September 24th, 2007
01:00 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama stands ground on meeting with Ahmadinejad

Watch Obama discuss the Iranian president's visit Monday.

NEW YORK (CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama stood his ground Monday on his controversial remarks earlier this year that he would meet with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We should never negotiate out of fear but we should never fear to negotiate," Obama said, quoting John F. Kennedy.

"Meeting with somebody is not tantamount to agreeing with them," he later added when taking questions from reporters after announcing an endorsement by the New York City Correctional Officers Benevolent Association in Manhattan.

Obama's toughest Democratic primary competition in the race for the White House, Sen. Hillary Clinton, criticized Obama earlier this year for saying he would meet with Ahmadinejad during a debate, called his comments irresponsible and attacked the Illinois senator for being inexperienced.

Obama also said he would not have invited Ahmadinejad to speak as Columbia University has done.

Ahmadinejad, who is in New York City to visit the United Nations, was invited to speak Monday afternoon at the university.

But Obama said U.S. schools have the freedom to make such decisions.

The NYC-COBA, the largest municipal prison union in the United States, represents 9,000 correction workers in the city.

- CNN's Katy Byron

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Rick - Burlington, Vermont

    During my lifetime, we've been allies with Iran – giving them fighter planes. We've been enemies with them supporting Iraq's war against them. We have a long checkered history of supporting terrorist groups in the entire region as well as branding some groups as satanic not so many years later. We've had Taliban visit Texas as guests, we've had high US officials shaking hands with Saddam and being buddy, buddy with him. Later, we turn him in as a war criminal. Libya's president admittedly killed a bunch of Americans but is now a friend to our president's administration. All this has happened in what ? The past 30 or so years? Short term thinking, short term manipulation seems to be our nation's approach far too often. - Ahmadinejad – let's slow down here folks. Let's not let the Fundamental Christian End-of-time Agenda drive us, let's listen to what is clearly not a stupid man, but a man with a very different point of view. Ideas won't kill us. Rash decisions, short term actions without thinking out long term consequences will – the Iraq mess has recently reminded us of that.

    September 24, 2007 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. Carlos Nevarez/ Dorado, Puerto Rico, USA

    I am Extremely dissapointed at this criticism that Mr. Obama is receiving for this. We should applaud his efforts for extending some sort of dialogue with this Radical from Iran. Like it or not, Mr. Ahmadinejad IS the President of Iran, and wethere he is considered an enemy or not, we have to atleast try to show some diplomatic dialogue. Wasn't Mr. Obama criticized for hostile comment directed towards Iran not to long ago....? Senator Clinton and a few others were the ones who critized him I believe. So in my native tongue, we would reffer to all of them including Senator Clinton as Hypocrita's...

    September 24, 2007 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. Dan (Columbia, MD)

    I think whoever wins the White House should meet with Aquavelvajad should let the little nutjob. When they do they can tell him that further acts of war against our military forces is not in the best interests of the security of Iran.

    They should also make Joe Lieberman their Secretary of State and send him with survivors of the holocaust. Then Iran can tell them the holocaust never happened.

    September 24, 2007 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  4. Will, NYC

    Somebody clue me in to something here. When did we actively declare war on Iran? Oh, we didn't? Then I fail to understand how opening dialogue with a country we are not at war with is in the least bit controversial. If anything, bringing Iran to the table stands a better chance of loosening fundamentaism's hold on the country and bringing about stability.

    Keep up the disciplined stance Obama. I just sent you 10 bucks. Talking to a country does not preclude a military option.

    September 24, 2007 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. Pat, Salem VA

    It is utterly amazing to me how the far right Republican conservatives have become so vocal concerning Mr. Ahmadinejad's speaking at Columbia University. Are these not the same people who are so in favor of the "right to bear arms" (ie: NRA) and the "freedom of spech?" Just beacuse you may dislike the messenger does not mean he hasn't the right to speak...especially on the of soil of the "land of the free and the home of the brave." What are you people afraid of??? As for me, I choose to live by an adage I heard many years ago..."keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. You're right on target, Senator Obama!!!

    September 24, 2007 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. Dan (Columbia, MD)

    I meant to say whoever wins the WH should MEET the little nutjob. 😛

    September 24, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  7. Monica, Macon, GA

    I'm glad that people are seeing that Obama brings something special, new and transforming to politics, something we haven't seen in recent memory. He is a truly gifted leader and not afraid of rethinking the way we do politics – I think most of us can agree that this is what our country needs right now.

    September 24, 2007 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. Winston Hsia, San Antonio Texas

    Very Good, Mr. Obama. I am with you all the way. Mrs. Clinton lacks the experience,the courage and the wisdom.

    September 24, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. Karen, Orlando, Fl.

    Rick in Burlington- what an excellent and intelligent way to state our past relationship with Iran. I agree completely. American's seem to suffer from short term memory. Not all leaders will agree with us or even govern as we would but agreeing to meet with them is quite different than agreeing with them. We would be wise to avoid the knee jerk cowboy response that our President has made so popular.

    September 24, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. Randy, DC

    Obama is an idiot. Why isn't he meeting with Hawkmed this visit?

    September 24, 2007 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  11. David, Dallas Tx

    This has pretty much been the nail in the coffin for my support of Clinton. We cannot influence where we do not engage. Obama has the right of it. Clinton would continue much of Bush's strategy, which has gotten us where we are now.

    September 24, 2007 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  12. John P Dallas, Texas

    The Bush Administration seems to ratching up the drums of war. They want to invade Iran. Kudos to Obama for wanting to keep an open dialogue. Iran is currently co-operating with the IAEA in their nuclear power program. Isolating Iran will only make things worse. The last thing we need is another war, we already have two on the go. Thanks Rick for a precise of recent Iranian history. Thos who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

    September 24, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. Carsten Hansen, Seattle Wa

    Good for you Obama. Ignoring people who have different points of view is exactly what is wrong with the current administration. Dialog never hurts. He might have extremist ideas, and he might be controlled by the religious leaders of his country, but, as far as I can tell, he is an intelligent man. So, apart from the intelligence part, he's alot like our president...

    September 24, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  14. Hip Hip Hoo-illary! New York, NY

    Obama is naive and inexperienced. He was only elected to the Senate last year.

    I don't think he ever went to college, if he did, it was probably through affirmative action. Americans are never going to elect a black Muslim as President! And his wife is unfit to be first lady. She should go home and stop talking right away!

    Hillary Clinton has more strength and experience of any candidate. She's been a senator for 15 years now. She made many important decisions as first lady and is personally responsible for much of America's prosperity in the 90's.

    Most Americans have always liked her. She's just like the girl next door.

    Vote for Hillary!

    September 24, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. James, Phoenix AZ

    When will Obama be meeting with the Iranian Leader? The guy's in town – set it up, Obama. Put your money where your mouth is!

    Let the American People see the Democrat Party and their alignments:

    1. Obama – unrestricted talks with Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jung Il
    2. Pelosi – friendly visit to Syria
    3. Obama – Open flights for all Americans to visit (support) Fidel Castro
    4. Hillary – Having tea with Mrs Arafat while suicide bombers kill Israeli women/children.

    Throw in some socialism (healthcare for all, robinhood taxation, etc).

    THAT is the party you want to support?

    September 24, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. Mike, New York NY

    After listening to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speech at Columbia University it is clear that he is completely out-of-touch with the realities of this world.

    September 24, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. demwit

    Dear Senator Obama,

    When you sit down for your negotiation without fear, ask Ahmadinejad to stop supporting the proxy killing of American soldiers.
    Oh, use pretty please if you think that will help too..

    September 24, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  18. HomeoftheBrave

    Is there any doubt that the demorats would have attempted to negotiate with Hitler too? And like Chamberlain, they continue to wave worthless pieces of paper at us proclaiming victory..

    September 24, 2007 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. James, Austin TX

    Hip Hip Hoo-illary:

    Brilliant satire!

    September 24, 2007 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  20. Mia, Stafford, VA

    Hip Hip Hoo-illary – clearly you are out of touch, and should avoid making comments in an intellectual forum.

    Barack Obama graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School! Affirmative action opens a door, but you must still be QUALIFIED to walk through the door.

    September 24, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  21. proud2bliberal

    James from Phoenix,
    we know exactly how Republicans think:
    1) we'll attack and bomb anyone who thinks differently than we do
    2) we can win the war on terror in a vacuum, screw every Arab country- we don't need to talk to them since we've already got this Iraq thing all figured out
    3) It's ok to visit and even had trade relations with China (a communist country in case you didn't know) but we need to continue this ridiculous out dated embargo of Cuba

    September 24, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. R

    And just who does Obama think he would be representing in meeting with the devil on his own?

    September 24, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. Bill, Wilmington, DE

    Hey Hip Hop,

    IF you are the typical Hillary supporter then she doesn't have a chance:

    1) Obama is not a muslim
    2) She has not been a senator for 15 years
    3) She had nothing to do with the prosperity in the '90s

    September 24, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    I had much trepidation with this stinkin' piece of trash speaking anywhere in my country (certainly not ground zero), but we can gain a little credibility by at least showing we are really decent people that are willing to listen to differing viewpoints and DEBATE them.

    This DEBATE should be only done on a college campus and should only happen if the audience is allowed to DEBATE the speaker and his views.

    You can't do this in his country and my hope is that we hammer him with smart questions, and the world media portrays it as "another reason why this country and it's ideals are the best". I know probably wishful thinking.

    How would you feel if you REALLY got to see this as a citizen in Iran, people questioning viewpoints and ideas without getting slaughtered for having a different one.

    I agree with and RESPECT Obama, if he wants to meet behind the scenes, go for it, as let's face it, our own media believes in it (thanks to their totally biased ideaology that is rampant throughout the industry) and again, positive word would get out and that is how the game is played.

    Idiot Bush, I always felt made mistake number one by alienating the media instead of embracing it (Bill Clinton was a master at doing it) as whether we want to admit it or not, you need the media to get out "the message".

    Most times it is not the message, it is how it is "sold".

    My degree in journalism is paying off................

    I do have a beef with this school and many others who whine and cry about censorship and the need to hear all views, but whenever a non-progressive viewpoint (See Ann Coulter, Andrew Card or the Minutemen at this very school to name a FEW) is slated to speak they either have the request withdrawn, denied or they are shouted down, spit at or yes, have pies thrown at them.

    Is this the progressive liberal agenda we want shoved down our kids throats?

    We hear and read all the time that Republicans are close-minded and have a narrow view of the world, how open minded is what these "kids" do to Republicans or "OMG", Conservatives when they want to speak?

    Just my 2 "sense".

    September 24, 2007 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    You've gotta be a naive Ivy League nutjob to think meeting with an Iranian nutjob would be in any way productive.

    September 24, 2007 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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