Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Sweet blog Saturday special: Iowa's Vilsack on Obama's Clinton hit.--"Not particularly hopeful. And I am disappointed in the Senator." Vilsack transcript. Obama memo.

| 11 Comments

WASHINGTON-- Since Monday's Democratic debate, White House hopeful Barack Obama has been explaining his position on meeting with leaders of rogue nations. With preconditions? He said none at the debate. The next day he said-as did his spokesmen--of course they would do diplomatic spadework. But the Sunday before the debate he said he would meet with Hugo Chavez--with certain conditions. Rival Hillary Rodham Clinton hit Obama as "naive" over this, triggering Obama to move aggresively and say (not by name) Clinton was "Bush Cheney lite." On Saturday, in Iowa, AP's Mike Glover is reporting Obama said, "I was called irresponsible and naive because I believe that there is nobody we can't talk to," said Obama, drawing loud cheers. "We've got nothing to fear as long as know who we are and what we stand for and our values."

Actually, that position is pretty much the same as Clinton's. Clinton backer former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack held a conference call with reporters a short time ago to make a few points. He said Obama is distorting Clinton's record on her approach to diplomacy and he is disappointed with with "negative politics."

Transcript of Vilsack's comments below. And response to the Vilsack call from the Obama campaign.

from the Clinton campaign....

Vilsack Challenges Obama To Explain When

He’d Meet With Rogue Leaders

A Day Before SC Debate, Obama Backed Conditions For Talks

At the Debate, Obama Said He Doesn’t

In an interview with the Miami Herald 24 hours before the Charleston debate, Senator Barack Obama said he would be willing to meet with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela only under certain conditions. At the debate, he said he’d be willing to meet with leaders like Chavez with no preconditions.

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Governor Vilsack asked Senator Obama to clarify his position and say which view he holds. The following is a transcript of what Governor Vilsack said:

Gov. Vilsack: “Thanks very much. I appreciate everyone taking a few minutes from their Saturday afternoon to visit with us today.

“Since March of this year, I have probably had the opportunity to see Hillary Clinton speak over 50 times to well over 10,000 people in the state of Iowa. During the course of each one of those visits, the Senator makes a very specific point of comparing and contrasting her approach to diplomacy and foreign relations to that of the Bush administration, suggesting that we need to have an aggressive effort at diplomacy and engaging the rest of the world and restoring America’s place in the world.

“That’s why I was very disappointed, and I’m sure that those who have heard Senator Clinton were also disappointed, when Senator Obama suggested that her policies were in essence “Bush-Cheney Lite.” Not only is that not correct, it is a distortion of Senator Clinton’s comments and her record. But it flies in the face of the promise that Senator Obama gave to all of us when he began his campaign of avoiding negative politics and campaigning with politics as usual.

“These comments are so wrong, one could say that they are certainly audacious, but honestly they are not particularly hopeful. And I am disappointed in the Senator.

“And I am particularly disappointed given the fact that it appears as if he agrees with Senator Clinton’s view of engaging world leaders but only after the table has been set for negotiations and not giving away the leverage of the President by an unconditional promise. It appears that the day before the Charleston debate, Senator Obama is reported to have suggested that he would be glad to meet with a Hugo Chavez of Venezuela but only with certain preconditions being met, which is precisely what Senator Clinton said during the debate.

“Less than 24 hours after that comment, Senator Obama suggested he would be willing to meet with Chavez and other notorious leaders around the world without preconditions. Rather than just simply acknowledging the mistake that was made during the course of the debate, the Senator has attempted to distort Senator Clinton’s record in an effort to mask this confusing statement of his.

“It’s not the Iowa way, and I would certainly hope that now that the Senator’s comments have been reported in the Miami Herald concerning President Chavez – I would hope that the Senator would clarify his comments as to whether or not he is for preconditions or not and would cease and desist from criticizing and distorting the record and the comments of Senator Clinton because she has been quite clear throughout all of her appearances in Iowa and throughout the country that there needs to be a significant change and it needs to be a change where we engage the world but don’t simply give up the leverage that this president has by agreeing to meet with leaders without serious negotiations and preconditions to be met.”

###

Obama memo, sent by spokesman Bill Burton..
The politics of hope requires us to shake up the establishment status quo that has to change. Obama has been crystal clear in saying that he be the most aggressive in fundamentally changing our nation’s foreign policy.

This is a substantive debate during which she called Obama irresponsible and naive. Obama has been entirely consistent -- he never said he would invite dictators over for a cup of coffee and he said he wouldn’t let these dictators use him as a propaganda tool. What he did say was that he would be willing to meet with them.

Important background you should know about Clinton’s position:

1. Clinton Defended Talking to “Bad People”: In a radio interview, Clinton praised Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria saying, "I think that both her delegation, which was primarily Democrats, and a Republican delegation that was there approximately at the same time are doing the right thing. We have got to engage these countries." Clinton added, "I don't agree with the President's view that we don't talk to bad people, because clearly that's not a smart way to figure out how you can bring leverage on them and that's what I'm interested in." [Interview with WSYR, 4/9/07; http://websrvr80il.audiovideoweb.com/il80web20037/ThinkProgress/2007/hillarypelosi.mp4]

2. Clinton says she would “absolutely” immediately engage Syrians and Iranians: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENQxZGk1XQ4. OLBERMANN: Would you reach out immediately to the Syrians and the Iranians, even with the tensions between this country and Iran? SEN. CLINTON: Absolutely. I don't see it as a sign of weakness. I see it as a sign of strength. You know, our president will not talk to people he considers bad. Well, there are a lot of bad actors in the world, and you don't make peace with your friends. You've got to deal with your enemies, your opponents, people whose interests diverge from yours. Right now we're flying blind when it comes to Iran. We don't have good intelligence about Iran, about what their real motivations are, who's calling the shots; the same with Syria. And I would immediately open a diplomatic track. And I don't think we would lose. In fact, I think we would gain insight. I mean, if we have to take a firm stand against Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons, let's get more information before we do that. Let's figure out, you know, what levers of power in their society we might be able to pull and push. [MSNBC, 1/23/07]




11 Comments

Rather be it diplomatic or aggression talks, do we not talk to rogue leaders anyway? Understand, I consider George Bush a rogue leader. Does he try to talk to other world leaders or bully them if they take a different stance than America's foreign policies? Be it CIA, NSA or whatever the acronymn used don't the American government talk with rogue leaders/nations secretly?

Here is a link to all the agencies in America.

http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/All_Agencies/index.shtml

Why is this country not in better shape with so many?

Mr. Obama is showing a willingness to engage in communication while others want to be regal in their elitism and not talk to anyone UNLESS THERE ARE CONDITIONS! I thought communication is the way to break down the walls of trepidation of loathsome ideologies towards one another!

Vilsack quote:
I am particularly disappointed given the fact that it appears as if he agrees with Senator Clinton’s view of engaging world leaders but only after the table has been set for negotiations and not giving away the leverage of the President by an unconditional promise.

If in agreement and Mr. Obama is ready to change the way America conducts negotiations - which do not seem to be greatly influencing other nations - why not try a unconditional premise? Those in control have propagated "No one likes Americans", so why not try a new approach; or is it only about maintaining the philosopy of supremacy over others?

The man has stated previously "It Takes Bold Changes From Leadership to Right America Again!" If anyone understands corporate culture within a company, for it to move forward it must rework its mission statement to the betterment of the stockholders.

I am a stockholder in America, but I am constantly losing out on the decisions made by the past\present leaders in control. Therefore a statement made one day then adjusted to benefit me/(America), I will not hold that against him.

I wonder if Gov. Vilsack would be so very disappointed - are there any Democrats who aren't always "very disappointed" about something? - in Barry if Mrs. Clinton hadn't lent a hand in paying off Vilsack's own presidential campaign debts.

Hillary orders her minion out to tell Obama to stop being mean to her. I did not see him telling her to stop it when she used one of his state's newpapers to start this whole thing with being negative and saying bad things.
Too bad vilsack. You are such a joke. A ready lapdog for the queen.

OBAMA IS NOT READY TO LEAD. NO MATTER HOW MANY SITES HIS PEOPLE HIT TO SAY THAT HE IS. NOT READY TO LEAD OUR COUNTRY.

lol I wonder how many sites vwcat hits with rude yelling caps?
A leader is not afraid to engage adversaries in tough negotiations. A leader does not wait for political operatives to determine what her or his foreign policy will be. Foreign policy advisors make recommendations to address challenges and implement the policy proposed by the leader. A good leader looks at historically ineffective policies, then tries something entirely different. A good leader of a superpower makes decisions according to the global realities, not in service to political donors.
And a rational person does not insist he or she said something entirely different from what video and audio recordings demonstrate he or she said. Did Obama flip-flop? I don't know. I've heard him say before there cannot be preconditions to start negotiations. I don't see any evidence he was for preconditions before the debate, only Vilsack, whose debts from a failed run were paid by Hillary, saying "he heard" and "it's been said".
Did Hillary flip-flop? Yes, judging by her vehement statements on the YouTube/CNN debate, available for all to replay over and over again, compared to her prior statements also available on YouTube in a compilation of many more times she agreed with Obama's policy. I don't like the "Smackdown" title of the compilation, but the content is enlightening, and does not support Mrs. Clinton.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=AyqAR4lJCmw

Though Hillary SOUNDS more measured about this, ultimately, her approach is more of the same...business as usual. I think Obama has the fresh perspective that we need to improve US standing in the world.

I vote YES to Obama's approach. Make your voice heard on this important topic by voting to ether Obama or Clinton's approach: http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=249

And if one convinces me the other is unworthy I should be able to vote against the unworthy one without being forced to vote for the other, whom I may feel is just slightly less unworthy. A no column and the highest net yes wins would remove that dilemma for many, possibly a result changing many. How many commenting on this blog have sometimes felt a discomfort as they voted for a lesser of evils? With a no column you vote honestly, as you really feel, not as the politicians want you to, for the trasher in order to vote against the trashee. That's what the yes only ballot, and poll, demands, a 50% restriction on your freedom of expression. You should demand your right to say no without having to say yes.

Is there a note of condescension in Vilsack's rebuke to Senator Obama? While the mature Queen is permitted to insult the young (45-year-old) knight to begin with, Obama must not vigorously assert his position because it is impolite to her? Is there a race, age, AND gender bias here as sub-text in the elderly courtier's hasty press conference?

As an African American I can tell you that I don't think that we've ever had a tougher decision to make in a presidential primary, and it's really true that many of us are really torn (myself included) on this one. Therefore, there is no detail that is too small to help decide, and I for one am paying strict attention to the details of the candidates positions and behavior.

Having said that, this tiff between the two top candidates has certainly caused me to raise my eyebrow at one of them. I think I witnessed a cheap political tactic that is actually quite "republicanesque". And what's worse is that this move came from the one that has very often been on the receiving end of these cheap and unfair tactics. My grandmother used to admonish me "be careful that you don't become the beast that you loath".

I am now scratching my head about Hillary Clinton. The first time I was puzzled was when the David Geffen comments came out. I thought the Clinton camp's reaction was way over the top. The attempt to lay the charge for those comments squarely at the feet of Obama as if he had uttered them himself was completely asinine. I finally decided to blow that one off and not hold Hillary Clinton personally responsible for that since after all, it was her campaign manager, Mr. Wolfson that made the attacks on Obama over those comments. Likewise, I blew off the move against Hillary Clinton about the ties to the Indian lobby. I thought that was underhanded too, but it was Obama's campaign folk on the attack and Obama did not authorize or support any such criticism of Hillary Clinton.

Now, this latest fiasco is different to me, because it is Hillary Clinton herself that started it with a purposeful and gross misrepresentation of Obama's comment and position, and then she further perpetuated it in the media the next day with the name calling and the dispatching of Madeline Allbright to make the case against Hillary's own misrepresentation(not Obama's expressed position). Check out two sets of comments from these candidates:

On the Youtube debates, Obama responded to the question of "would you BE WILLING to meet with..." by saying:
"I would, and the reason is this: the notion that somehow not talking to countries is somehow punishing them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous. Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to the Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire, and the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them, that they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we have the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward, and I think it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them."

In response to the same question, Hillary Clinton responded:
"I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. We're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro [of Cuba] and Hugo Chavez [of Venezuela] and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes and don't want to make a situation even worse, but I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration."

During the debates, I didn't see anything controversial, conflicting, or otherwise wrong with either of these two positions. I accepted them both for exactly what they brought to the table, which was in Obama's case, the recognition for drastic change in our foreign policy particularly pertaining to leaders we are at odds with, and in Hillary's case, the need to do groundwork before embarking on said change. What happened was that they each responded to a different aspect of the same question: Obama responded to the SPECIFIC question of "would you be willing to", and Hillary decided to respond by stating the "how to" involved in accomplishing the task.

Again, I had no problem with either candidate on this issue until the next day when Hillary decided to blaze the media trail with what Barack Obama CORRECTLY identified as a "fabricated controversy". It is a "strawman" if I've ever heard of one. Hillary personally charged Obama with "COMMITING" to these first year meetings, and all without proper groundwork, which according to Hillary makes Obama's response (and she personally called it that) "irresponsible and naive".

Now please, ask yourself a couple of questions here.
1) Does anyone really believe for one split second that Senator
Obama is irresponsible and naive enough to believe that he could go trolliping into meetings with foreign leaders of enemy nations (or any nation for that matter) without doing the necessary groundwork? I mean really! Did anybody think that he meant that, or that he would literally do that, as Hillary implied?
Well of course not! I am wondering why Hillary is attacking Obama on the "how to" of the matter when that was NOT even the question. There is nothing in Obama's response that even remotely indicates that he does not know, or would not do the necessary groundwork for the meetings that he "is willing" to partake in. He was not asked about HOW to accomplish it, yet, that's what Hillary is using to club him with.

2) The second question to ask is about Hillary and her campaign staff's remarks claiming that Obama COMMITED to having these meetings. *sigh* How can anyone call the answer to a hypothetical question a "commitment"? I saw both Hillary and Mr. Wolfson (her campaign mgr) on the airwaves criticizing Obama for what they constantly characterized as a commitment. Even when the interviewers and also members of Obama's staff corrected them by advising that the question was asking "would you be willing", and not DO YOU PROMISE or WILL YOU COMMIT. I got so frustrated with hearing them characterize Obama's response as having commited to something I wanted to scream. I felt like I was watching republican talking heads doing their usual routine. My goodness, he answered a hypothetical question and that is not tantamount to a promise, or a commitment, or anything else absolute. Heck, if Hillary or anyone else believes that Obama's response is equal to a commitment if elected, then wherever Hillary Clinton winds up--whether it be in the white house or back in the senate, I want to see her have her salary reduced to minimum wage, since after all, she also answered "sure" to a hypothetical question which was prefaced with "would you be willing" to do your job for minimum wage! Using her own standard, did Hillary COMMIT to doing her job for minimum wage? Go figure.

Over the last several years, it has been my holy frustration to watch the disingenuous spin meisters on the right engage in this kind of misrepresentation and arguing against their own fabrication instead of what a person really said and meant. Ironically, most of the time that they were engaging in these tactics was against the Clintons. I didn't like it when pub's did it, and I really don't like it when dem's take a page out of the same book.

Bottom line - this strawman argument was totally unfair and completely unecessary. I for one am keeping score, and Hillary for the first time this campaign season just lost points in my book.

Hillary has a psychologically concerning and Bush-like attitude towards "bad" and "good" extremes in the world. Could it be that she is preoccupied with betrayal because she suffered the traumatic impact of betrayal? That's no reason to elect her. Lets do our country a favor and pick a less dysfunctional world leader, this time.

Over the last several years, it has been my holy frustration to watch the disingenuous spin meisters on the right engage in this kind of misrepresentation and arguing against their own fabrication instead of what a person really said and meant

I didn't like it when pub's did it, and I really don't like it when dem's take a page out of the same book.
Posted by: mysistagirl | July 30, 2007 05:36 AM
***************

Ms. mysistagirl, this is a quandary that has perplex me as Blacks being the monolithic vote for Demopublicans. Why are we? Are they really different from a Republicrat? It is exactly what you stated about spinmeisters, we have taken the bait and the hook for too many centuries. I do not like using the two party names’ in this negative manner but I have not seen affective change when either administration is in office.

This ONE time the decision is NOT tough! By you being a woman, I comprehend how you want to lean towards the woman candidate. But the decision is not tough! The choice is not tough! It is the consciousness which we tremble to make a decision which can change a people. No longer will there be JUST a Black leader. This type person is relagated to facilitator, but not the ultimate bullhorn when the MSM thrusts a microphone into their face to answer all our many problems, which they do not have the answers to. We need a coalition of facilitators. NOT ONE!

The other individual becomes a LEADER of a NATION who need/has advisors, not a soapbox to promote their self. Though he still will be restricted by Congress legislative powers, I am willing to give Barack Obama a shot at the executive office. I will take my chances with him. Nobody can exlain to me he can do worst than all the previous presidents who have come before him, especially the one in office presently.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 28, 2007 2:08 PM.

Sweet blog special: Clinton fund-raising appeal chides Obama (not by name) for calling her (not by name) "Bush-Cheney lite." was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet Sunday blog extra: Newt Gingrich predicts Clinton-Obama ticket. Says Thompson will be "formidable" candidate. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.