On Fox & Friends this morning, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney added to Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) and President Bush’s attacks against Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) over his openness to engaging with the leaders of rogue states like Iran. Romney said that “without precondition, in his first year of office,” no president should “sit down” with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or former Russian President Vladimir Putin:
The question is should the president of the United States, without precondition, in his first year of office, sit down with Ahmadinejad, with Putin, Chavez, Kim Jong Il, with Assad, with the world’s worst actors, and the answer is, obviously, no. No president would suggest such a thing.
I think the only president that might be open to such an idea would be Jimmy Carter…
Romney’s inclusion of Putin in his list is odd, considering that in his first year in office, President Bush was more than “open to such an idea.” In fact, Bush met with Putin on June 16, 2001. After the meeting, Bush said that he “looked the man in the eye” and “was able to get a sense of his soul.”
Additionally, though Putin is now the Russia’s prime minister, he is no longer president. Presumably, the next U.S. president to hold talks with Russia will speak with the country’s new president, Dmitri Medvedev.
But Romney shouldn’t worry that his gaffe will lose him favor with McCain. Like Romney, understanding the nuance of other countries’ power structures doesn’t appear to be high on McCain’s priority list.