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]