets, and the key issue is electability.

“Who can win” is the first and most important question of all for GOP voters because the U.S. desperately needs a new Commander-in-Chief.

“How ought the U.S. to respond to General Salehi’s threat?” ought to be the first question in the weekend’s debates, followed by a question on whether the U.S. ought to be negotiating with the Taliban when their return to power will mean an instant loss of freedom for everyone given over to them, most especially women.



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