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. Karen, Orlando, Fl.

    I don't always agree with your post (I'm usually somewhat to the left of you) but I have to agree with this one. Your post was very intelligently written and you made a valid point. Anyone can defend speech that they agree with, but true freedom of speech is the ability to defend speech that is so against what you stand for on a fundamental level that is shakes you to your core. I pretty much believe that Ann Coulter is the devil but she has every right to speak her mind and voice her opinions. I would like to think that if I had to opportunity to hear her speak or even debate her that I would do so in a respectful manner.

    September 24, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  2. Will Livingston, Dallas, Texas

    I must say listening to Ahmadinejad speak today at Columbia has me open to the idea of talks between our country and his. I myself am guilty of being too quick to judge others but perhaps this is an opportunity for an open dialogue to begin. We have to understand the differences concerning racism, oppression, and the lack of willingness to acknowledge the homosexual lifestyle that many other countries have. Let's face it, if we had met many of our own past presidents of this country's early years we would not agree with thier ideologies either.

    September 24, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. Maria, Houston

    Rabid Republicans can't surprise me, it is the Clinton Fan Club that never ceases to amuse... ignorant, ill-informed, with shallow reasoning and speaking in bumper stickers... CONGRATULATIONS! Fanatical left finally found commnon language with fanatical right! 🙂

    September 24, 2007 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. Arshad, Newburgh, New York

    Many people in the world completely disagree with US foreign policies, they have not stopped talking to George Bush. Many people call our presence in Iraq as occupation or invasion when we call "preaching of democracy". Those people din't stop doing business with the US.

    We preach democracy but we can not respect democratically elected president of Iraq just because he does not share our world views. Same is true with Hugo Chavez.

    On Obama, he has always seen the other side of the coin that smart people ignored to exploit. On that regard, you can call him naive. How many people will get a degree from Columbia and Harvard and won't try to convert them into big fat pay check. How many of the smart educated people would take a $13K/year community organization job and walk away from six figure salaries. If someone does, I am sure many of you will call that person "naive". In that regard, Obama is naive. Or if you are honest, you can say that this man has a serious passion for people, has a huge heart to feel other people's pain, and an intense desire to make a difference in other people's lives. That spirit is lost in materialistic view of the world and a selfish practice of individualism. But guess there are still people who are different from most of us. Seem we don't quite act like them but many of us still admire when we see someone doing it. Obama is everything that other people are not. People pulled him this far from southside of Chicago's streets. They will carry him all the way to the end.

    September 24, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  5. bukky, Baltimore, MD

    I agree with Tom and Karen.

    The whole reason this country has freedon of speech is so that people can be free to espouse unpopular views. Anyone with half a brain would not all of a sudden start believing that the Hollocaust did not happened just bc the Iranian president said so.

    I would not listen to Ann Coutler speak becuase she is quite VILE, but i would listen to this guy so i can here what he has to say BEFORE it has been filtred through the washington machine.

    Obama did not say he would NEGOTIATE, he said meet with, listen to, try to understand. You can't understand something you dont know, and you can't get to know something by the propaganda that is floated around. Face to Face

    Also why is it OK to talk/Negotiate/deal with and owe 3 thrillion dollars to Communist China, but speaking to cuba is out of the question. Really where is the Logic? And china's human rights issues are still far worse than Cuba's. I really dont understand the right wing and hillarys thinking process on this

    September 24, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  6. Truth Teller

    Hip Hip Hoo illary:
    Hillary can have you. There is no where to begin to counter your statement. Too bizarre.

    September 24, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  7. Zack, NJ

    Why do people think when Obama said he'll meet with the president of Iran he'll be taking him out for drinks? We should not shy away from our enemies. It only creates long-term animosity and misunderstanding. Our refusal to meet and understand our enemies shows not only our arrogance, but also our insecurities. We are a proud nation, and thus should not be afraid to look our enemies in the eye and tell them what we think. It's just like Obama said earlier.

    Besides, Ahmadinejad is just one man with a big mouth, and Iran is a country a fraction of the power of the US. He wouldn't dare try anything against us otherwise I'm sure Obama would wipe Iran from the face of the planet.

    September 24, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  8. Truth Teller

    Mike in NY and others with similar views:

    Aren't you glad that you got to hear him first hand and draw the conclusion that you did on your own? I trust in the ability of the American people to be able to make a reasonable judgement about an unreasonable man. The policy of the current administration has done nothing but promote hatred and resentment of the US. Let's talk to our enemies. It doesn't mean we support them, but it certainly is interesting to get a glimpse of how their minds work.

    September 24, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. lavelle Rochester,ny

    Please we still hold talks with Iran. Sending Condi over is no different from allowing the president to open up dialogue. You respect a country more by hearing straight from the hourses mouth. The only propoganda thats being taken place is from the United States media against Obama and his ideas. Why are Americans so affraid of dialogue? Thats how wars start from mis understandings or a thirst for Oil.

    September 24, 2007 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  10. Dom

    Obama continues to prove that he has a sophisticated, experienced and well balanced view of politics and fully appreciates the need for dialogue that powers things forward.

    He is a courageous leader, who speaks his mind, voicing the truth, well aware that the meaning of his words can and will be intentionally misconstrued by his rivals to score political points. Nevertheless he soldiers on!

    America don't lose this chance to redeem the country. Elect this man Obama for President in '08.

    September 24, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. Bill, Wilimington, DE

    I don't have any objection to our polictical leaders speaking with others with different points of view. However, let's not forget who Ahmadinejad is. He may be the so-called president of Iran, but is nothing more than the talking head of Iranian Hardliners, which have little in common with the average Iranian citizen. I don't think Obama should see him, because he's basically nothing. We would be alot better off simply ignoring the man. His days are numbered anyway.

    September 24, 2007 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. A DEMOCRAT,ny

    Obama is like the Pied Piper of Hamlet. All of you are following right after him. Most of you are going because you are use to following the crowd. If Obama said JUMP.. you feather heads would say, HOW HIGH. Even the dumb Republicans said he had intellectual laziness.

    September 24, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  13. Coach Haughton

    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..

    Posted By HomeoftheBrave : September 24, 2007 2:36 pm

    The answer is yes. And they DID genious. The FDR administration, Churchhill and the Nazi's came together and agreed to cease using poison gas, saving our soldiers from suffering.

    And JFK negotiated the cuban missle crisis with communist russia.

    Yes it is good to talk to your enemy even if you disagree.

    The opposite stance in stupid.

    September 24, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. Eric, from THE Republic of Texas

    I believe a former British Prime Minister also met with someone once... now, who was it... oh, my memory fails me...

    Anyway, he returned from that wonderful talk-fest and said the following:

    "This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine.... We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again... This is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace in our time."

    Neville Chamberlain – Speech at Heston Airport, upon returning to England from Munich, 30 September 1938, in The Times 1 Oct. 1938. Source: Oxford Book of Modern Quotes

    Hitler's response after the meeting:
    "If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella, I'll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach in front of the photographers."

    Adolf Hitler after the Munich Agreement, The Inner Circle, Macmillan (1959), p. 135

    You see, kids, not all problems can be solved with a nice, cozy gab-fest. Talk-talk-talking with tyrants and dictators simply gives them credibility and we can see first hand how well the little 1938 Munich Kumbaya session turned out.

    Don't believe me? Ask the Czechs, the Pols, the Romanians, the Ukrainians and others whom Hitler devastated. Nearly, 70 years later, and they're still finding mass graves.

    Tyrants cannot be appeased. Giving Aquavelvejad a stage and a forum is nothing more than appeasement. Seventy years from now people will ask themselves, "Why could they not see what was building up? Why did they allow this threat to grow? Why didn't they do something about it earlier?"

    September 24, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  15. J Houston, TX

    Obama is right on. Talking to a foreign government is the only way to do business. Even if your communication were only threats, it at least lets both sides listen rather than surprises being thrown. There is no reason not to meet with these people. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

    September 24, 2007 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  16. CL in TN

    I'm so proud of him. He is absolutely right – schools should have the freedom to invite any one they want to speak. And the United Nations is in New York City. If it were any where else, they probably wouldn't want Bush there.

    September 24, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. Pam Eugene, OR

    to...Hip Hip Hoo-illary. I pray you are showing a wonderful sense of humor. Otherwise, you are too scary for words!
    Obama has my vote for 80. His clear thinking is such a breath of fresh air.
    Omama 08

    September 24, 2007 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  18. anon, new york, NY

    Obama really demostrates his "intellectual laziness", as the Bush admin has labelled him.

    He said he would meet any foreign dictators. But, he does not shows his guts to meet Ahmadinejad in new york. Talk is cheap. I dont know what to beleive what he says these days.

    September 24, 2007 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  19. a. thomas, new york, NY

    Hip Hip Hoo-illary:

    As a new yorker myself, I do like your enthusiasm about Hillary, although your statements has a few mistakes:

    a) There is no evidence to support that Obama is currently an ideologically muslim. However, he had strong muslim influence when young. His middle name is muslim "Hussein", as he father was a muslim from africa. His step father was also a muslim, from Indonesia. He stayed with his step father in Indonesia for some years where he has been rumoured to have attended a muslim school because Indonesia ia a predominantly muslim country and most schools were run by muslims.

    b) 8 of the 15 yrs for Hillary should be counted as the first lady, not as a senator. But, I would consider being a first lady is more beneficial as a presidential candidate, with proximity of the center of potiical action and opportunity to know the domestic and foreign powerful people.

    c) The econoimic prosperity of the 1990's was under the her husband's administration. Alan Greenspan, the former federal reserve chairman, said that Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon are the only two smart and economically responsible presidents he had served all these years. Yeah, George H. Bush and his son (shrub or little bush) have not been considered smart or economically responsible presidents by Greenspan.

    September 24, 2007 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  20. Dan, TX

    Yes, Obama is right. Aren't you all glad that the President (of Columbia University) had the opportunity to say to Ahmadinejad's face what we need to say? Being able to get into someone's face and forcefully express your views is powerful. I would like to know how Al jazeera reported it. I hope it gets widespread circulation in the middle east news media. I don't see Bush telling off Ahmadinejad like that.

    September 24, 2007 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  21. Jill, Dallas Tx

    Hip Hip Hoo-illary
    Please stop posting and start your assignment. First read for the next 10 min. and locate the clues. Next, if you can't locate the clues, call me. Above all stop saying you support Hil, you're making us look bad. Let's just keep your support on the "down low". Sorry "Obama supporters" she really didn't know.

    September 24, 2007 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  22. Juanito, Washington, DC

    Obama is spot on. Our current policy of making threats, moving military ships to the Gulf, and other crap like that has done nothing to move things forward. I'm amazed at the obtuseness of some people here attacking Obama for his position. seems people forget that Ahmadinejad was ELECTED as a direct result of OUR trash talking (remember the "axis of evil" nonsense?). Before Bush gave that speech, Iran was actually helping US in terms of our efforts in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban. The Iranian moderates were moving forward, and implementing reform. Once Bush started making threats, the Iranians closed ranks and voted in Ahmadinejad in 2005.

    Lastly, can someone explain this to me:
    The rightwing NRA members claim that guns don't kill people, but people kill people. Well, if that's the case, then why are these same people claiming that Ahmadinejad is responsible for weapons allegedly made in Iran being used against our soldiers? Is he the one firing the rockets at our soldiers?

    I don't get these people. The only person to blame for our soldiers deaths is BUSH.

    September 24, 2007 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  23. Uma, mpls, MN

    dear democratic fellow, Obama is hype and Edward is whiner so be careful when you make decision to vote.
    make yourself and your country proud by voting smart and intelligent woman for the president of the USA.
    Hillary for president 08!

    September 24, 2007 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  24. Hakim Rasheed, Pittsburgh, PA

    Hip Hop Hoolary is wrong; Mr Obama was elected to the senate in 2004, not last year. Secondly, he's been in elected office about 10 years between his time in the Illinois legislature and the senate, which is longer than not only both Hillary's and John Edwards' time in elected office, but also longer than that of Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney, two top contenders on the republican side.

    Hillary not only lacks the experience and wisdom to be commander-in-chief, but also seems to lack the willingness to take a stand and give direct answers on many of the issues facing us. Good person? Yes; Good president? Not so much.

    Go Obama!

    September 25, 2007 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  25. Kent D. Madison, WI

    To "demwit" who said to have Obama ask the Iranian president to stop the proxy killing of US soldiers.

    Well, Mr. Demwit, the US killed nearly one million Iranians by proxy during the Iran-Iraq War that lasted from 1980 to 1989. Who supplied Saddam Husseim the weapons (including chemical agents) to fight that war?

    The US did. Do your homework before you spout such drivel.

    Who put the Shah of Iran into power, who tortured and killed thousands of Iranians through his SAVAK secret service? The US and British did.

    Who armed the Taliban to fight the Russian occupation of Afghanistan? Surprise!!! The United States.

    It has been the US meddling in Middle Eastern affairs since WWII that has gotten us into this current mess.

    How about a little more diplomacy rather than saber rattling? Look at what the failure of diplomacy has done for us.

    September 25, 2007 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
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