Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have taken turns whining, with each saying at various times they found certain questions and issues unfair. After their showdown in Philadelphia, Obama complained about "gotcha games," saying ordinary Americans don't care about his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Clinton and her Bubba have complained about being ganged up on over drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants and about her tall tale of ducking sniper fire in Bosnia.
The candidates should count themselves lucky for such distractions. For if public focus were on the "real issues" they say they want to discuss, the incoherence of their positions on Iraq and Iran would be frighteningly clear.
Clinton and Obama have almost identical plans for withdrawing our troops from Iraq, putting both Democrats on a path that could hand Iraq to Iran on a silver platter and further destabilize the entire Mideast.
Their folly became obvious during the debate last week when they vowed they would stick to their timetables for withdrawal from Iraq of about 18 months, regardless of the facts on the ground or the advice of military commanders.
"The President sets the mission," Obama said. "The general and our troops carry out that mission."
Clinton, asked if she was saying she knows better than the generals, something she has accused Bush of, answered "no" and added: "The bottom line for me is: We don't know what will happen as we withdraw. We do know what will happen if we stay mired in Iraq."
She's right that we can't know everything that will happen if we withdraw. Predictions by others of a full-blown civil war may prove incorrect, but it is almost impossible to believe violence would decrease if we depart.
And what would Iran do if we withdraw? Had the question been asked, the candidates' incoherence would have been revealed. After being dovish on Iraq, Obama and Clinton suddenly turned hawkish on Iran. In their vision, never the twain shall meet.
Both said they would not permit Iran to develop nukes and threatened to respond militarily if Iran attacked Israel, with Clinton promising "massive retaliation." Obama pledged also to engage Iran on its "funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah."
Yet neither mentioned Iraq in the context of Iran, as though the two countries were not neighbors. For many reasons, including their long border and the fact that they are the only two major Muslim countries with Shiite majorities, our policies must be coordinated, if not viewed as one.
For example, you don't have to be a Mideast expert to realize that Iran would see our retreat from Iraq as a sign of weakness and would be emboldened to fill the vacuum. Or that our leaving would free Iran to launch more terror attacks, through Hamas and Hezbollah, against Israel.
Already, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shiite cleric whose Mahdi army is responsible for attacks on Americans as well as Iraqis, has been in Iran for nearly a year. And our military has clear evidence that roadside bombs used to kill Americans were made in Iran.
Even the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, has established close relations with Iran's madman president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with Ahmadinejad getting a red-carpet welcome in Baghdad.
The growing Iranian influence has alarmed our Sunni Arab allies in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. While most despised Saddam Hussein, they saw him as a useful bulwark against Iran.
It is a fact that we and our coalition partners replaced him in that role.
Obama and Clinton know as much, yet they conveniently ignore the consequences of a withdrawal from Iraq. It's not a luxury they would have in the Oval Office. If they get there, they'd be happy to talk about Jeremiah Wright or Bosnia sniper fire.