July 26th, 2007
03:09 PM ET
11 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. Patrick, La Mesa, CA

    Up to this point, I've been an Obama supporter. But I'm troubled by the notion of an American president meeting with world leaders who have made it their avowed purpose to publicly humiliate the U.S. at every turn (ie Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Kim Jung Il). Publicly meeting with such people is NOT a legitimate alternative to the current administration's debacle of a foreign policy. Hillary (and dare I say Mitt Romney, God help me) is right on this one.

    July 27, 2007 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  2. mikeelliott1

    The whole concept of diplomatic relations is one of the silliest abstracts that mankind has ever created. Unfortuantely, it's one to which everyone adheres and that every major actor on the geopolitical stage usually respects. The phrase "only Nixon could go to China" is illustrative of the key issue with Obama's statement. It's not a bad idea to open a dialogue with one's enemies (and it's almost always preferable to fighting), but you have to have the right person with the right reputation carrying your message. How people should evaluate Obama on this tack is not whether he'd meet with these tyrants, but whether or not he'd be the right guy to do the talking.


    July 27, 2007 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  3. Penna.

    As an Independent I'm with Ron Paul.

    He truly stands out from the others in my mind.

    July 27, 2007 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  4. John, Detroit, Mi.

    Great comments from Mitt Romney! Right is right, and, by God – Hillary's response got it right. In these partisan times it's refreshing to hear any candidate support an opposing party's candidate when they express the correct answer to impromptu questions. By the way you don't want to hold your breath until a Democrat points out that a Republican is correct because that could be life threatening. Sorry Obama fan club Hillery has shown through this simple response to negotiating with your enemies that she is much more experienced and capable of asending to the Presidency. We need capable canidates running for both parties because at the end of the day the President is the President for all Americans. Obama falls woefully short.

    July 27, 2007 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  5. Taka, Windhoek, NAMIBIA

    Hi Tom, I reread the original post you put and realized there were actually 4 question marks even though the third was mixing a viewpoint with a question. I will try to answer the questions as you request but my grasp of "intelligence" may not meet your standards.

    1. "What do you say?": It depends on whether you are talking about that particular issue or something else. If it is the viewpoint of "Death to all Americans" then you proceed from a position of inquiry. If it is something else which has no bearing on the viewpoint and vice-versa as I had mentioned earlier then you can discuss the issue albeit not entirely throwing caution to the wind.

    2. "A bridge for sale perhaps?". I don't understand this point and it would not be prudent to guess.

    3. "Do you rush into or have any talks with them?": If the point of talking is to try to avert their threats becoming actions wouldn't it make sense to pre-empt the speech and actually seek out middle or common ground? I think it might be more helpful than allowing paranoia and fear to fester.

    4. "Based on what do you discuss?": Perhaps on the basis that you are entitled to hold differences of opinion and that you are also allowed to make attempts to breech them. You stick to the subjects you have agreed to discuss.

    You last asked the question "How would you approach someone whose stated goal is to wipe you out and a close ally". Dare I suggest you first get "accurate" intelligence. No definitely and obviously you approach with caution. Not with a gun (economic or metallic) pointed at their head. Hardly diplomatic.

    You are absolutely right in saying that there are some people who will hate you no mater what you do. You are right in that preparatory talks are often best. I don't think it correct to make generalizations about a people on the basis of a few idiosyncratic individuals political and religious.


    I disagree that you just tell people even dictators that viewpoints won't be tolerated. Don't dictate to dictators. America's Human rights record has only improved significantly in the last 50 years and you still aren't quite there yet. Until late in the last century Americans have held some of the most racist and anti-semetic views of any nation as expressed by terminology for various racial groups. You don't just tell people that is not on. . . you allow them to re-educate themselves by stating and trying to show the correctness of your position. If it takes decades for animosity to grow between nations eg USA and CUBA do you think that your "it won't be tolerated" approach will work. I think not. Aim to agree on a systematic climb-down from positions of antagonism. Did you listen to Raul Castro yesterday? He made a valid point about improving ties with America. If you didn't hear it look it up and tell me what you would do now that an olive branch has been offered. I could be wrong but your suggestion is that only America has olive branches. I think Obama would know what is the right thing to do.

    The rest of the world has problems eg Africa has corruption, despotism and bad governance. The world doesn't deny it. America should not subscribe to the view that unless you toe the American line you are a bad man/woman. Possibly the only means of achieving success in negotiations with opponents is to attempt to see things from their perspective, I am not saying believe what they believe but look at things from all sides. Audi alterem partem. What is the point of buying self-improvement books from people like Steve Covey if you can't even enact some of his gems like Habit number 5 "Seek first to understand".

    I agree that America has given more aid than most other countries and has offered itself in instances where others have feared to tread. That however is not the issue in this debate or in Osama's and Hilary's original discussion from which. . . sadly we are digressing.

    To help you understand how others view America you could try reading a couple of books like Bill Blum's Rogue State. Now please live up to YOUR end of your unilateral offer and get on with the analysis of the rest of mankind.

    Has been great discussing with you though. Apologies for the length.

    July 27, 2007 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    Taka, I don't agree with some of your thoughts, but we do have some common ground, I respect your opinion, you are obviously a well thought out writer and thinker who is well intentioned.

    Some of my thoughts and sarcasms may have gotten lost in translation, but we can agree to disagree.

    July 27, 2007 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Taka, Windhoek, NAMIBIA

    Tom, I should be saying I apologise for the intrusion but the debate was kind of open.

    My views are alien to many of you and inconsequential to your country's present quest for adequate and appropriate leadership. Your points are valid and impassioned. The sarcasm, which I'd realy call wit, was not lost on me. I am sure we will disagree as have most of the people in this CNN political ticker.

    It is a puzzling time pieceing together millions of bits of information which will influence your ultimate choices. Wish you the best.

    July 27, 2007 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  8. David, Gilbert Arizona


    You make some interesting points...and opinions. I must say I find it odd, however, that you would chastise the United States based on human rights when your own country, Namibia, has one of the worst records of violations.

    I find it even more odd that you would accuse the United States of having "...some of the most racist and anti-semetic views of any nation..." when Namibia has been struggling with the oppression of South Africa for decades.

    A wise man once said, "first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Would it not be prudent to correct the situation in your own country before you take on the discressions of another?

    You point regarding America as being "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" makes no sense at all. If the United States' only interest is to "win" why would it support other world nations? Lest ye forget the United States has committed $15 billion dollars the help fight HIV/AIDS in other world contries...including Namibia. Even pharmaceutical companies are offering medications around the world at little or no cost. If the United States only cared about itself and its own interests those monies would have been spent domestically, the medications would have been sold at full retail, and your country would have been left to wallow in your own misery.

    Based on your original post it is evident that you did not watch the YouTube debates. While I agree with your comment that Romney sounds as if the President rubber stamps the actions of his or her functionaries, your assertions regarding the functions of the President as a diplomat make little sense when taken in context. The discussion is not whether the President should ignore world countries and their various leaders.

    The YouTube question was whether or not the President would meet with rogue nations during their first year in office. Clinton said no. Obama said yes. Obama has tried to spin his answer by alluding to the position that a no answer means Clinton, if President, would never talk to the nations in question. It is blantant spin and it would appear that people such as yourself have been taken in by it.

    There are foreign policies in place that every country abides by. One of the basic issues of Namibia's foreigh policy is the health, well-being, and security of Namibia and surrounding nations. Why would this not apply to the United States as well?

    When Hugo Chavez called George Bush satan before the United Nations would the United States be better off if Bush sat down with Chavez and discussed the matter? It's naive to think so and it is this point that Obama shows his inexperience. Chavez wanted to create a stir at the United Nations and it was right for President Bush to ignore the comment, in so doing discredit and devalue Chavez as a world leader.

    Diplomacy goes much deeper and much more complicated than Obama makes it out to be.

    July 27, 2007 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. Taka, Windhoek, NAMIBIA

    Last point Dave (of Arizona),

    If you will quote a person please quote in full. I did not just :

    accuse the United States of having “…some of the most racist and anti-semetic views of any nation…”

    . . . as your post suggested. My whole statement was as below.

    "Until late in the last century Americans have held some of the most racist and anti-semetic views of any nation as expressed by terminology for various racial groups."

    I was wrong in my spelling. I referred to the past not the present. Is this what you mean by "spin" ?

    July 28, 2007 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  10. David, Gilbert Arizona

    The last century ended in 1999 (or 2000 to be more correct). Say what you mean and mean what you say.

    The spin I was referring to is how Obama frames the argument. Again, the question was whether or not the President would or should meet with these rogue nations during the first year of their administration.

    Obama is spinning Clinton's no answer as meaning she, if President, would never meet with the nations in question. She never said she would not meet with those nations at all. She said she would not meet with them during her first year in office. She would, however, work through third party channels and meet directly with those nations after the ground work is in place. Surprise! That's why there is a Secretary of State, to lay the ground work necessary for face to face meetings.

    This is where the inexperience of Obama shines through.

    July 30, 2007 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. Taka

    Thanks Dave,

    I did understand what you meant. I wish CNN hadn't removed my 2nd last post in which I had said that there is no justification for saying that Namibia has "one of the worst human rights records".

    I had hoped you would read it because I also asked you to justify that statement. I think you must have read it because I expanded on the point which was that I was referring to the last century , which I see you responded to.

    For the purposes of clarity I had also said that I was wrong in going so deep into the past and that despite agreeing with you that Obama may have put employed a little spin I still think he is the man to support.

    P.S. I would ask CNN to please justify why you removed a legitimate comment from this blog but I am not sure I would get an answer. Please restore it.

    July 30, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  12. David, Gilbert Arizona


    I didn't see any other post other than the one asking to quote in full. I am not make excuses for the civil rights violations that have occurred throughout the history of the United States. I'm just pointing out that in constrast to human rights violations perpetrated in other world nations your comment that the United States, until late in the last century (ending in 1999), were some of the worst just does not hold water.

    As far as the human rights violations that have occurred in Namibia the information is available in a United Nations Commission on Human Rights report. The report ranks world nations based on human rights violations. Namibia is not the worst. It does however rank much lower than the United States.

    Albeit these points really do not apply to the discussion at large. The real issue is whether or not Obama has a valid understanding of world diplomacy. I personally do not believe he does. His answers to the question and the spin he used to discredit Clinton makes this even more apparent.

    July 30, 2007 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  13. Taka, Windhoek, NAMIBIA

    Hi Dave,

    I am sorry the post was deleted and for making the wrong assumption you saw it. I said please do not extrapolate my views to the Namibian populace as it wouldn't be fair to demonize a whole population because of one opinionated person.

    I am not really wanting to argue with you. I had included these links http://hrw.org/doc/?t=usa . The only point I didn't make in the removed post was that of America's former segregation laws.

    I could argue that America has more HR issues. You could argue that it's a larger country and that per capita Namibia is worse.

    This is not a discussion of whose HR abuses are worse, the point I would like us to leave on which is in agreement with yours is that we ALL have them.

    I agreed with you that Obama employed a little spin on his jumpshot. And you are right we are digressing. Since we are the last two on this blog it might be a good idea to keep up with the rest of the bloggers, but I see you have already been there. How many Dave's from Arizona can there be?

    If you want to have the last word please feel free. I might disagree but won't reply.

    July 31, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. ellen brooklyn NY

    Yeah sure that is not the way they do things instead presidents are supposed to fund violent dictators and use him to test our chemical weapons like Sadam and then turn him into our number one enemy over night

    November 7, 2007 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
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