July 24th, 2007
05:49 PM ET
11 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. Hong,Trumbull ct

    Obama answered the question right. We need to set a good example to show to the world, American are more than just ordinary people, we are making efforts to unite the world. So the world could look up to us and follow us.

    July 25, 2007 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. Jimmy from up North

    And then Clinton was all, "Obama's naivete and inexperience = unpresidentialness, a word I just made up", and then Obama was like, "Washington needs to change! Only I can change Washington with my magical change-wand, and my band of change wizards! Join me!" And then Clinton was like, "Somebody ask me a question about my husband so I can make a witty joke and look inevitable!", and then Anderson Cooper was all, "Bill Richardson, you have 2.5 seconds to respond. Time's up."

    July 25, 2007 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  3. Jon, Irvine CA

    Clinton answered the question like a Real President. Which is the PROBLEM, I like Obama's fresh approach. I don't want a seasoned politician who will give us more of the same. Clinton represents all that is wrong with politics.

    July 25, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. Wallace Young Montgomery, Alabama

    I am so glad that Senator Obama's lack of substance is beginning to shine through. His answer on Monday night proves he is not ready to lead this country.

    He should consider 2016. I really think he is the future of the Democratic party, but he should not have let the Oprah hype push him into running for President. Serve another term or two in the Senate or take a postion in the Clinton cabinet, then run as a qualified candidate.

    July 25, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  5. Bill O'Neill, Palatine, IL

    Clinton isn't "nuanced" to prefer careful prenups before meeting with baddies lest she be "deceived". In her case its really required. She's reminding us of her 2003 war vote that was not a mistake because she was "misled". Really? By anybody smart? All of the baddies and some of the goodies are more than capable of deceit. Presidents are admired for audacity, (more so when their gamble just appears to be daring or risky.) Obama understands that.

    July 25, 2007 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  6. Thomas - Westchester County, NY

    Obama's response to the question was good. Why is Hillary and her ilks trying to make an issue out of nothing? She called Obama " Niave, but her vote on the war was niave and she refuses to explain her vote. She's is clearly taking a page from the Bush handbook, which is become an isolationist and alienate America from those whom we disagree. Sen.Clinton will NOT get my vote, I'd vote for Guilani before i vote her.

    July 25, 2007 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  7. marcus dallas texas

    I can see how Mrs. Clinton percieved it as being overzealous on Mr. Obama's part but i wonder if she was saying that for the audience or from her own convictions?

    July 25, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  8. Ron, Honolulu HI

    As of the last entry on 7/25 at 5:22 pm:

    Number supporting Obama/think Clinton is cheap politics as usual:

    Number supporting Clinton/Think Obama is too inexperienced:

    Seemingly undecided:
    roughly 37

    A few entries werent included since they were confusing but overall it seems like if the sample here reflects the voting poputation then Obama will do it. His supporters just need to go to the polls.

    July 25, 2007 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  9. Lavelle

    I think CNN should look at the responses in this blog! The people think differently then what there trying to spin against Obama. The media is also in on whatever agenda the Clintons have on Americans. I respect Obama even more, and am suprised at how CNN continues to disapoint! Stop covering the game onesided, Obama is showing that he will stand toe to toe with anyone. And the people are noticing that he is infact strong and can lead. Heck why dont CNN talk about Obama's response to all this...He said "being naive and irresponsible is by voting for a war without a plan to get out" that speaks louder then some answer to a debating question. She was underpressure with a vote and got it wrong. She refused to read anything about the plans to attack Iraq. She just said ok go ahead lets do it! Hmmm that doesnt sound like a leader to me.

    July 25, 2007 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  10. Ricardo, Los Angeles, CA

    Obama said he would meet with the "bad" leaders. To insinuate that he would meet right after he assumes the presidency is a bogus statement. Experience? Why did Clinton vote for the war? Isn't she so experienced? If she really had the experience she claims to have, she would not have done that! I am sure that Clinton, if elected, would keep the same politics of arrogance that we can see in the current White House. Maybe a little masked... but the same!Clinton is feeling the heat, thats why she will try to attack Obama as much as she can.
    Wake up America!

    July 25, 2007 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  11. David Cherbonnier, Singapore

    The question was, Would you be "willing" to meet. To insinuate this would be done without proper evaluation of the circumstances and agenda is another of Hillary's attempts to duck the issue and besmirch the opposition.

    July 25, 2007 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  12. Veronica, Dallas TX

    This is a perfect example of how much more experience Clinton has over Obama. He will make an excellent president someday... however; we need someone who has the experience to kick some butts. Clinton has been in the White House... for 8 years might I mention, and she knows how it works. What this country needs now is someone like her to pull all the loose ends together!

    July 26, 2007 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  13. Alex, Las Vegas, NV

    After reading the transcript of the question and responses by both candidates, I have affirmed my support of Senator Obama and maintain my respect for Senator Clinton. Although I can empathize with Hillary's caution, Barack's response articulated a clear departure of the non-engagement foreign policy approach propagated in the post-cold war era. We need a wholesale paradigm shift in our foreign policy and Barack's point of view represents the change we so desperately need at home and abroad.

    July 26, 2007 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  14. David, Bala Cynwyd, PA

    Clinton calling Obama naive and irresponsible is an indicator of her character and personhood. It's dumb politics to be reminding folks about why 52% don't like her. Obama is hitting her back with real examples of her irresponsibility on Iraq position. Voters dislike petty squabbles & name calling. It also does not look Presidential. Hillary lost this round.

    July 26, 2007 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
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