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But this back-and-forth over foreign policy is a risky game for Mr. Obama, too. It puts him in the arena of national security debates, where Republicans traditionally have an advantage over Democrats — especially war heroes like Mr. McCain, a former Vietnam POW.

Yet the campaign must deal with foreign policy sooner or later. For Mr. Obama, it’s best to do it now, with months to go before the election, especially when President Bush so willingly offers up the opportunity.

Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist.