Paul Ryan Slightly Off Message: Romney Would Meet One-On-One With Iranians

Paul Ryan

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in an interview that aired on CBS this morning that Mitt Romney would agree to one-on-one talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

The issue came to the forefront this week after the New York Times reported on Saturday that the Obama administration has agreed in principle to bilateral negotiations with the Iranians (the White House denied the report). Romney and his top aides repeatedly dodged questions from reporters asking if a President Romney would meet one-on-one with the Iranians. But it doesn’t appear that Ryan got the script:

O’DONNELL: What is your position on one-on-one negotiations with Iran. Do you see a scenario where that could ever happen?

RYAN: Sure. Look, we’ve always said that we’re willing to talk but we’re not willing take off sanctions. We’re not going to lessen anything. We’re not going to give any kind of talk, whether they’re multilateral or whether they’re bilateral as an excuse to delay sanctions. We’ve got to keep pushing sanctions. We’ve got to have harder sanctions, we have to do all the lists of the things that governor Romney said and if they want to talk that’s fine but we’re not going to cease or put any kind of temporary hold on any kinds of sanctions as a condition of talking. No preconditions but if they want to talk that is perfectly fine.

So will he or won’t he? It’s unlikely that Romney or his advisers will give a definitive answer. The Romney campaign’s strategy, it seems, is to try to paint their candidate in the best light possible on foreign policy (i.e. Romney’s debate performance last night in which he came off as a reasonable moderate), yet at the same time placate the neocon base — and indeed Romney’s own team of Bush administration holdovers — by keeping the option open for war with Iran. But the reality is that if you pull back the curtain, a President Romney’s foreign policy wouldn’t be much different from George W. Bush’s.