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Barack Obama made his most direct case for the Democratic nomination at a speech on Jan. 30, 2008, in Denver. He criticized fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, arguing that he represents a more dramatic distinction with John McCain, the apparent Republican front-runner after winning Florida's primary.
In making his argument, Obama attacked Clinton for voting with Republicans on national security issues, among other things.
Among Obama's points: "It's time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain is not by nominating someone who ... agrees with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don't like."
On this point, Obama seems to be drawing on a difference that arose between him and Clinton in a July 2007 debate hosted by CNN and YouTube.
A YouTube questioner asked if the candidates would be "willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries."
Obama said he would; Clinton said she wouldn't.
Clinton explained her reasoning: "I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration."
John McCain's public comments seem to reflect an openness to diplomacy while also putting restrictions on face-to-face meetings.
"The most overrated aspect of our dialogue about international relations is direct face-to-face talks," he said in December 2007. "BlackBerrys work. Emissaries work. There's many thousands of ways to communicate. The question is, are you going to have direct talks, and does that enhance the prestige of the president of Iran?"
It's not unreasonable to say that Clinton and McCain share a skepticism about having the president conduct face-to-face diplomatic meetings directly. But Obama strays badly in taking that shared view and equating it with what he calls "the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don't like." Clinton, who was asked about it directly, clearly says she would approach diplomacy differently than the Bush administration has. We find Obama's claim Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
Hillary Clinton campaign Web site, Sen. Obama's speech in Denver will contain four misleading attacks on Hillary in one sentence , Jan. 30, 2007
CNN, Democratic debate transcript , July 23, 2007
The Associated Press, "Leaders debate whether now is the time to meet Iran at the table," Dec. 9, 2007
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