Obama Challenges Foreign Meeting Smear

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The Republicans are in habitual smear mode. But this time around, they will always have to face a clarifying message from the Obama campaign. This season, the campaign has contended, the politics associated with the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove will not fly. Witness the following clarity on Obama’s actual position on talking with foreign leaders.

Obama’s Consistent Position on Meeting with Foreign Leaders

May 29, 2008

RHETORIC: Obama hasn’t been clear about his policy regarding diplomacy with Iran.

REALITY: Obama has consistently said he is willing to meet, without preconditions but with preparation, the leaders of Iran. This could include, but is not limited to, Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful person in Iran, and his status is uncertain as there will be Presidential elections in Iran in 2009.


Obama Said He Would Be Willing To Meet Without Precondition With The Leaders Of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, And North Korea.

Obama was asked “Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?” Obama responded, “I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.” [CNN, Youtube Debate, 7/24/07]

Obama Said He’d Be Willing To Meet Without Precondition The Leaders Of Iran.

Asked if he were still willing to meet without pre-condition during your first year with Fidel Castro, Kim Jung Il, Hugo Chavez, Obama said, “I do. Now, I did not say that I would be meeting with all of them. I said I’d be willing to. Obviously, there is a difference between pre-conditions and preparation. Pre-conditions, which was what the question was in that debate, means that we won’t meet with people unless they’ve already agreed to the very things that we expect to be meeting with them about. And obviously, when we say to Iran, ‘We won’t meet with you until you’ve agreed to all the terms that we’ve laid out,'” from their perspective that’s not a negotiation, that’s not a meeting.” [Meet the Press, 11/11/07]

Obama Said That He Would Be Willing To Meet With Iranian Leaders After Sufficient Preparation.

Obama said, “I would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders if we had done sufficient preparations for that meeting.” [CNN, 5/20/08]

Obama Said He’d Be Willing To Meet At Some Point With The Leaders Of Iran.

Obama said, “But what I have said is that at some point I would be willing to meet. And that is a position — I mean, what’s puzzling is that we view this as in any way controversial when this has been the history of U.S. diplomacy until very recently.” [Watertown, SD Press Avail, 5/16/08]

Obama Said The Approach He’s Suggesting Is Tough But Engaged Diplomacy Like What Was Carried Out By Kennedy, Nixon, And Reagan.

Obama said, “The approach I am suggesting, the tough but engaged diplomacy that I am suggesting is the kind that was carried out by John Kennedy, it was carried out by Richard Nixon, and it was carried out by Ronald Reagan. There is a strong bipartisan tradition of engaging in that kind of diplomacy. You mirror military strength with aggressive, effective, tough diplomacy. That’s what’s been lacking.” [Watertown, SD Press Avail, 5/16/08]


Obama Said That He Would Be Willing To Meet With Iranian Leaders After Sufficient Preparation Had Been Done But Ahmadinejad Might Not Be The Right Person.

“Obama said Tuesday that ‘this obsession with Ahmadinejad is an example of us losing track of what’s important.’ ‘I would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders if we had done sufficient preparations for that meeting,’ Obama said. ‘Whether Ahmadinejad is the right person to meet with right now, we don’t even know how much power he is going to have a year from now. He is not the most powerful person in Iran.'” [CNN, 5/20/08]

Obama Said There Was No Reason Why He Would Necessarily Meet With Ahmadinejad Before We Know That He’s Actually In Power.

Obama said, “There’s no reason why we would necessarily meet with Ahmadinejad before we know that he was actually in power. He’s not the most powerful person in Iran.” [Reuters, 5/27/08]

Obama Said That Ahmadinejad Is Not The Most Powerful Leader In Iran So He Might Not Be The Person That We Would Meet With.

MS. KELLY: Senator, do you assume too much about men like Ahmadinejad? In other words, that you could reason with someone as irrational as he is? SEN. OBAMA: First of all, he’s not the most powerful leader in Iran, so he might not be the person that we would need to meet with. But more importantly, the reason that you have discussions and diplomacy is not because you assume reason or good motives on the other side. That would be naive. What you assume is that if you are very clear about the need to stand down on nuclear weapons, that you are very clear about the need to stop funding Hezbollah and Hamas and to stop threatening Israel, and you have engaged in those direct talks, and you’re listening about what their interests are, number one, we get a better sense of what their true interests are, number two, you have sent a message to the world that we are not the impediment of making progress, that they’re the ones who are holding up progress, which allows us then to strengthen our alliances to impose the kinds of tough sanctions that may be necessary to change their behavior. [Fox News, 5/20/08]

Obama Said He Would Not Restrict Meetings To Ahmadinejad But Would Also Seek To Meet With Clerics Who Are The Ultimate Authority.

“Obama’s response: ‘I would include Ahmadinejad to the extent that he is part of an Iranian government, but I would not restrict my meetings to him. I don’t know where he will be a year or year and a half from now.’ (Ahmadinejad could lose in 2009.) Obama said he would also seek to meet ‘with negotiators who may have more power than (Ahmadinejad), including the clerics who are the ultimate authority.'” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/17/08]

Obama Said Iran’s President Is Kind Of “Nutty” But He’s Not The Most Powerful Person In Iran.

“Obama in response to a question from a Sioux City voter about how he would negotiate with extremists in the Mideast, said, ‘When I talk to Iran, the president is kinda nutty, but he’s not the most powerful person.’ If the clerics who run Iran were willing to work with the U.S. against terrorists, stop funding terrorist organizations and not seek nuclear weapons Obama said he would consider easing sanctions.” [Chicago Sun Times, 1/2/08]


The Bi-Partisan Iraq Study Group Report Recommended That The U.S. Engage In Direct Diplomacy With Iran And Syria Without Preconditions.

“Dealing with Iran and Syria is controversial. Nevertheless, it is our view that in diplomacy, a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try to resolve conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests. Accordingly, the Support Group should actively engage Iran and Syria in its diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions.” [(PDF)Iraq Study Group Report]


Obama Has Been Explicit About The Need For Low Level Talks With A Presidential Summit Coming Only If There Were Progress In Those Negotiations.

“Obama has also been explicit about the need to start with lower-level talks, a presidential summit coming only if there were progress in those negotiations.” [Time, 5/22/08]

Obama Said That He Would Not Refuse To Meet Iran Until They Have Agreed To Every Position That We Want But He Would Have Preparation Starting With Lower Level Diplomatic Contacts.

“Preconditions, as applies to a country like Iran, for example, was a term of art, because this administration has been very clear that it will not have direct negotiations with Iran until Iran has met preconditions that are essentially what Iran views and many other observers would view as the subject of the negotiations. For example, their nuclear program. The point is, is that I would not refuse to meet until they agreed to every position that we want, but that doesn’t mean that we would not have preparation. And the preparation would involve starting with lower-level diplomatic contacts, having our diplomat core work through with Iranian counterparts an agenda.” [Watertown, SD Press Avail, 5/16/08]

Obama Said There Was A Difference Between Preparation And Preconditions.

The Kansas City Star reported, “‘The argument was that I would invite Hugo Chavez over to my house, and we’d pop open a beer and we’d start talking…That’s the lack of preparation. There’s no one that would meet another head of state without preparation. Preconditions refer to something specific. We’ve refused to talk to Iran until they meet preconditions.’ Obama admitted that his willingness to try a new approach to foreign policy was his way of rocking the political boat. ‘I’ve been trying to challenge some conventional wisdom,’ Obama said. ‘And the purveyors of conventional wisdom have gotten uncomfortable. I don’t mind that discomfort. I think our foreign policy is all messed up.'” [Kansas City Star, 8/20/07]

Obama: Nobody Expects You Would Meet with Hostile Leaders Without Having Done the Appropriate Groundwork.

Obama said, “Nobody expects that you would suddenly just sit down with them for coffee without having done the appropriate groundwork,” he said. “But the question was: Would you meet them without preconditions? And part of the Bush doctrine has been to say no.” [Washington Post, 7/27/07]

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