At a press conference here, I just asked John McCain about why he keeps talking about Obama’s alleged willingness to talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has no power over Iranian foreign policy, rather than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who does. He said that Ahmadinejad is the guy who represents Iran in international forums like the United Nations, which is a fair point. When I followed with the observation that the Supreme Leader is, uh, the Supreme Leader, McCain responded that the “average American” thinks Ahmadinejad is the boss. Didn’t get a chance to follow up to that, but I would have asked, “But isn’t it your job to correct those sorts of mistaken impressions on the part of the American public?” Oh well.
Meanwhile, commenter Dorshe1 has unearthed an Obama quote that the seems to indicate he would meet with Ahmadinejad…although he doesn’t say so directly. This, via CBS news, was Obama’s response when he was apparently asked if he would meet with Ahmadinejad:
“Nothing has changed with respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to their enemies and talk to their adversaries.”
Which seems a very…politic answer. As I said below, there is a real debate lurking beneath all this bluster–whether we directly engage our adversaries, as we did during the cold war. McCain says no. Obama says yes. They should have it out in debate.