July 24th, 2007
05:49 PM ET
7 years ago

Clinton, Obama camps clash over diplomacy answer

The Clinton and Obama campaigns are clashing over the meaning of one of Obama’s answers.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A day after appearing on the same stage during the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina, the campaigns of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are disputing whether the Illinois Democrat committed a serious gaffe when he said he would meet with leaders who are openly hostile to the United States.

Asked if the candidates would be willing to meet “with leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezuela" during their first year in office, Obama immediately said yes and added, “the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, Clinton answered the question differently, promising “a vigorous diplomatic effort” but adding “you don’t promise a meeting until you know the intentions. I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes and don’t want to make a situation worse.”

While the differences in the two answers were not revisited during the remainder of the debate, Clinton’s campaign distributed a memo to members of the press Tuesday morning, asserting, “There is a clear difference between the two approaches these candidates are taking: Senator Obama has committed to presidential-level meetings with some of the world's worst dictators without precondition during his first year in office.”

“Senator Clinton is committed to vigorous diplomacy but understands that it is a mistake to commit the power and prestige of America’s presidency years ahead of time by making such a blanket commitment,” the memo added.

But a similar memo from Obama’s campaign, also distributed Tuesday morning, notes Obama performed well in Monday’s debate according to CNN and FOX focus groups, and “offered a dramatic change from the Bush administration's eight year refusal to protect our security interests by using every tool of American power available – including diplomacy.”

Obama’s camp also suggested Clinton’s answer constituted a departure from the New York Democrat’s previous stance, pointing out that she said in April, “I think it is a terrible mistake for our president to say he will not talk with bad people.”

TIME.com: Grading the candidates

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (264 Responses)
  1. Michael - Stamford, CT

    This only proves my point further why Hillary Clinton should get the nomination for President because she is smart, tough, and has a great deal of experience. What happened here is a good example of Obama's lack of experience which proves he isn't ready for the position to become President of the United States. My vote is going to Hillary Clinton.

    July 24, 2007 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  2. Lee Eric Newton

    Did Madeleine Albright really use the word SPADEwork when discussing what a Bl;ack Politition would need to do before becoming successful?

    "I would think that without having done the diplomatic spadework, it would not really prove anything," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in a conference call with reporters set up by the Clinton campaign.

    July 24, 2007 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  3. Nkem, NORTH Florida

    In response to the above comment regarding the Hispanics/Cubans in S. Florida no Obama vote ... Let's face history w/ politics in America, who do you think is going to serve your interest better and be even-handed w/ American resources: Clinton or Obama?

    July 24, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  4. Kevo, Chicago, IL

    The Cuban vote? Haha... Oh no!! Beware the Cuban vote!!!

    Sorry if I am not smart enough to truly appreciate Hillary Clinton's answer...but it seemed a little like B.S. to me. Same old semantical run-around that all politicians spew on command. I'm glad Obama "screwed up" by answering honestly instead of diplomatically. Hill Clinton is a harpy... seriously. Look at her. she looks like some kind of wild ostrich ready to peck your eyes out. And she is bitter, frigid and contemptuous. She will be worse than Nixon... you wait.

    July 24, 2007 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  5. DH Saginaw, MI

    Doesn't CNN have something better to do than report on inconsequential press releases from their war rooms? Besides, what does it matter since neither are electable.

    July 24, 2007 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  6. F. Williams, Chicago, IL

    That's right Rada, U.S. will just fall to pieces without the hispanic vote, that, by the way, can't seem to distinguish the difference between legal and illegal. Quite frankly I love both candidates, but Obama is fresh blood without a whole lot of baggage, or shall I say, old school. You are right, Hillary is experienced at just that, old fashioned politics, but there is a new generation waiting to be governed, and you may as well face it, Obama is it!

    July 24, 2007 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  7. HAWK, TX,


    July 24, 2007 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  8. Duane, Little Elm, TX

    It appears that the Hillary camp took Obama's reply out of context. In this article the question says would the candidate be willing to "meet “with leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezuela during their first term,” NOT in their first year in office. Why should we let the truth get in the way?

    July 24, 2007 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  9. Glenn Carlton

    We saw the rest, and then we saw the best. All of the candidates give excellent answers to the questions but one stood out of the crowd and that one was Barrack Obama.
    Barrack Obama had Charisma, style and has a certain presence about him that garners respect. Obama answered the entire segment of questions with what seemed to be sincerity. His demeanor and character said it all. He is undeniably the person for the job of President.

    July 24, 2007 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  10. Marian, Florida

    The only thing this shows is that Obama can give a straight answer. Of course, in the complex world of international diplomacy a straight answer is rarely the best answer, but this debate is for ordinary voters to get a clear idea where these candidates stand. There will be enough spin doctors, Dep. of State staff and others to put a spin on any declaration and explore all possible channels first (that holds for any president in international diplomacy). What people expected to hear now is what is the candidate's general position to the issue.
    Actually, I do not dislike Clinton's ideas and ambition (or over-ambition, but OK). But everything she says seems so over-calculated, so scripted, so checked over and over by hoards of advisors, it makes it so hard to believe she is honest (even when she is).

    July 24, 2007 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  11. M in Nashville, TN

    Could CNN stop acting like part of the Clinton campaign. Between Wolf Blitzer and Jeffrey Toobin, they sounded like Clinton operatives. Barack Obama won the debate according to your own NH voter survey. By the way, a more important question is why did any Democrat choose to vote for the war.

    July 24, 2007 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  12. Glenn Carlton

    The U.S. Justice Department announced June 12, 1998 that it would formally apologize to more than 2,200 people of Japanese ancestry who were forcibly removed from Latin American countries and interned in the United States during World War II.

    And under the lawsuit settlement surviving internees can receive $5,000 each in compensation.

    If the ancestors of the Japanese got reparations then why do the candidates that are running for president want to deny black people the same Privilege? Is it racism?

    The kidnapping of black people from Africa. The Unspeakable atrocities such as slavery and lynching. No other people have suffered such despicably horrible and repugnant exploitation, degradation and genocide such as black people. Black people have been alienated from the mainstream of society since day one. And the candidates want black people to have reparations.

    July 24, 2007 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  13. Eric, Chicago IL

    I liked Obama's answer. You don't make situations better by snubbing your enemies.
    In reality they both gave the same answer. Obama assumed us to be intelligent enough to recognize a simple "yes" does not mean "I'm going to make it an absolute priority". Clinton used her time to explain the differences between the two interpretations, then answered "Yes, under my conditions". I take for granted that a President is going to have conditions before visiting any world leader. Therefore I say they gave the same answer.

    July 24, 2007 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  14. Linda, Schaumburg, IL

    Maybe she had to cough or something and covered the mic!

    July 24, 2007 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  15. Chris, Seattle, WA

    It is a clear example of obama being inexperience and hasty on improtant issue.

    July 24, 2007 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  16. Matt, Chicago

    I don't like either of them, but he blew it, all right. He showed he is naive and doesn't understand the nuance of international diplomacy enough to even keep his mouth shut, whereas Clinton immediately demonstrated a thorough knowledge of how things work. It makes you wonder how much else the senator from Illinois is in the dark about.

    July 24, 2007 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  17. judy robinson brookline, MA

    I applaud Obama for having the courage to recognize that keeping the dialog open with countries that we do not have a good relationship with so that common ground can be found and wars can be avoided. It is obvious that any head of state would have his people make the preliminary overtures–before speaking with the head of state. That wasn't the question asked- so Obama didn't go into those obvious details. Obama is not afraid to develop bridges- Clinton is worried about Propaganda.Obama has it right. Hillary doesn't!

    July 24, 2007 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  18. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    Hillary couldn't wait to jump on his answer...she was practically salivating after Obama's gaffe. His answer was naive and further evidence that he is not ready...needs a little more seasoning in AAA ball.

    I'm not a Hillary fan, but her answer was right and his was wrong.

    July 24, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  19. Tommy Ates, Austin, TX

    Uh..vast majority of Cubans in Florida are loyal Republicans. They wouldn't have voted for Obama or Clinton.

    One thing's for sure, NOT taking has never solved ANY problems.

    July 24, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  20. Ryan, Salt Lake City, UT

    You have to love Clinton's spinning Obama's willingness to talk to world leaders into a promise to talk to those world leaders regardless of those world leaders' intentions.

    July 24, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  21. Jose, Miami, FL

    I'm Cuban-American and I liked Obama's answer. I think any true leader should be willing to meet even with dictators, but it doesn't mean you necessarily will. I still think they're (Clinton and Obama) equal in South Florida.

    July 24, 2007 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  22. Schahrzad Berkland, San Diego, CA

    Hillary's tactics to smear others is going to backfire, I hope.

    Ron Paul has never smeared anyone. I think Obama has not done so either.

    She looks really petty. After approving the Iraq war and being a shill for special interest groups, she should look herself in the mirror.

    And if the worst thing she can find about her opponent is a choice of words, she's pathetic.

    I love Obama's immediate "Yes!", to diplomacy. His enthusiasm for doing good is contageous.

    We can all see through her lame tactics, "I am down in the polls, and I have nothing good to say, so I will resort to saying bad things about my opponents", that no longer works. We are too smart for smear campaigns.

    July 24, 2007 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  23. Joe, Birmingham, AL

    Clintons seem to only know one way of campaigning, and that's with a heavy dose of mudslinging.

    July 24, 2007 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  24. Darren Rice, Duarte CA

    I love Bush, and his foreign policies. Obama and Clinton are like a oreo cookie that just cracked into pieces. Oh my God, my God, when are you going to come my Savior and relieve the American people of taxes. I believe my God can clean up America because damn Democrats and Republicans aren't doing it.

    July 24, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  25. Jason, Fort Worth TX

    I find the reporting on the aftermath of the debate to be suspect. It seems to me that CNN wants Hilary to win over Obama and continually attempts to knit-pick at Obama while bolstering Clinton's image. Frankly, I think Obama won that debate and Hilary did well too. They both were far and above the other candidates. What I would say is, stop spinning please. As a Dem, if Hilary gets into the race as Presidential candidate, I fear her polarizing history will lead to another Democratic defeat to the Republicans. That would be a horrible tragedy.

    July 24, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
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