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. Glenda, McEwen, TN

    I think as more time goes by we will see the clear difference between these two. Senator Obama needs a few more years of experience under his belt before running for the highest political office in our land. Hillary is ready for the job now!

    July 25, 2007 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  2. Heather MCEwen, TN

    Hillary is ready to be our next President. The more I read about Senator Obama the more concerned I become. He's articulate, and a wonderful speaker but when you need help, his office says No. When you call Hillary's office, it's how can we help? Hillary is for all the people, regardless of income, religion, color, etc. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a President we can be proud of once again that will lead our country back on the right road. Senator Obama does not have the experience yet.

    July 25, 2007 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  3. ItsTimeToTurnThePage

    Hillary Clinton is the most deceitful and manipulative politician I have ever witnessed.

    I guess that explains the 1.4 (on 4.0 scale) rating she received from Reader's Digest's "grade the candidate" on INTEGRITY (from 8 experts).

    Hillary scored the lowest on INTEGRITY – lower than all the men graded (Guiliani, Romney, McCain, Edwards and Obama).

    She is not trustworthy. And here we go again with another one of Hillary's manufactured disputes.

    In April 2007 Hillary said, "I think it is a terrible mistake for our president to say he will not talk with bad people."

    Now she wants to split hairs about how and when that's done? Hillary has taken that debate question (which she didn't answer correctly) and is trying to turn it into a controversy. The question wasn't how and when would you meet with.....it was would you meet in your first year. A year is 365 days. Is Hillary saying she would put this off for 2+ years? What would she be doing if not taking care of these type issues - polishing her nails?

    Hillary is the only person dumb enough to think that those dictators would be invited over for a morning cup of tea. Just like she was dumb enough to allow the president to 'mislead her by the nose into voting for the Iraq war.' By her own admission she was "dumb and stupid."

    Are we really interested in listening to the rants of a woman who admits to being so easily misled?

    I'm sick to death of the media giving Hillary so much credit for being so smart when she clearly hasn't given any proof she deserves their praise, their protection and their defense of her every stupid argument or made up dispute.

    I hope Hillary understands she not just attacking Obama. She attacking a lot of us who are determined to fight as hard as we can to make sure she's not our nominee.

    I know she said she likes to "deck" her opponents so we're all on the lookout for the next punch she throws.

    July 25, 2007 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  4. Janet Kenny Ontario Canada

    I thought Hillary Clinton stole the show she was on point and her answers were what they are supoosed to be to the point. I think weather Americans want to believe it or not you are looking at your new President. She seems to have a better handle on the issues and is well schooled in the way of politics and how government works she will be the touch of class your laking White House needs and a good voice of reason and she won't do anything to endanger the American people.I think she means what she says. Thanks for your time

    July 25, 2007 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  5. LeAnne, Phoenix, AZ

    I prefer Obama's idea of diplomocy. Talk is cheaper then war. In my 51 years of living, I still have not heard of anyone dieing while trying to resolve a problem by talking. I prefer that approach to 'He will not be named's Evil Axis.

    July 25, 2007 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Whatever happened to getting out our troops as soon as possible?

    July 25, 2007 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  7. DS

    Once again, the Clinton News Network writes a story knocking anyone who challanges a Clinton. We know you all at CNN love the Clinton clan, but could CNN at least try to balance your unabashed Hillary cheerleading?

    July 25, 2007 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  8. Melissa, Houston, TX

    Senator Clinton ... understands that it is a mistake to commit the power and prestige of America’s presidency ... by making such a blanket commitment,” the memo added.

    I voted for her husband... but this sounds like something a republican would say. Especially that "power and prestige of American's presidency" part.

    July 25, 2007 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  9. Rex, Toledo, Ohio

    Obama is right on. Finally someone willing to come out of their "ivory tower" and discuss diplomacy, rather than sit back and produce idle threats to get what they want. Watch out for Hillary. She is as status quo as it can get.

    July 25, 2007 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  10. Jeff, Houston, Texas

    Where is the harm in talking? I can sit at a table and say no. I can sit at a table, disagree, and offer up an alternative. If I sit and talk long enough, and nothing gets done, THEN and only THEN do I consider other alternatives. George's approach just reflects his inflated sense of self. the rest of the world sees a pathetic, uneducated, mentally challnged, redneck bully.

    I beleive it was H.G. Wells that said the first man that raises his fist has just demonstrated he is out of ideas...may be wrong on that quote.

    July 25, 2007 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  11. Hugh, Syracuse, NY

    Who screwed up; CNN or the Hillary Campaign?

    The article says the question to Sen. Obama was "first term." The article then says that the Clinton memo says "first year."

    If this is an error by the Clinton Campaign, and they don't issue a correction, it's enough to make me strongly consider NOT voting for Sen. Clinton. It would amount to an attempt to deceive voters (if intentional and CNN didn't err).

    If this is an error by CNN, it should correct it because it's enough of an error to change my voting behavior.

    July 25, 2007 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  12. Kevin Ft Lauderdale Fl

    Although both answers was good,Clinton answer was a bit better, this is why Obama will make a great Vice President under President Clinton!

    July 25, 2007 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  13. Janice, Boston, MA.

    Am I the only one who thinks that this question shows why Obama and Clinton should combine forces? If they are each willing to put aside their egos it would be such a good combo. He is young and can wait eight years for his chance to be president. He brings a lot of youth and enthusiasm to the job (granted he can be a little 'naive'). People actually like him so he can bring the likability factor back to the office.

    On the other hand she is more experinced and can rein him in to give a more balanced perspective. And let's face it she is old so it is best if she gets first dibs at the office

    July 25, 2007 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  14. Sam, Muncie, Ind.

    Oh yeah, Obama should be really concerned about the Cuban vote, an exceedingly small bloc in a tiny geographical area in the state that handed our country over to the Bush regime for eight years. Goodness. I'm sure Rada wants to know how Obama would handle Elian Gonzalez.

    Btw, Hispanics haven't cornered the market on dislike of Chavez or Castro. Get a clue.

    July 25, 2007 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  15. John, Ft. Worth, TX

    I hate to say it, but Clinton really isn't splitting hairs. There has to be protocol to meetings at the Presidential level or you lose credibility. I agree that our openness to diplomatic relations with specific countries should be re-assessed, but the level at which it is done makes a huge difference for relations with not only the country in question, but with all other countries involved. I agree with Rada – Clinton's answer was much more presidential and experienced (sorry Obama!)

    July 25, 2007 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  16. Mike - Washington, D.C,

    So um... the questions was "would be willing to meet 'with leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezuela during their first term.”

    being willing to meet with the leaders of these countries is not committing to meeting with these leaders. Hillary is clearly spinning things to get people to think Obama's answer is any different from hers... only it was the same thing, save that Obama sounds committed to doing something about it for certain, and Hillary is only willing to do it if it doesn't make her look bad.

    I don't know about you guys, but I want a president thats worried about what the US and the world thinks about America, not what folks think about them as a President.

    July 25, 2007 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  17. Danielle Clarke

    Hillary flip-flopped; she said exactly what Obama said, back in April. http://wcbstv.com/us/local_story_112220939.html
    We have a real choice: choose someone like Barack Obama who won't say anything just to get votes then change a few months later.

    July 25, 2007 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  18. James, Atlanta GA

    The truth of the matter is that Hillary answered just like a politician. Obama answered in the way that the American people would like to see. We are tired of this administrations policies. We don't need an envoy of diplomats talking we need the heads of states talking. Like Reagan did with the Soviet Union. We need results not retoric.

    July 25, 2007 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  19. John, Dallas, TX

    I think the diplomacy and responses here allude more to what the problems are with our Nation than a solution to those problems. The question asked if they would be "willing" to meet with those leaders. The question does not ask if the meeting would be done on a conditional basis. It was poised to present a contrast or similarity to the current party's stance. That was its intent, pure and simple, and I think both candidates let us know where they stand on the issue. To think that there would be any meeting that would take place without conditions or objectives is simply absurd.

    July 25, 2007 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  20. Kyu Reisch, Radcliff, Kentucky

    Sen. Clinton's answer is just like the President of USA, her answer is perfect as President in this situation. Obama's answer showed inexperienced Young Senator's foriegn policy. There's nothing to argue with Hillary's answer because she knows what is the best for our country, but Obama is anxious to be the president so answered quick without policital knowledge, it doesn't mean he is stupid, it came from inexperience. Obama realized his answer wasn't smarter than Hillary, he turn around attack Hillary, cause the trouble and tried to make Hillary look bad, but it will never work out because water always flows downward. So he couldn't answer like Hillary, after the Debate his Senior Advisors coached him to attack Hillary. My point is Hillary can controll the hard situation by her own brain but Obama couldn't do by himself yet, he always needs other Campaign Staff's advises, that's why it is dangerous to hand the power to Obama yet. Obama has the future if he is really smart like he said, why worry about this election so much, he is not 70 years old now, he can prove himself eventually. Obama is making huge mistake with attacking Hillary as long as he is staying with Democrats. I am afraid of Obama may hire staffs like VP because he performed several dirty and nasty mistakes by his staffs so far, it isn't his idea I guess, then he didn't keep his word like new and fresh, that kind of performances are old political style, doesn't match with his slogan. Obama should be RESPONSIBL for his words first before attack other candidates. American people need to watch out and wake up, your one vote is very important for our Country's future.
    Obama, do FAIR PLAY, otherwise hurts yourself deeply.

    July 25, 2007 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  21. Rick, Mechanicsburg, PA

    When did one person's opinion become right and another's become wrong. If that is what Obama would do should he be elected President, is up to him to do and for the rest of us to debate.

    July 25, 2007 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. Sean, Charlotte, NC

    I totally agree with Obama. This whole business of not speaking to other political leaders is childish and, frankly, dangerous. We should keep an open dialogue with all nations, simply because that’s what a world leader should do. The contents of that dialogue may vary, depending on the nation, but open lines of communication is very important, as Obama pointed out. Clinton, on the other hand, will say whatever her advisors tell her is popular at that particular point in time.

    July 25, 2007 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  23. Mercedes, Orlando, FL

    Would someone please tell me what "presidential" means? This term was tossed around so loosely and smugly by Bush and his cohorts in the last campaign that I have to wonder whether presidential means clueless.

    July 25, 2007 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  24. Brian, Philadelphia PA

    If you re-read the question as it's quoted, both answers are really the SAME.. "yes". Hillary tried to make a distinction by tacking a more specific time frame onto her answer. It's not as if the question asked for an exact time frame and Obama responded he would get on a plane to Havana the minute after he was sworn in, he just gave a straight, simple answer and his logic behind it. Maybe if Hillary had answered first and included those details, he would have as well... but that wasn't part of the question they were asked.

    I think Hillary's answer really demonstrates that her "experience" translates into the same tired ideas on more than we know.

    July 25, 2007 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  25. Anita Melrose-12200 Vonn rd.8A-Largo,Fl. 33774


    July 25, 2007 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
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