Reacting to Baker Video, McCain Slams Obama's Judgment
By Juliet Eilperin
In an interview with reporters aboard his campaign bus today, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) continued to harshly criticize Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for his approach to handling hostile leaders. In order to meet with such leaders, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said, they would have to indicate they were ready to make key policy concessions that would advance U.S. interests.
"So the point is, if there is be quote, discussions, they are to be with preconditions, they are to be with a specific goal that your adversary is agreed to, and that is not to enhance the respect and prestige of your adversary in their country, and internationally," he said. "There's a huge difference there, and it's got to do with experience, knowledge and judgment, none of which Senator Obama has."
He stopped short of using the "appeasement" language President Bush has used to characterize the foreign policy thinking of Obama and other Democrats, saying, "I don't think they're, quote, appeasers. I think they have bad judgment."
When asked about former secretary of state James Baker's comment in 2006 on Fox News -- "Diplomacy involves talking to your enemies" -- McCain said that as secretary of state, Baker engaged in talks only with adversaries who seemed open to changing their tactics.
"When Secretary Baker was secretary of state, they didn't talk to Castro. They had a very strict position on whether to negotiate with him or not," McCain said, adding that he backed talks with Libya once its leaders made it clear they were willing to abandon their nuclear weapons program. "When there's a country that wants to achieve a goal that's in your and their interest, then conversations and discussions are certainly appropriate."
McCain also made a distinction between administration officials -- whether it was Baker under George H.W. Bush talking to Syria or America's current ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, meeting with his Iranian counterpart -- meeting adversaries and the president meeting such foes. "I share many of his views about low-level discussions and negotiations," he said. "That's vastly different from the president of the United States sitting down across from the leader of a country dedicated to the extinction of the State of Israel. I think most Americans can see that difference very clearly."
While Democrats attacked McCain for adding on a new precondition to engaging in talks with Cuba -- free and fair elections -- the senator maintained he had not shifted his stance on the matter.
"My position on Cuba has been exactly the same, and there is no evidence -- except for someone's allegation -- that I have had a change in policy," he said.
"I have always supported the position that before any normalization of relations can take place, free elections, emptying the political prisons and human rights organizations functioning has to take place. That has been my position for 24 years."
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