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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 05/22/2008

Barack in Wonderland

By Michael Dobbs

Ahmadinejad at Natanz uranium enrichment plant, April 8, 2008.

QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE:"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?"
--CNN-YouTube debate, July 23, 2007

"I would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders if we had done sufficient preparations for that meeting. 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."
--Barack Obama, interview with CNN, May 20, 2008.

Barack Obama has been subtly shifting his position on whether he would be prepared to meet with the leader of Iran and other nations deemed "rogue states" by the Bush administration. In a Democratic debate last July, the land-of-Lincolner responded with a clear affirmative to a question about his willingness to meet with such leaders "without precondition" during the first year of his administration. Accused of "naivete" by John McCain and Hillary Clinton, he has begun parsing and hedging his earlier statement, stipulating that such meetings cannot take place without careful "preparation."

The Facts

In a post yesterday, I took McCain to task for suggesting that Obama has departed from the political mainstream by being willing to talk to America's enemies. It is clearly an exaggeration to claim that the mere act of meeting an unsavory foreign leader is tantamount to Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler. But Obama is also vulnerable to charges of spinning the historical record for his political convenience.

It is likely that the Democratic frontrunner now regrets the lack of nuance in his answer to the YouTube questioner last July. The questioner was very specific. He talked about a willingness to hold meetings during "the first year" of a new administration. A photograph of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flashed across the screen when he talked about the leader of Iran. The Obama campaign is now stressing that such meetings will be held "at the appropriate time"--and there is no commitment to meet with Ahmadinejad, as opposed to some other Iranian leader.

The McCain campaign has delighted in reminding everybody that Ahmadinejad has described Israel as "a stinking corpse," denied the facts of the Holocaust, and channeled arms to Shiite extremists battling U.S. forces in Iraq.

The Obama camp, in the person of foreign policy adviser Susan Rice, has pointed out that Ahmadinejad may not even be president of Iran in the second half of 2009. (He was elected to a four-year presidential term in June 2005, and will be up for re-election in June 2009.) Rice told CNN on Monday that a meeting would be held with "the appropriate Iranian leadership at the appropriate time, not necessarily Ahmadinejad."

Rice also drew a distinction between Obama being "willing" to meet with controversial foreign leaders and actually meeting with them. As she told Wolf Blitzer, "He said he would be willing. It doesn't mean that he will meet all of those leaders. It doesn't mean he will meet them all in the first year."


The Obama campaign has drawn my attention to the senator's remarks last Friday, in answer to questions from reporters, about the distinction between "preconditions" and "preparations." Here is how he revised and extended his July 2007 answer to the YouTube questioner:

The question was a very specific question. Would you meet without preconditions? Preconditions as it 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 meet preconditions that are essentially negotiations with Iran until Iran has met preconditions that are essentially what Iran used and many other observers would view as the subject of the negotiations. For example, their nuclear program. The point is that I would not refuse to meet until they agree to every position that we want. But that doesn't mean that we would not have preparation, and the preparation would involve starting with low level--lower level diplomatic contacts, having our diplomatic corps work through with Iranian counterparts, an agenda. But what I have said is that at some point I would be willing to meet.

The senator could have saved himself a lot of trouble by drawing this distinction when he first answered the question. Note also that he now talks about a willingness to meet the bad guys "at some point" rather "during the first year" of his administration.

The Pinocchio Test

It is amazing how the same words can be spun in diametrically opposite ways, to mean completely different things. To listen to John McCain and George Bush, Obama's response to the YouTube questioner has been twisted to sound like something coming out of the mouth of Neville Chamberlain. To listen to Obama, he has not committed himself to anything at all, other than a vague willingness to think about meeting an Iranian leader of his choosing "at an appropriate time."

As Humpty Dumpty observed in Alice in Wonderland, "words mean what I choose them to mean. Neither more nor less." Two Pinocchios all round.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | May 22, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  2 Pinocchios, Barack Obama, Candidate Watch, Other Foreign Policy  
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Next: McCain's Fantasy War on Earmarks


Interesting Thought Process.
"words mean what I choose them to mean. Neither more nor less."
You are going to have a busy season.

Posted by: vcsmith | May 22, 2008 7:37 AM | Report abuse

ah, obama lies.. and get 2 noses.

bias columnist

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Obama lies - what a shocker. But wait, that's not the lie, that's the "change".

Posted by: common sense | May 22, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

"To listen to Obama, he has not committed himself to anything at all, other than a vague willingness to think about meeting an Iranian leader of his choosing 'at an appropriate time'" -- AND following effective preparation.

Posted by: FirstMouse | May 22, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget these other Barack HUSSEIN Obama "flip flops" either:

Posted by: JakeD | May 22, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, "If they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would totally obliterate them."Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador called the statement provactive,unwarranted and irresponsible and a flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter...........

Obama:"I would like somebody who knows about a BUNCH OF STUFF that I'm not as expert on. I think a lot of people assume that might be some sort of military thing to make me look more Commander-in-Chief-like."said Obama regarding choice of VP.
*Nobody is entirely prepared for being Commander-in-Chief. Do you have somebody who has the judgment, the temperament,to weigh the costs and benefits of military action. By most criteria, I've passed those tests and my two opponents have not.*

Who do you think the Iranians would endorse?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

To be fair, I do think it's important to point out that the original YOUTUBE question stated that the purpose of the hypothetical meetings was "to bridge the gap that divides our countries." That seems to indicate more of a cross-cultural, government meeting, not a meeting to settle certain disputes. Since this is the case, setting preconditions does not seem important. The recent refinement of Senator Obama's comments do not contradict his past answer. Preparations are simply that, and the commentary on Ahmadinejad's future leadership status also does not imply any back-pedaling. I think if anyone has been guilty of contradiction, it is Senator McCain, who in the past implied that Hamas should be part of peace discussions (which Obama has wisely dismissed), but who now says they should not (even though Israel is talking to them, Syria, and Iran -- directly and indirectly).

Posted by: JakeD | May 22, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

JakeD: fake

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

This bothers me so much. Have you not looked at the YouTube of McCain being questioned by Time's Joe Klein??

Please take a look at this, and adjust your "Fact Checker" accordingly.


Posted by: Common Sense | May 22, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

The United States of America does not "meet" or negotiate with terrorists. Bottom line. That is why the American people are looking forward to our next Commander in Chief, Hillary Clinton!
Ladies and Gentlemen:

The future, the destiny of this great nation relies in the hands of only one person, a person who is a fighter, a leader like none before, a President that will not only fight for the American people but will finally change the way this government is run. A change for the betterment of each American, the economy, healthcare, the war in Iraq, terrorism, foreign policy, the oil crisis, a global leader that is recognized and respected worldwide: we, the American people have the great pleasure of introducing to you, the next President of these United States, your President, Hillary Clinton!
The American people have spoken!

Posted by: We need Obama OUT Now! | May 22, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Holding a different position than you did before does NOT automatically become a "flip flop," JakeD. Whether the individual in question is Repub or Dem or whatever, don't we WANT them to learn from their mistakes? Have you never changed your mind?

People, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize Obama and McCain. Stop manufacturing mountains out of molehills.

Posted by: ET | May 22, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"The United States of America does not "meet" or negotiate with terrorists. Bottom line."

Boy are you deluded, last year we were trying to kill Sunnis in Iraq because they were planting IEDs , staging kidnappings, death squads and car bombs. Today we are PAYING many of those same Sunnis to fight on our side. I won't go down the list.

So, she wouldn't negotiate?, she would just "obliterate" them?

Posted by: jr | May 22, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

If Obama truly were a "different" politician, he'd be honest, admit he stepped in it last year and he'd like to tune his answer, and move on. Unfortunately, he's not.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

If someone asked me "are you going to Paris?" If I replied yes, it does not mean that I don't realize the preparatory steps that I have to take to go. Get a passport,etc.

You all are so simple minded. Obama knew that he had to take preparatory steps before meeting with the leaders, and I am sure that this was understood within his consiousness,but because he did not outline step by step what it takes to lead up to such talks you all make the man a liar.

Use some common sense America. You all are so perfect and you all say just the right thing every time you are asked a question.You are so perfect that you make me puke.

Posted by: E.D. | May 22, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Barack HUSSEIN Obama has I think spent enough time having to explain this "issue." The furor over his answers, which are refreshingly astute and thoughtful, is based on the myth that people like Bush and McCain are principled, and that negotiations, or what Bush calls appeasement, always fails. As jr so correctly points out, not only do negotiations work, but that even with this administration, the decision has been made to engage an enemy, to make concessions on both sides, in order to produce peace. Thank you Barack HUSSEIN Obama for at least trying to not only improve the level of discourse, but also improve the results of our nation's foreign relations and policies.

Posted by: JakeD | May 22, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Obama is not prepared to lead our country to peace! Does he think those terrorists are going to share milk and cookies with him and play a fair game if he meets with them without preconditions?

There is only one candidate who is qualified: Senator Hillary Clinton. America, wake up before it's too late!

Posted by: Carmine | May 22, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Dear Fact Checker:

Is this really the quote from Obama or were you having trouble with the keyboard this afternoon? It looks like you've repeated the phrase "negotiations with Iran until Iran has met preconditions that are essentially".

"Because this administration has been very clear that it will not have direct negotiations with Iran until Iran has meet preconditions that are essentially negotiations with Iran until Iran has met preconditions that are essentially what Iran used and many other observers would view as the subject of the negotiations."

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I think the Fact Checker is showing idiotic logic.

God forbid anyone speak in nuanced and intelligent terms when appropriate. Obama will be a great President and I think he has done an excellent job explaining his approach to these types of issues.

Posted by: Doug M | May 22, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

In reply to anonymous, on the repetition in the quote from Obama, I pasted an excerpt from the transcript supplied by the campaign. Perhaps I should have used ellipses to make his words a little more intelligible, but I have posted them now, so I won't fiddle with it.

Posted by: The Fact Checker | May 22, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"The American people have spoken!"

Yup. They have nominated Obama and McCain.

Posted by: tom | May 22, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

The real problem here is people projecting very specific meanings onto very general words. Barack Obama said he would "meet" with these leaders. He later added that we should "talk" to our enemies, as well as our friends. In typical fashion, our Republican friends are trying to tell us that by "meet" and "talk", Obama really means "negotiate" and "appease", and go on to liken him to Neville Chamberlain giving away half of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Wow! That's quite a reach. Furthermore, its a lie, because they know very well he meant no such thing. If this isn't pandering to fear, I don't know what is.

P.S. Though this doesn't affect the validity of your argument, the Humpty Dumpty quote is actually from "Through the Looking Glass": 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.'

Posted by: Brent | May 22, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm 35, and have been following politics for quite a while, and I've never been so disappointed with a politician I've admired and respected. Yesterday's tactics weren't just wrong, they were offensive. For that matter, they seem to be part of a deliberate strategy to tear Democrats apart and ensure a defeat in November.

For several weeks, I've appreciated the fact that Clinton considers herself the superior candidate, and has kept her campaign going in the hopes, from her perspective, of saving the party from itself. But after yesterday, it's become impossible for me to consider Clinton's intentions honorable. Her conduct is not that of a leader.

Instead of trying to help bring the party together -- Election Day is 24 weeks away -- Clinton went to Florida to argue that if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, his nomination will be illegitimate. And if the DNC plays by the rules Clinton used to support, it's guilty of vote-suppression -- comparable to slavery, Jim Crow, and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe.

It is disgusting for HRC to co-opt the Civil Rights struggle after weeks of transparent appeals that whites won't vote for the black guy which JUST SO COINCIDENTALLY took form during the Appalachian primaries (which conveniently occurred after North Carolina, the last state with a large black population)

It really is disgusting, and yet another nail in the coffin of what used to be Bill and Hillary's positive legacy to the party. She is now being openly mocked across the media and political spectrum. But I'm sure mentioning that is "sexist", and that everyone criticizing the joke her campaign has become is sexist as well.

Posted by: SMS | May 22, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Do you really want a President who isn't willing to modify his opinions and/or behavior as new information comes to light and circumstances change? Some of you obviously do, because you elected Boy King, hero of Retards.

Posted by: Chris | May 22, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

This Fact Checker needs a fact checker. Obama does occasionally fudge his positions, but this ain't it. First of all, it's blindingly obvious that saying "I would meet with Iranian leaders" doesn't mean "I'll invite them to the White House to talk about whatever they feel like." It never occurred to me for a minute when I heard that that he was saying he would meet without actually having established an agenda. Or that he meant that if they weren't able to agree on an agenda and the year was running out, he'd go ahead and meet with them anyway because a question on YouTube has the status of an immutable deadline. It quite clearly meant he wasn't going to ask them to DO anything like make pledges or changes in policy before he'd talk to them. The fact that you and Obama seem to have taken the word chosen by a third person in two different ways doesn't make your reading the right one. It doesn't even make it the more rational one.

Secondly, as long as you're checking facts, Obama has never mentioned meeting with Ahmadinejad. He's said "Iranian leaders" not because he's thinking of picking some junior undersecretary to talk to but because Ahmadinejad is not in fact a leader who has much to do with foreign policy. That would be the Supreme Leader, Khamenei. Maybe the chairman of the Assembly of Experts, or of the Guardian Council. Any of these people would be more relevant. To assume Obama had Ahmadinejad in mind would be like assuming that if someone said they'd meet with the leaders of the US, they were talking about the Attorney General and the Speaker of the House. The fact that someone else flashed a picture of him does not (even remotely) suggest that he's the person Obama referred to when he answered the question. Nor does the fact that he's the only Iranian leader most Americans have ever heard of, because he says the most sensational stuff. That's most Americans' problem, not Obama's.

Recheck, please!

Posted by: professordarkheart | May 22, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Obama unable to tell the truth. Who would've thought Mr. 'hope and change' could lie so much. At first he says he cannot denounce his Reverend and then 30 days later, he does. How bout his lie about the flag pin too? How about his giving the finger to Clinton? This guy is a joke high on his own hot air.

Posted by: lil | May 22, 2008 8:28 PM | Report abuse

'The Facts: The McCain campaign has delighted in reminding everybody that Ahmadinejad has described Israel as "a stinking corpse," denied the facts of the Holocaust, and channeled arms to Shiite extremists battling U.S. forces in Iraq.'

It is not remotely an established fact that Ahmadinejad has channeled arms to Iraq.

Even the US officers who insist that militias are using Iranian weapons, like Petraeus and Odierno, admit there is no smoking gun pointing at Iran's leadership.

And they can't even produce evidence that there ARE modern Iranian weapons in Iraq.

IRAQ: The elusive Iranian weapons

'There was something interesting missing from Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner's introductory remarks to journalists at his regular news briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday: the word "Iran," or any form of it. It was especially striking as Bergner, the U.S. military spokesman here, announced the extraordinary list of weapons and munitions that have been uncovered in recent weeks since fighting erupted between Iraqi and U.S. security forces and Shiite militiamen.

Among other things, Bergner cited 20,000 "items of ammunition, explosives and weapons" reported by Iraqi forces in the central city of Karbala; an additional Karbala cache containing 570 explosive devices, nine mortars, four anti-aircraft missiles, and 45 RPGs; and in the southern city of Basra alone, 39 mortar tubes, 1,800 mortars and artillery rounds, 600 rockets, and 387 roadside bombs.

Not once did Bergner point the finger at Iran for any of these weapons and munitions, which is a striking change from just a couple of weeks ago when U.S. military officials here and at the Pentagon were saying that caches found in Basra in particular had revealed Iranian-made arms manufactured as recently as this year. They say the majority of rockets being fired at U.S. bases, including Baghdad's Green Zone, are launched by militiamen receiving training, arms and other aid from Iran.

Iraqi officials also have accused Iran of meddling in violence and had echoed the U.S. accusations of new Iranian-made arms being found in Basra. But neither the United States nor Iraq has displayed any of the alleged arms to the public or press, and lately it is looking less likely they will. U.S. military officials said it was up to the Iraqis to show the items; Iraqi officials lately have backed off the accusations against Iran.

A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin.

When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.'

The "Facts", Mr Fact-Checker, are not remotely as you represent them, but you lazily, instinctively go with the narrative of your own side - right down to branding the local defenders who never attacked anyone outside their own country "extremists" (so the invaders are moderates, then? Is that a "fact"?)

It never occurs to you to doubt or fact-check the Pentagon's version ... despite the fact that the only reason the Pentagon is even in Iraq is that they made up a lot of crap about non-existant weapons.

Posted by: OD | May 22, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Amen to professordarkheart for noting that the Ayatollah Khamenei is the leader of Iran, not Ahmadinejad. Khamenei controls the military, essentially has veto power over who can run for president, and as professordarkheart noted, exercises control over the Iranian parliament (the Majlis) through the Guardian Council. On top of this, the Iranian constitution is perfectly clear about who is at the top (the Supreme Leader, i.e. Khamenei). The media rarely notes this distinction, however, leaving the impression that crazy Ahmadinejad actually has the power to order military action. He doesn't.

So... if Obama were ever to meet with the real leader of Iran, it would be with Khamenei. This is unlikely to occur, however, because much of Khamenei's domestic legitimacy stems from his continuation of Khomeini's anti-American stance. Also, although Khamenei is essentially a politician with limited religious training, he likes to maintain the fiction that he is above politics. It is unlikely, therefore, that Khamenei would ever agree to meet with Obama.

Posted by: Dan Mayland | May 22, 2008 10:35 PM | Report abuse

top Obama Flip Flops

1. Special Interests
Back in January, the Obama campaign described union contributions to the Clinton and Edwards campaign as "special interest" money. He changed his tune as he went after union endorsements himself. He now refers respectfully to unions as the representatives of "working people" and says he is "thrilled" by their support.

2. Public Financing
Obama replied "yes" in September 2007 when asked if he would agree to public financing of the presidential election if his GOP opponent did the same. His spokesman now says that he never gave such a pledge, and Obama himself has attached several conditions, including regulating spending by outside groups.

3. The Cuba embargo
In January 2004, Obama said flatly that it was time "to end the embargo with Cuba," because it had "utterly failed in the effort to overthrow Castro." Speaking to a Cuban-American audience in Miami in August 2007, he said he would not "take off the embargo" as president because it was "an important inducement for change."

4. Illegal immigration
In a March 2004 questionnaire, Obama was asked if the government should "crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants." He replied "Oppose." In a televised debate on January 31, he said that "we do have to crack down on those employers that are taking advantage of the situation."

5. Decriminalization of Marijuana
While running for the U.S. Senate in January 2004, Obama told Illinois college students that he supported eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana use. In the October 30, 2007 presidential debate, he joined other Democratic candidates in opposing the decriminalization of marijuana.

source: the Wapo
"My faith teaches me that i can sit in church and pray all i want. But I WON'T BE FULFILLING GOD'S WILL unless i go outside and do God's work."

That was Obama. Any difference with Bush's persistence in bringing religion to politics?

Yes. Obama uses religion in a way that not even Bush dared to do.

That quote is in a flier with a picture of Obama in a church with a huge cross in the back ground. Disgusting the blatant pandering to religious freaks.

That's manipulation, not religious fervor. A christian cross, no other...when the man is a black separatist, with muslim inclinations.

The man sleeps with the devil.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse

To SMS; I do not believe you ever admired or supported Hillary Clinton. In fact your statement shows how passionate you are and have been for Obama. And how much you detest the Clinton's. So don't pretend anything you are not. The votes in Florida and Michigan should count. Why? Because this is the only way the Democrats will win. If we do not count their votes they (Florida voters) will surely vote for McCain in the general election. Read my lips.....we will have another Republican at the White House for another 4 years if at least Florida delegates are not seated and counted!

P.S. Obama will not win to McCain. We do not know who Obama is. All we know he went to a church where the sermons were not out of the bible they were out of Mr Wrights vicious and venomous mouth. It preached hatred toward Whites/Jews and America. Believe me the Republicans are going to have a great time tearing him apart.

Hillary 08!! Than McCain 08"!!

Posted by: LindaRod | May 22, 2008 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps those who think Obama naive to consider talking with those who do not agree with us 100% might consider this quote from, of all people, Moshe Dayan: "If you want peace, you talk with your enemies. You do not talk with your friends."

Posted by: Tex805 | May 22, 2008 11:49 PM | Report abuse

No one reports on all of the lobbists in the McCain camp?

Posted by: Jim | May 23, 2008 4:37 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps a better use of the FactChecker's time would have been to uncover whether "pre-conditions" really is a "term of art" in the world of diplomacy.

In diplomacy words are surgical.
In politics words are a bludgeon.

It is notable that the attacks on Obama
have tended to conflate "without pre-conditions" and "unconditional".
[In fact, Clinton's initial answer/attack changed the questioner's word "willing" to "promise", an artful way of making Obama's answer seem more extreme (or maybe she just did not listen very well to the question).]

There does seem to be a distinct and critical difference between "willing to meet as a means to come to terms" and "willing to meet only if terms are met".

Perhaps Obama can be faulted for being more of a diplomat than a politician with his words. But what appears to be "backing off" could also be clarifying and educating (which would seem to be the job, also, of the FactChecker).
That is hardly Pinocchio worthy.

Conflating "without preconditions" with "unconditional" or "without preparations" may not be Pinocchio worthy, but certainly is more misleading and muddles the issue.
(Perhaps there should be an "Honest John" award, after the conniving fox character that tricks Pinocchio to go to Pleasure Island)

Also, it does seem that his surrogates are not quite as precise ... which perhaps can be a fault attributed back to Obama.

Now, if "pre-conditions" does not hold any "term of art" status, then maybe everyone is deserving of an "Honest John" or two.

Posted by: NormHI | May 23, 2008 7:01 AM | Report abuse

"I would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders if we had done sufficient preparations for that meeting. 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's absolutely right. No American knows how much power he has; he's more of a rabble rouser than anything else, and Obama never said he would talk to Ahmadinejad.

These gotcha games get tiring with every whirl.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Where's the contradiction in what he stated originally? From no preconditions to preparations? He still says he won't hold negotiations hostage to preconditions he is just elaborating on the usual diplomatic effort that would precede it. Gates and the study group both recommend engagement with Iran (and Syria). Looks like Israel even balked at our efforts to stymie talks with Syria. They could negotiate a peace without us. It's time for our foreign policy to move onto a course of engagement and integration into the international community beofre all of our prestige and influence are gone.

Posted by: FDR Liberal | May 23, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

If you think Bush was bad,just wait and see the worst if this novice gets in.

Posted by: roncraw | May 23, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

The Bush administration has plummeted this country into a black hole that will take approx 10 years to recover. Which Candidate would you prefer to lead us out of the quagmire?

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Posted by: spywitness | May 23, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

No presidential candidate is able to keep all that he promises in an election campaign. He or she is constrained by state policies in the past and the international paradigms of the present.If Obama says that he would meet Ahmedinijad, he is just suggesting what Winston Churchil and F.D.Roosevelt did with Stalin even though they both loathed the Bolshevism and his kangaroo courts and murders of Trotsky and a million others. Politics, according to our own Chanakya is the art of possible. No firm promises can be made or kept.period.

Posted by: dr.s.divakaran | May 23, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

JOHN McCAIN IS AN IDIOT, JOHN McCAIN IS NOT SMART ENOUGH TO BE PRESIDENT!!! We already know that RIGHT NOW John McCain DOES NOT KNOW VERY MUCH. (He does not know anything about the Economy -- he said so himself (and his proposed economic policy has proven him to be correct, the $100 Billion he proposes to get from vetoing earmarks does not even exist!) We know that McCain does not know the difference between the Sunni, and Shias (the two tribes locked in a thousand year old religious battle in Iraq).
McCain does not even know that the most powerful person in Iran is the SUPREME LEADER ALI KHAMENEU, and that it is Ali Khameneu WHO IS IN CHARGE OF IRANIAN'S FOREIGN POLICY, AND IN CHARGE OF THE NUCLEAR PROGRAM, and NOT Ahmadinejad!
And the idiot McCain has said in a FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH he gave on March 28, 2008, that he will EXPEL RUSSIA FROM THE G8, and BEGIN A PLAN OF EXCLUSION AND HOSTILITIY TOWARD CHINA.
So McCain wants to start a new COLD WAR with BOTH Russia, and China: TWO WORLD SUPER POWERS. We are already fighting two wars, do we really need Russia, and China joining forces AGAINST the USA.

John McCain is an idiot!! McCain it turns out may even be dumber than George Bush!!! McCAIN SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ANYWHERE NEAR THE WHITE HOUSE, McCAIN IS UNEDUCATED, AND INCOMPETENT, WARMONGERING FOOL!!!

Posted by: KEVIN | May 24, 2008 4:52 AM | Report abuse

IT seems that the only one who believes in the stars and stripes is McCain (Much has been written in the sprit of criticism .accusation or exculpation about McCain )which seems to have a psychological effect on the Clinton and Obama supporters of the three candidates unlike the other two only McCain was willing to sacrifice his live for his country and his comrades in the fulfilment of his duty.

Posted by: jamesatkinson1 | May 24, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I think the overall problem is how much the Youtube response was extrapolated.

Obama when asked if he would meet these leaders without pre-conditions; Responded 'Yes'.

Those who oppose Obama took this as a agenda item; and absolute plan in the works. "Obama is going to jump on a plane in Iraq and just jawbone away with Mahmoud A..

He DID NOT state that he would absolutely meet with any of these guys. He was letting it be known that he didn't rule out the possibility.

During a debate how much nuance can you give or should we expect in a candidates response ?

My take on his response was that the Preconditions tend to be the very thing that you are trying to negotiate. And this is why we never make any progress; unless we threaten war or decide to live with the status quo.

Posted by: LeftLeanWing | May 24, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Here's a little something from the guy who *actually* asked the question:

"His bottom line: He liked Obama's answer, and he thought Hillary misconstrued what he meant by "preconditions" in acting like Obama had agreed to meet Fidel and Chavez with no diplomatic groundwork whatsoever. He said his question just meant there shouldn't be a requirement of a change in a country's behavior as a condition of talking to them."

Seems like Obama has been consistent the whole time and has been one of the few who actually listened well to the question and heard the questioners intent correctly.
That would be a good diplomatic skill one would think.

Isn't the original questioner's meaning an important fact for the FactChecker?

Posted by: NormHI | May 24, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Less than a year ago, Obama said he was 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?"
Is he trying to follow Babara Walters who has been successful in selling her book about interviewing various special personalities ?

Posted by: austin b | May 24, 2008 9:09 PM | Report abuse

hmmm...his foreign policy is to sit down with regimes who spent millions in money and IED/EFP's to kill americans and allied forces in IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN....

NO WONDER he gets endorsement from HAMAS...i wonder when will OSAMA endorse his nearlike namesake....maybe they're having a hardtime sending it to aljazeera...

As to the columnist..2 noses? THATS A FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE that might cost america the respect of its allies who are also fighting GWOT...MY GOLLY!

Posted by: noah | May 25, 2008 11:41 PM | Report abuse

If this were towards Senator Clinton, there would be 3 1/2 Pinocchios instead of only 2 for Senator Obama....

Let's try not to look so biased next time!

Posted by: ConsiderChange | May 26, 2008 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Well, let me see.... McSame, er, McCain four pinochios, Billary, er, Hillary three and one half pinochios and Obama two pinochios...... who do I vote for?

Posted by: nlh | May 26, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Here are the facts for all to see and read..anyone who thinks rationally can only conclude that Obama is a phoney and a Liar !

Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a Black Muslim from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHIEST from Wichita, Kansas.

Moderate Muslims can no longer tolerate Obama. He and his wife are haters for his wife to say that this country is no good and this country has never been good to her. Obama should denounce his Pastor Jeremiah Wright, who has connections with Louis Farrakhan, along with him being friends with that underground guy William Ayres who he says is his friend after he bombed the Pentagon in1972, he received money from William Ayres, and this guy is way worse than Mark Rich.

Obama's parents met at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school. Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim.

He is quick to point out that, "He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school." Obama's political handlers are attempting to make it appear that Obama's introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son's education. Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. The terrorists that crashed into the Twin Towers were once all enrolled in the study of Wahabism..just as Obama was!!

Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background.

Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected Presidential candidacy. The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!! ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office - he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Kuran (Their equivalency to our Bible, but very different beliefs) Obama also refuses to pledge allegiance to the USA flag.

How can someone who wants to be President refuse to commit to the USA? Before you vote for any candidate, remember how many people are disgusted with Obama's autobiography!!!!

Voters be cautious in this crucial election that means so much to the USA and the free world.

Posted by: The Brutal Truth | May 26, 2008 11:47 PM | Report abuse

I do not want a President who has a hidden radical agenda. I do not want a Prsident whose wife had the "audacity" to say, "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country". I can think of thousands of people of all races and ethnic backgrounds who sacrificed their lives for this country and thereby giving me thousands of reasons to be proud of them and my country for having produced such patriots. The Obamas are not true American patriots. The truth will come out before the November elections. The media needs to "get real" and pull the Obamas' skeletons out of the closet and let the American people get to know who they really are!!!!

Posted by: Ebonyflash | May 27, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Well, as an Obama supporter, I think you're being hard on him. To paraphrase the portions of the question at issue, would he meet with other world leaders of what we regard as rogue states without preconditions (they have to agree to our demands before we speak to them). His answer was yes, and it's still yes. The kerfluffle over "preparation" and "lower level meetings at State" simply amplify the answer he gave, he isn't going to show up at the door of the Iranian White House unannounced or uninvited, it's a meeting of two heads of State so there would have to be a lot of preparation involved.
I understand the partisan claims he is lying or flip-flopping, the right has spent a long, cold four years with nothing but the bitter reality of their failures to keep them warm, they are desperate for a good old fashioned swift boating to divert attention from the bankrupt policies they espouse.

Posted by: dijetlo | May 27, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Obama says he wants to get away from the Washington Insiders .But look at all his endorsements he is not backing away from them so how is he going to bring changeto Washington?

Posted by: maggie | May 27, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

>>Before you vote for any candidate, remember how many people are disgusted with Obama's autobiography!!!!
Well let's see, there is you, and then their is that 28% of the population who refuses to admit the George the Bungler wasn't much of a president....
Other than those flatheads, who was "disgusted" by Obamas' autobiography?

Posted by: dijetlo | May 27, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

there are too many people in this country who are full of hatred. Even many people who are not totally nasty toward the candidates they oppose, have a tendency to be totally forgiving of the mis-cues of the candidate they support. I think all this identity politics is dangerous, and I suspect that there is often an underlying racial and gender bias that really determines candidate preference, and that policy and phrasing arguments are only rationalizations, not the true reasons for favoring or opposing one candidate or another. There are also many persons with political ambitions and financial greed who have special interests involved in their support or opposition. The world situation -- economics, climate change, nuclear proliferation and waste disposal problems, and other huge problems -- are too important to neglect. I think the Democrats are following an entirely risky course by supporting either a woman or an African-American in general, or Hillary or Obama in particular. We can't afford to lose to McCain and the neo-cons. The people who are for Sam Nunn for Vice President know he is the one who is most expert and respected on issues dealing with nuclear weapons and materials. That is the second-greatest problem, I think. The greatest problem is global warming, climate change, and the too-slow pace of action to save the planet. I think Al Gore won the election in 2000 -- he certainly won the popular vote. He had top security clearance as Vice President, and he has spent recent years working with scientists and government leaders and economic leaders to alert opinion leaders and the general population in many nations, to the danger of global warming and tbe need for corrective action now. He would know which of Bill and Hillary Clinton's people were loyalists and hacks and hangers-on, and which are capable persons, like Leon Panetta. Having been a Senator, he would respect the role of the Congress. He would be attacked by Hillary's people as not being enough of a fighter. The old Internet silliness would be brought up again -- he did introduce an important bill that was very helpful to the development of the Internet -- but I bet he would be a strong defender of the rights of the "little guy" to full benefits of the Internet, and he would not let the strong and rich and powerful control it, as they increasingly control TV, radio, and newspapers and newsmagazines. It is still not too late to renew a Draft Al Gore for President movement, centering on the superdelegates who are DNC members in purple or red states, and Senators from purple or red states, and members of the House from highly competitive districts. Now is the time to save the country from the Clintons --an Obama-Hillary ticket would be a constant nightmare, for Obama supporters. Now is also the time to save Obama from the hate-mongers who are so eager to be savage toward him with hate-speech and lies and rumors. He could continue to be a good Senator for Illinois, and to build bi-partisan coalitions in the Senate. And Hillary could do the same for New York. With Ted Kennedy ill, the two of them could work with other progressive Senators -- including a few Republicans who are moderate and courageous -- to get the 60 votes necessary to pass progressive legislation in the Senate. I also suspect a Gore-Nunn ticket would have a better chance to win in more states, including states where they might help a Democratic Senate candidate to be elected in a close election. Please, Democrats, do not throw this election away. Do not let this election campaign be the most hate-filled campaign of modern times. I think we could all agree to support Al Gore, rather than to lose the election and to divide tne country into vicious hate-groups. No one would be wildly in love with Al Gore as a candidate or as President, and that would be a good thing. These cult-worshippers, of whomever -- Bush, McCain, Bill and Hillary, Obama -- are dangerous. The level of expectation for their hero is too high, and the level of tolerance for anyone else -- or anyone who supports another candidate -- is too low. At the very least, we should insist that Al Gore and Sam Nunn be at the top of a short list for VP --even if they say they don't want to be. P. S. I hope I made this long enough and dense enough that only thoughtful people will wade through it! If you agree with me, please say so in calm and rational language, so as not to discredit the point I am making. It is too important to be just another excuse for venting hostilities.

Posted by: lynnette | May 27, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama is far to naive and inexperienced
to decide now as to who he is meeting and
why. What he should say is "before I make any decisions that may be detrimental to the wellbeing of the United States of America, I would first consult with my secretary of State and all other expert advicers in my cabinet". But than Mr. Obama is not appropriat.

Posted by: Ursula Huggins Whitney | May 27, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Lie, Change, Lie, Hope, Lie, Bitter.

Seriously. Words do not matter.

Isn't that right, media?

Posted by: Oh, No, a LIE??? | May 28, 2008 3:59 AM | Report abuse

Thank you President Bill Clinton on calling out the main stream media like CNN & MSNBC on the complete disrepect and unfair treatment of Senator Clitnon and women in general, they have continued to receive and endure assults from these biased scared tabloid media fools, like Ken Oberman and Chris Matthews with their man infatuation with Obama...its funny how they claim over and over Clinton Lies but Obama flubbs???? come on!!! OBAMAS gets caught in lie after lie after lie!!!!! why would ANY VOTER BELIEVE OBAMA CAMP!!!!!


Obama LIES about Concentration Camp Claim at an attempt to attract Jewish voters, Often Obama inaccurately recalls his own history and American history, so it's important that we point to the facts Barack Obama's dubious claim is inconsistent with world history and demands an explanation,"It was Soviet troops that liberated Auschwitz, so unless his uncle was serving in the Red Army, there's no way Obama's statement yesterday can be true. Obama's frequent exaggerations and outright distortions raise questions about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief.

Sen. Obama referrers to himself as 'a constitutional law professor on the campaign trail. TRUTH: He never held any such title! Obama changed website bio to reflect that he was a 'lecturer' rather than 'professor. Chicago Daily Herald

Judicial Watch: Klaus Marre-Obama 'intended to leave no paper trail' OBAMA REFUSES to cooperate in releasing 8 years of his state senate records. One main reason REZKO!

Obama gets 4 Pinocchio's for 100 Years War-why national media won't call out Obama for his distortions on McCain's Iraq comments.

Washington Post caught Obama in a lie about the Kennedy family role claiming them helping his Father Contrary to Obama's claims Kennedy family did not provide the funding for a September 1959 historical records July 1960. Family Kennedy's donated $100,000 to pay for a second airlift in September 1960.

Politico reports, "During his first run for elected office, Barack Obama played a greater role than he acknowledges in crafting liberal stands on gun control, the death penalty and abortion- positions that appear at odds with the more moderate image he's projected during his presidential campaign. The evidence comes from an amended version of an Illinois voter group's detailed questionnaire, filed under his name during his bid for a state Senate. In response to a Politico story, Obama's answers he never saw questioaire?

It's unfortunate that Senator Obama is using false advertising to explain why he can be trusted to do something about energy prices. In his ad, Obama says, I'm Barack Obama, and I don't take money from oil companies or lobbyists, and I won't let them block change any more. Obama has been the recipient of more than $220,000 from the oil and gas industry just since as of Feb/08. Two of Obama's campaign bundlers are also CEOs for oil and gas companies, per his campaign Web site? Obama dealings with one of his largest contributors Exelon, that he cut deals behind closed doors protecting them from full disclosure in the nuclear industry. Exxon, Shell, and others are among his biggest donors

Obamas record shows he infact did support the war when he got to the senate, voted twice against bringing America's troops back home. He voted for war appropriations giving our money to Halliburton and Blackwater where Texas woman, was gang-raped by her co-workers at a Halliburton/KBR camp in Baghdad, His latest bit of posturing S 433 allows the Bush Administration to suspend any troop withdrawal, if not suspended, keeps the troops in Iraq for a long time to come

Obama said he goofed on votes angered fellow Democrats in the Senate when he voted to strip millions of dollars from a child welfare office on Chicago's West Side. But Obama had a ready explanation: He goofed! Also announced he had fumbled an election-reform vote the day before, on a measure that passed 51 to 6. The next day, he acknowledged voting "present" on a key telecommunications vote. He stood on March 11, 1999, to take back his vote against legislation to end good-behavior credits for certain felons in county jails. "I pressed the wrong button on that," he said. Obama was the lone dissenter on Feb. 24, 2000, against 57 yeas for a ban on human cloning. "I pressed the wrong button by accident," he said. But two of Obama's bumbles came on more-sensitive topics; he backed legislation to permit riverboat casinos to operate even when the boats were dockside. The measure, pushed by the gambling industry and fought by church groups whose support Obama was seeking, passed with two "yeas" to spare -- including Obama's. Moments after its passage he rose to say, explaining that he had mistakenly voted for it.

Obama would later develop a reputation as a critic of the gambling industry, and he voted against a similar measure two years later. But he was clearly confused about how to handle the issue at the time of his first vote, telling a church group that he was "undecided" about whether he backed an expansion of riverboat gambling. And, months earlier, he had voted in favor of a version of the bill.

Mainstream media needs to stop pushing Obama down voter's throats and stop the stupid Clinton bashing. Where's a true journalist? Obamas campaign pastor is not going away anytime soon Rev Wright says you don't have to wait for the afterlife for the mansion on the hilltop, he's right! To shut him up Trinity United Church of Christ is building Rev. Wright a $1 mil house on a lot that was purchased for $345,000. According to his federal income tax return Obama gave the Trinity United church $22,500 in contributions

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

to Obama supporters -- are you sure he can overcome all this hatred and get elected? are you willing to risk losing to McCain? Hillary is not the only other option, and putting her on as VP candidate will not help -- it could be a disaster. please join me at least in advocating Al Gore or Sam Nunn for Vice President to block the Clinton forces and the naive Obama supporters who might fall for a Clinton for VP unity ticket, and not notice the veiled coercion implying she wouldn't give him much support unless she gets all she wants. I actually think she is a good enough Senator to be useful in passing good legislation -- it is the Clinton White House (again) that is troubling (again).

Posted by: lynnette | May 28, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

OVER many weeks one can see that when Obama was young his mother didn't read the story of pinochio to him.

Posted by: jamesatkinson1 | May 29, 2008 7:00 AM | Report abuse

"Obama will be a great President and I think he has done an excellent job explaining his approach to these types of issues."

If you ever need brain surgery be sure to look me up. I can do an excellent job of explaining my approach even though I have never been to med school and know zilch about the functioning of the brain.

Posted by: Seeking Intellignce in DC | May 29, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

To the White House says Obama and his spin-doctors and his supporters.

No wonder Obama is fascinated by the unnatural.......which is why he is so wrapped up in his own perfect world just as Clinton is that they have driven everything that is good for America out of their mind and retrospect of his self-delusion which is based on his abnormal initial perception an hallucination that all is well in his campaign for the Presidency.

Posted by: jamesatkinson1 | May 30, 2008 6:41 AM | Report abuse

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