July 26th, 2007
03:09 PM ET
7 years ago

Romney backs Clinton in fight with Obama

Romney campaigned in Iowa Thursday.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (CNN) - At an early morning "Ask Mitt Anything" event Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined Sen. Hillary Clinton in criticizing Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama for saying he would meet with controversial world leaders during his first year as president.

"It's absolutely extraordinary that someone can be so out of touch with our world," the former Massachusetts governor said. "Meeting with [authoritarian tyrants] is not what a president does."

These comments centered around what Sen. Obama, D-Illinois, said Monday night during the CNN/YouTube debate. He was asked whether he would be willing to meet with world leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea.

"It is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them," Obama said at the podium. "The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them - which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration - is ridiculous."

Not so, said Romney.

"A president meets with important leaders where there are mutual interests or where there's been progress or hope to be key progress," Romney said. "Discussions with people of that nature are done through other parties and
things of that nature, but you do not bestow the dignity of the presidency on people like [them]."

Obama's democratic opponent Hillary Clinton has also engaged in a war of words with the junior senator, saying she would use high-level envoys in situations like this.

"We're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro [of Cuba]and Hugo Chavez [of Venezuela] and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be," Clinton said during the debate. "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes."

When asked if this means his view aligns with Clinton's, Romney said, "If two Democrats are violently disagreeing with each other, I am probably going to be on the side of one or the other, but she happens to be right in that regard."

But speaking in his stump speech earlier, Romney showed no restraint against her. He said the New York senator would raise corporate taxes, which, he says, would be a bad idea because "the corporations will then go overseas." He also called her healthcare plan "Hillary-care," a phrase he's used at campaign stops before, saying "if you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free!"

He never so much as mentioned any of his fellow Republican candidates seeking the nomination for president.

- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Antonio, Union City,NJ

    What a hypocrisy on the part of Mrs. Clinton and Gov. Romney on meeting with the leaders of Cuba,Syria,Iran,North Korea, Venezuela and other tyrants. Have they forgotten that our presidents have met with the communist leaders of not only China, but also communist Vietnam. And just recently, who was it that met with the Syrian leader and other dipolomats from his government? None other than democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top democrats. Today the U.S. likes to think of China as a trade partner among other things. Lets not forget that it was a republican president, Richard Nixon who sat with the chinese and helped China open up to the world. And,have they forgotten the result of the talks between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev. Senator Obama is on the right track as far as talking with our enemies. You bring about changes in other nations by talking to its people and their leaders, not by isolating them. We must first start by sharing a common denominator, and that is RESPECT. Thank you.

    July 26, 2007 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Taylor Philadelphia, PA

    How about some reading comprehension guys? Romney and Clinton are encouraging dialogue between this countries and someone other than the President. What if the US President immediately met with a rogue leader and in turn that leader fabricated everything that occurred during the meeting to his country in order to rally hate against Americans, etc.? I don't see it as countinuing the foreign policy that we have. As far as I know, we barely send ANY diplomats to these types of countries.

    July 26, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Rachel, Helena MT

    “Meeting with [authoritarian tyrants] is not what a president does.”

    Hmm...could that be part of our problem?

    It's time for a change in Washington and not politics as usual!

    July 26, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. Mike, Greenville NC

    "How do they ever hope to draw peace between us and “tyrant” nations if we will not swallow our pride and show them the respect every nation deserves."

    North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria are nations that deserve respect? Should they be respected for the way they abuse and plunder their countries and people? These countries are getting MORE than the respect they "deserve." You think WE are messed up with the current administration, imagine if you were a citizen of ANY of the countries you mentioned. If it were that bad here you'd already be in prison or worse. Think about it.

    July 26, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. Tom Dedham, Mass

    I want you geniuses to explain what do you exactly say to a "leader" of a country that CLEARLY wants DEATH to all AMERICANS and DEATH to all JEWS?

    Just curious, do we offer them what is behind door number one, a bridge for sale perhaps.

    You can however secretly put out the olive branch via diplomats to gauge a feel for what could be a "common ground" and then AFTER that is accomplished you send the diplomats over to met in a neutral area and discuss those "common grounds" and the KILL AMERICANS and KILL JEWS talk is flatly and firmly told that it WON'T be tolerated.

    Once those words are repudiated by the leader, POSSIBLY the PRESIDENT would then take part in open dialogue between whatever country it is.

    Bush has been hammered for both doing this and for not doing this.

    It is so easy to blame us for all that is wrong, but think about it, we used nothing but diplomacy and our installations still got bombed over and over during the Clinton years (some of you laughingly talk about how much we were loved, tell that to all of the families that lost loved ones how loved we were).

    I can't believe I am going to say this, but after really thinking about it, HILLARY is right, if someone is just going to say, kill, kill, kill, do you rush into or have any talks with them?

    Based on what do you discuss?

    We are not always the bad guy as some of you like to think, guess what, as grownups you need to realize no matter what you do, SOME PEOPLE JUST DON'T LIKE YOU.

    July 26, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  6. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    At least Romney is honest about his stand on this issue. Hillary is his major opponent, and when he thought she was right, he said so. It lends him more credibility for the times he disagrees with her. That it isn't just to pick a fight.

    What people are declaring as "arrogance" and the "old way" looks like practicality/reality. International relations are REALLY complicated. There are leaders with all manner of agendas and motives.

    If several of our children or friends were captured and beaten, robbed or murdered by the leader of a local gang, would our reaction be to go visit at his house? Find out if we don't see eye to eye?

    Foreign relations would have to be a case by case basis, and I would hope for a President that spent a lot more time on America, rather than trotting all over the globe scoring cheap political celebrity points with countries whose agenda is to trounce us as soon as they get the chance.

    July 26, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. Sherman, Minneapolis MN

    Seriously?!?! How long will this go on and how many people are going to jump in before it's done?

    Personally. I respect him for his willingness to sit down and talk. isn't that what diplomacy is?

    July 26, 2007 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. Walker, Montgomery, AL

    I think that most people aren't worried about talking with authoritarian regimes or dictators so much as they are about concessions or collaboration with oppressive governments. I admit that I was taken aback by Sen. Obama's comment, but U.S. presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and others have spoken with the leaders of such governments directly. The worry is that the senator's approach would be trying to reconcile the United States with foreign governments without keeping U.S. interests paramount. Sen. Clinton is most likely right that certain parameters are necessary for dialogue, but Sen. Obama is not making as bold of a statement as it sounds.

    July 26, 2007 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Ron Paul in '08

    July 26, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. Jon, Los Angeles CA

    Romney's comments are almost comical, and he basically makes Obama's point; one major problem with the Bush administration's vision of diplomacy is that it inherently implies a sense of unwarranted arrogance among our delegates. When Romney says, "you do not bestow the dignity of the presidency on people like [them]," he implies that other foreign leaders should view open communication with U.S. policymakers as some sort of righteous privelege. Open communication and subsequent cooperation amongst world leaders is the necessary next step; implying that world leaders need to earn their right to help the U.S. solve the world's problems is absurd.

    July 26, 2007 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  11. Taka, Windhoek, NAMIBIA

    Given that the Presidency is a position won (and often stolen) as opposed to bestowed for outstanding achievement or "real qualities" it can't be likened to a knighthood, sainthood or Nobel Prize. The President like any other functionary is a servant of the people, although he has the biggest house and his own airplane. Romney makes it sound as if all the President does is rubberstamp what other functionaries have done. What makes him think that other leaders would consider it an honour anyway?

    If you as a Presidential aspirant don't have the humility to recognize your enemy as a person worthy of talking to then 1.) You will never be able to avert atrocities like at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo because these kinds of imperialistic outlooks kind of cascade to your subordinates and country-men and 2.) you will never be able to talk your way out of a war although in your own skewed thinking your deputy might be able to, 3.) you shouldn't be running.

    Talk to your enemy, respect what is worth respecting and reject the rest. SIMPLE. . . oh and be courteous whilst you do it. Stop talking about foreign leaders as if they were tainted meat. Not a one is unblemished.

    It is easy to understand why heralds have always been revered throughout history because they always exemplify the type of humility, deportment and diplomacy that their monarchs failed to demonstrate. I suppose humility would be at variance with that notion of the divine right of Presidents.

    I'd ask Tom what he'd say to his own question regarding "Death to all Americans and Jews"? Maybe you decide if what you are going to discuss actually has a bearing on this viewpoint or vice-versa. One could ask a question "What do you say to a president who wants you to disarm but keep all the nuclear warheads for himself?" Anyhow decide what limited area you are going to tackle and stick to it. Leave sex, politics and religion out of it. Does that help?

    And Tom maybe if you analysed the world stage you might understand the roots of why some people don't like you (America that is). And maybe if you (America) were big enough you might do something about it . . . apart from the posturing, threats and use of the the military. For instance "ask them why" by telephone, teleconference, post, e-mail or . . . go fishing.

    Shawnie perhaps going over to see eye-to-eye might avert a situation where you have an eye for an eye for an eye for an eye for an eye for an eye. If your name happens to Polyphemus this might be a situation you are keen on avoiding.

    If America were more concerned with everyone winning as opposed to just America winning then you wouldn't be so uptight about being occasionally trounced.

    July 26, 2007 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    "If America were more concerned with everyone winning as opposed to just America winning then you wouldn’t be so uptight about being occasionally trounced."

    Gee, Taka from Nambia, great advice...I have no idea why we were so uptight about 9/11 or any other terrorist attacks. We should let our guard down and just take the punches once in a while.

    July 26, 2007 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  13. bprosserme

    I think you misunderstood...

    July 26, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  14. Taka, Windhoek, NAMIBIA

    Shawnie from Grants Pass. I do appreciate the sarcasm once in a while. But there is not now and never was anything funny about 9/11.

    The trouncing I had meant was on legitimate bilateral agreements where America's full aspirations are not fully realised through negotiations. No one sanctions terrorist activities.

    My point was that America is just too geared to winning, to holding the ideals it embraces as unassailable and it frowns and looks down on the positions and values of others. I still think that you have to cultivate the ability to engage and discuss being considerate of the positions of other parties no matter how disparate from your line of thinking.

    No offence was intended. It wasn't great advice. Just an opinion.

    July 26, 2007 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  15. ItsTimeToTurnThePage


    Let's see if Romney says the same thing tomorrow.

    I'm sure by tomorrow Romney will have found a new position.

    If I was Hillary, I wouldn't want someone who holds up bigoted signs to be defending me.


    July 26, 2007 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  16. Grady, Memphis Tennessee

    I agree with Obama. What is the harm in talking with other leaders? That should be the least that we should de before sending thousands off to war. Let's not forget that Eisenhower met with Francisco Franco, a tyranical dictator. Eisenhower even took him back into the fold of Western powers. Guess why...because the US government wanted something from them. Later we built military bases in Spain that we used for many years. That wasn't the first time a US president met with a dictator. The problem with the US government is that they do things based on greed and power and not righteousness and truth... eventhough they are always talking that talk to get a vote. Considering Bush's communication skills, it's probably best he doesn't speak directly with anyone without a script.

    July 26, 2007 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  17. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Taka, since you seem to have a good grasp on intelligence, just answer what I wrote about and I will worry about analyzing the rest of all mankind (I can handle it because I am an American who knows everything and wants to win at everything).

    You make it sound like we are selfish, that is a liberally socialist mantra where they like to hammer conservatives by saying "well you have yours, so forget about everyone else".

    News for you buddy, we give more aid and dropped more blood than any country in existense to help people who don't have as much or needed our assistance.

    Does that sound like someone who doesn't care about everyone winning?

    Nobody has done more to help everyone have a chance at winning than us.

    How would you approach someone whose stated goal is to wipe you out and a close ally of yours, anyway other than I indicated?

    For all this great country has done over the years for other countries in many ways and many times over, we still WILL ALWAYS have people that hate us no matter what it can be for religious, financial etc, etc reasons and all the diplomacy in the world will not change that.

    I welcome your well thought out responses.

    July 26, 2007 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  18. H. Arnold; Chicago, Illinois

    That's why the Republicans want Hilary Clinton to win. They back her now so she can win the nomination so they can get back in. Obama has the ideas and guess what he is correct...The refuse to talk attitude is not working so let the president try, after-all like it or not, the leaders of countries we oppose are still a factor in the world. Someone needs to deal with them so we can have peace!!!

    July 26, 2007 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. joe blow

    blah blah blah

    July 26, 2007 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  20. David, Kansas City, MO

    Totally Agree with Romney.
    And as has been well documented in these comments, he said that the US would talk and hold relations and help promote diplomacy and mutual respect, but the office of the President speaking to the head of a foreign government is not the first step of that ladder.

    July 26, 2007 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  21. Kaseam, Philly PA

    Romney, you need to crawl back into your little hole. You are insignificant in this election. Fall back.

    July 26, 2007 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  22. mizonglohong Clearwater, Fl

    This coming from the guy that is not opposed to using nukes against Iran.... His words mean very little to me.

    July 26, 2007 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  23. Romney08, Lake Elsinore, CA

    Mitt is truly playing the game well. He now knows that he has the Republican nomination in his control and he is taking his comments directly to the Democrats. Mitt has the right strategy, the right message and the financial backing to get to The White House.

    July 27, 2007 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  24. jack, NH

    Hillarys Top 5 Reasons For President

    – The New York times and CNN have endorsed me with their glowing coverage.

    – Fox news finally loves me, proof, Rupert Murdoch held a fundraiser for me.

    -The Clinton years were soo prosperous, when we left office, we gave up the house, the senate and the alot of governorships to republicans.

    -I like making people feel good by telling them what they want to hear.I'm told its good for their health. Remember the twang i put on infront of black people.

    -I'm the only one who can end the war in Iraq. I should know because i voted for it. And after finally taking 4 years to read the intelligence report,my experience tells me that what we need now is an exit strategy.

    July 27, 2007 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  25. Banjo, Atlanta Ga.

    It’s time for change. The politics of yester years are no more,gone with the wind it has, Mrs clinton wake up its 2008 and its Obama time…we love this GUY..he is just so BILL CLINTON like, dont you get it!!!
    OBAMA 08′

    July 27, 2007 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
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