Ahead of tonight’s foreign policy debate, former Governor Mitt Romney completely ignored questions about whether he would engage in direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program. Romney was questioned yesterday after performing the coin toss in a flag-football game between his campaign press team and the reporters who travel with him on the stump.
Asked point blank if he would engage in one-on-one talks with the Iranian government, Romney dodged:
[A]n aide quickly jumped in, “Guys this is a football game, come on.”
“I thought you were talking about one-on-one talks with the President, I was about to answer,” Romney said, laughing.
Another reporter asked Romney if he feels ready for Monday’s debate, to which Romney responded, “Ready for football!”
The pointed questions come after reports this weekend that the White House has agreed in principle for the first time to having direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program. These talks would come some time after the Nov. 6 elections, as the Iranians would want to know whether they’d be dealing with an Obama or Romney administration. Such a move would be a major shift in the current negotiating strategy, which revolves around the P5+1 group acting in concert when dealing with Iran.
While denying the initial claim that the talks were already fully agreed upon, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor reminded the press that the Obama administration has “said from the outset that we that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”
When asked about it this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, senior Romney foreign policy advisor Dan Senor said he doesn’t need to respond to the question of whether Romney would meet with the Iranians. “The Iranian government and the administration both said this New York Times story is not accurate, so I’m not sure he has to respond to a story that both governments involved have said is not true,” he said.
Romney’s reluctance to discuss his Iranian policy should come as no surprise. He and his campaign have often had trouble differentiating his plans for confronting Iran’s nuclear work with those of President Obama. Meanwhile, campaign surrogate Sen. Lindsay Graham said on Sunday that the “time for talking” to Iran “is over.” Romney is thus left between having to confirm the necessity of talks in agreement with the White House or joining Sen. Graham and others in advocating for war. As the Daily Beast’s Ali Gharib notes, the story “could force Romney to expose himself as just not that into resolving the Iran crisis peacefully.”