Susan E. Rice, a former State Department and National Security Council official who is a foreign policy adviser to the Democratic candidate, said that “for political purposes, Senator Obama’s opponents on the right have distorted and reframed” his views. Mr. McCain and his surrogates have repeatedly stated that Mr. Obama would be willing to meet “unconditionally” with Mr. Ahmadinejad. But Dr. Rice said that this was not the case for Iran or any other so-called “rogue” state. Mr. Obama believes “that engagement at the presidential level, at the appropriate time and with the appropriate preparation, can be used to leverage the change we need,” Dr. Rice said. “But nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.”
Not only did the Prince of Peace say at the YouTube debate last July that he’d meet personally and without precondition with Iran, he reaffirmed that position in November in an interview with — ta da — the New York Times, a fact, incredibly, that’s omitted from today’s article. Memory lane:
Senator Barack Obama said he would “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran if elected president, and would offer economic inducements and a possible promise not to seek “regime change” if Iran stopped meddling in Iraq and cooperated on terrorism and nuclear issues…
Making clear that he planned to talk to Iran without preconditions, Mr. Obama emphasized further that “changes in behavior” by Iran could possibly be rewarded with membership in the World Trade Organization, other economic benefits and security guarantees…
Mr. Obama’s willingness to conduct talks at the highest level with Iran … differs significantly from the Bush administration.
Here’s the video from the debate, but I encourage you to read the transcript — again, ironically, at the Times’s own site — of what Hillary and Silky said in response, just in case Team Barry tries spinning this. Everyone in the building, his opponents first and foremost, understood him to mean that he was willing to chat with Ahmadinejad et al. in person and without demands and His Holiness conspicuously failed to correct that impression. He’s tacking towards the center now that the nomination’s locked up by trying to sound a bit more hawkish and the media’s naturally happy to let him do it by not reminding him of old promises. Lots, lots, lots more to come in this vein over the next few months.
Update: Via one of our commenters, right off the guy’s own website: