Bloomberg: Republican Senator Jon Kyl said Barack Obama's willingness to negotiate with Iran shows "weak judgment," signaling his party will likely focus on portraying the Democratic presidential candidate as naive about rogue nations.
By James Rowley
May 18 (Bloomberg) — Republican Senator Jon Kyl said Barack Obama's willingness to negotiate with Iran shows "weak judgment," signaling his party will likely focus on portraying the Democratic presidential candidate as naive about rogue nations.
Obama's stance of holding talks "without preconditions" with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "shows weak judgment, and frankly, naivete," Kyl, the No. 2 Republican leader in the Senate, said on "Fox News Sunday."
Obama, the likely Democratic nominee, campaigning in Oregon today, said "you've got to talk to countries like Iran and countries like Syria, even though they're our adversaries, the same way that John F. Kennedy talked" to former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Kyl on Fox asked, "What would Senator Obama be talking to Ahmadinejad about, this man who calls Israel a stinking corpse, who said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth?"
Obama can expect to provide the answer to that question over and over in the coming months, Karl Rove, the architect of President George W. Bush's two presidential-election victories, said.
Rove, now a paid analyst for Fox News, said Republicans will press Obama to explain how direct diplomacy with leaders of unfriendly nations, such as Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, will advance U.S. security.
Such talks are "not what former presidents have done" in dealing with foreign adversaries, Kyl said. "And they certainly haven't met with state sponsors of terrorism. That's the problem here."
Democratic Senator Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, once an Obama rival for their party's presidential nomination, defended the Illinois senator.
Obama has "learned a hell of a lot" on the campaign trail, Biden said. "He has repeatedly, since then, said he would not negotiate unconditionally, meaning him sitting down alone, right off the bat, with these leaders," Biden said on ABC's "This Week."
Biden, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Obama gave the "wrong answer" last year by implying "he'd personally sit down with anybody who wanted to sit down with him."
"That's not what he meant," Biden said. "He's fully capable of understanding what's going on."
Dodd Defends Obama
Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, another former Democratic presidential candidate who had questioned Obama's foreign-policy experience, today defended the Illinois senator.
"Every American president" was willing to engage U.S. adversaries, Dodd said, citing Richard Nixon's talks with the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong. "Nixon understood the value of seeking to find some way to break through, not to give up the use of military force if you need it but to try to avoid that option if you can by engaging in robust diplomacy."
Obama has sought to clarify the position he originally staked out last year. On Nov. 19, Obama said "I will talk to Iran directly. That does not mean that we will be conceding any positions with Iran. It means that we will listen and see where we can find common ground."
"I would not refuse to meet until they agreed to every" U.S. demand, he told reporters May 16 in South Dakota. Negotiation "doesn't mean we would not have preparation" by lower-level diplomats.
In a May 16 speech in Watertown, South Dakota, Obama angrily defended "tough diplomacy with countries like Iran" after Bush suggested during a speech before the Israeli parliament that those who want to negotiate with terrorists would be repeating the appeasement of Adolf Hitler.
Obama said he welcomed the debate over the value of diplomacy, accusing both presumptive Republican nominee John McCain and Bush of "fear mongering" to mask eight years of failed foreign policy.
Arizona's Senator McCain said the same day that he took "the president at his word" that he was not referring to Obama. Still, "it does bring up an issue we will be discussing with the American people" of "why does Senator Obama want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism?" McCain said.
When dealing with an "enemy" country, Obama said today in Oregon, talks are important "to get a sense of, what are their interests, and are there ways that we can contain conflict?"