Argument: Obama has flip-flopped on meeting with hostile foreign leaders

Issue Report: Obama, meeting with hostile foreign leaders without preconditions


“Republican National Committee: Obama’s Rogue Anniversary – Obama Spends a Year Shifting His Position On Meeting With Rogue Leaders His First Year in Office”. July 23rd, 2008. – SHIFT #1: Obama Tells The New York Times “I Didn’t Say That I Would Meet Unconditionally,” Even Though His Own Campaign Website States That Obama Is The Only Candidate Willing To Meet Without Preconditions:

In The New York Times, Obama Claimed “I Didn’t Say That I Would Meet

Unconditionally.” Obama: “I didn’t say that I would meet unconditionally as
John McCain maintained, because that would suggest whether it was useful or
not, whether it was advancing our interests or not, I would just do it for
the sake of doing it … That’s not a change in position, that’s simply
responding to distortions of my position.” (Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny,
“Obama Seeks To Clarify His Disputed Comments On Diplomacy,” The New York
Times, 5/29/08)

Obama Campaign Website: “Obama Is The Only Major Candidate Who Supports

Tough, Direct Presidential Diplomacy With Iran Without Preconditions.”
“Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct
presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.” (Obama For America
Website,, Accessed 7/23/08)

SHIFT #2: Obama Said That He Would Not Necessarily Meet With Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, After Long Saying He Would Meet Specifically
With Ahmadinejad:

Obama Said He Would Not Necessarily Meet With Ahmadinejad. “Democratic

presidential candidate Barack Obama underscored his willingness to talk to
leaders of countries like Iran that are considered U.S. adversaries but
said that does not necessarily mean an audience with Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” (Caren Bohan, “Obama Says Won’t Guarantee Ahmadinejad
A Meeting,” Reuters, 5/26/08)

“‘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,’ Obama Told Reporters While Campaigning In New Mexico.”
(Caren Bohan, “Obama Says Won’t Guarantee Ahmadinejad A Meeting,” Reuters,

But At A September 2007 Press Conference, Obama Confirmed That He Would

Meet Specifically With Ahmadinejad. Question: “Senator, you’ve said before
that you’d meet with President Ahmadinejad…” Obama: “Uh huh.” Question:
“Would you still meet with him today?” Obama: “Yeah, nothing’s changed with
respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to
their enemies and talk to their adversaries. I find many of President
Ahmadinejad’s statements odious and I’ve said that repeatedly. And I think
that we have to recognize that there are a lot of rogue nations in the
world that don’t have American interests at heart. But what I also believe
is that, as John F. Kennedy said, we should never negotiate out of fear but
we should never fear to negotiate. And by us listening to the views even of
those who we violently disagree with – that sends a signal to the world
that we are going to turn the page on the failed diplomacy that the Bush
Administration has practiced for so long.” (Sen. Barack Obama, Press
Conference, New York, NY, 9/24/07)

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SHIFT #3: Obama Said He Would Meet With Cuban President Raul Castro “At
A Time” Of His Choosing, Even Though He Previously Said He Would Meet With
Rogue Leaders During His First Year In Office:

Obama: “[I]t is time, I believe to pursue direct diplomacy, with friend

and foe alike, without preconditions. Now there must be, there must be
careful preparation. We will set a clear agenda. As President, I would be
willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only
when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the United States,
but even more importantly to advance the cause of the freedom for the Cuban
people.” (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At Campaign Event, Miami, FL, 5/23/08)

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But In November 2007, Obama Confirmed That He Would Meet With Rogue

Leaders, Including Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, His First Year In
Office. NBC’s Tim Russert: “In July, you were asked if you were willing to
meet separately without pre-condition during your first year with Fidel
Castro, Kim Jung Il, Hugo Chavez. You said yes. You stand by that?” Obama:
“I do.” (NBC’s “Meet The Press,” 11/11/07)

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SHIFT #4: An Obama Campaign Adviser Said That Obama Did Not Necessarily
Say He Would Meet With Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Even Though He
Previously Said He Would:

An Obama Adviser Claims That “When Obama Referred To ‘My Talks With

President Hugo Chavez,’ He Did Not Mean ‘My Talks,’ Literally (Necessarily)
— He Meant His Administration’s Talks.” “As to the question of whether one
can pledge to isolate a country while also proposing a presidential-level
meeting, the adviser says that I was inaccurate in characterizing Obama as
proposing such a meeting — the reality was that Obama was merely
acknowledging a willingness to meet. But ‘if we are going to isolate the
Venezuelans, it may be that we have to engage in a full-on diplomatic
strategy with them,’ the adviser says. Obama was not saying he, himself,
would propose such a meeting, nor that he would necessarily participate in
that meeting. When Obama referred to ‘my talks with President Hugo Chavez,’
he did not mean ‘my talks,’ literally (necessarily) — he meant his
administration’s tal ks – ‘though it could be him engaging in this
diplomacy directly and personally,’ the adviser says.” (Jake Tapper, “What
The FARC Was Obama Talking About?” ABC News’ “Political Punch” Blog,, 5/27/08)

But Obama Told CBS’ Harry Smith He Would Talk With Hugo Chavez Among

Others “Without Preconditions.” CBS’ Harry Smith: “You said, ‘I will talk
to so and so and Hugo Chavez and etc., etc.'” Obama: “Exactly, and without
preconditions.” (CBS’ “The Early Show,” 10/15/07)

Calvin Woodward. “Obama outreach to US foes questionable”. May. 22, 2008