The Note: Caveat Victor?

The political initiation of Barack Obama, in five acts:

I. Wherein the current president welcomes him (sort of) as a possible successor to the throne.

II. Wherein robed men and women in the Golden State remind him how difficult his race will be.

III. Wherein the protagonist finds a symbol that shows either political maturation, downright pandering, or nothing much at all.

IV. Wherein his probable opponent unsheathes a sword that warns him of what a dangerous race it will be.

V. Wherein bands of supporters of an aged dynasty remind him that nothing in this realm comes without a price.

John Edwards and NARAL and the steelworkers and the superdelegates -- that's all well and good. But perhaps we can thank 43 for handing this potential 44 the keys to the kingdom of the general election.

The most intriguing part of the political fallout of President Bush's speech to the Knesset Thursday: He didn't even have to mention Sen. Barack Obama's name to spark a firestorm back home.

The second most intriguing part: The way the Democratic establishment rallied to his defense, even though his name wasn't mentioned -- kind of felt like a general election.

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," President Bush said in Jerusalem.

Then the corker: "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' "

No. He. Didn't.

"The episode placed Mr. Bush squarely in one of the most divisive debates of the campaign to succeed him, as Republicans try to portray Mr. Obama as weak in the fight against terrorism," Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jim Rutenberg write in The New York Times. "It also underscored what the White House has said will be an aggressive effort by Mr. Bush to use his presidential platform to influence the presidential election."

This is another way to describe the same speech: "President Bush to Barack Obama: You're a fool," per the New York Daily News write-up.

Don't forget Obama's problems with Jewish voters -- but this is a debate Obama doesn't mind, not at this stage of this campaign. "Obama has called for talks with the leaders of Iran and Syria but has staunchly opposed any such meetings with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and which the U.S. and Israel label a terrorist organization," Mark Silva writes in the Chicago Tribune.

Obama: "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel."

For the defense: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ("beneath the dignity"), Rep. Rahm Emanuel ("partisan politics stops at the water's edge"), and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden ("get a life").

"Democrats angrily called the comment a veiled shot at Obama, who has advocated dialogue with Iran and Syria, but not the Palestinian group Hamas," Michael Abramowitz reports in The Washington Post.

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