Note: If you don’t already know yet, I am a very passionate supporter of Senator Clinton’s campaign to be President.
Here is the now now infamous exchange between Clinton and Obama on the matter of Diplomacy:
QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since.
In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?
OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous.
Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.
And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We've been talking about Iraq -- one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they're going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.
They have been acting irresponsibly up until this point. But if we tell them that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force, we are in a position to say that they are going to have to carry some weight, in terms of stabilizing the region.
COOPER: I just want to check in with Stephen if he believes he got an answer to his question.
QUESTION: I seem to have a microphone in my hand. Well, I'd be interested in knowing what Hillary has to say to that question.
COOPER: Senator Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.
I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.
And I will pursue very vigorous diplomacy.
And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
What I’m going to focus on here below, punctuated with commentary is Obama drawing a connection between what he is now saying about Diplomacy and John F. Kennedy’s and Ronald Reagan’s approach to Diplomacy.
Both candidates have borrowed from Kennedy’s legacy, both have quoted his Inaugural Address, an Inaugural address that becomes in itself, poetic:
So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
But what did John F. Kennedy say in the Debates between him and Nixon? The Debates that were crucial to John F. Kennedy’s push for the White House, and likely made the final difference between him and Vice President Nixon?
I am providing the full questions and answers below (sorry, this will be long), but will highlight the segments that I believe are most relevant to this ongoing discussion.
Here is the second debate between Nixon and Kennedy (the first focused on Domestic Issues):
MR. SPIVAK: Mr. Vice President, according to news dispatches Soviet Premier Khrushchev said today that Prime Minister Macmillan had assured him that there would be a summit conference next year after the presidential elections. Have you given any cause for such assurance, and do you consider it desirable or even possible that there would be a summit conference next year if Mr. Khrushchev persists in the conditions he's laid down?
MR. NIXON: No, of course I haven't talked to Prime Minister Macmillan. It would not be appropriate for me to do so. The President is still going to be president for the next four months and he, of course, is the only one who could commit this country in this period. As far as a summit conference is concerned, I want to make my position absolutely clear. I would be willing as president to meet with Mr. Khrushchev or any other world leader if it would serve the cause of peace. I would not be able wou- would be willing to meet with him however, unless there were preparations for that conference which would give us some reasonable certainty - some reasonable certainty - that you were going to have some success. We must not build up the hopes of the world and then dash them as was the case in Paris. There, Mr. Khrushchev came to that conference determined to break it up. He was going to break it up because he would - knew that he wasn't going to get his way on Berlin and on the other key matters with which he was concerned at the Paris Conference. Now, if we're going to have another summit conference, there must be negotiations at the diplomatic level - the ambassadors, the Secretaries of State, and others at that level - prior to that time, which will delineate the issues and which will prepare the way for the heads of state to meet and make some progress. Otherwise, if we find the heads of state meeting and not making progress, we will find that the cause of peace will have been hurt rather than helped. So under these circumstances, I, therefore, strongly urge and I will strongly hold, if I have the opportunity to urge or to hold - this position: that any summit conference would be gone into only after the most careful preparation and only after Mr. Khrushchev - after his disgraceful conduct at Paris, after his disgraceful conduct at the United Nations - gave some assurance that he really wanted to sit down and talk and to accomplish something and
Awe crap, Senator Clinton is the same as Nixon.
MR. McGEE: Senator Kennedy.
MR. KENNEDY: I have no disagreement with the Vice President's position on that. It - my view is the same as his. Let me say there is only one uh - point I would add. That before we go into the summit, before we ever meet again, I think it's important that the United States build its strength; that it build its military strength as well as its own economic strength. If we negotiate from a position where the power balance or wave is moving away from us, it's extremely difficult to reach a successful decision on Berlin as well as the other questions. Now the next president of the United States in his first year is going to be confronted with a very serious question on our defense of Berlin, our commitment to Berlin. It's going to be a test of our nerve and will. It's going to be a test of our strength. And because we're going to move in sixty-one and two, partly because we have not maintained our strength with sufficient vigor in the last years, I believe that before we meet that crisis, that the next president of the United States should send a message to Congress asking for a revitalization of our military strength, because come spring or late in the winter we're going to be face to face with the most serious Berlin crisis since l949 or fifty. On the question of the summit, I agree with the position of Mr. Nixon. I would not meet Mr. Khrushchev unless there were some agreements at the secondary level - foreign ministers or ambassadors - which would indicate that the meeting would have some hope of success, or a useful exchange of ideas.
Kennedy not only agrees with Nixon on the crucial point here, Kennedy goes one step further and says we must build up our military before such a summit can take place.
But does that mean we should not negotiate with our adversaries?
From the third debate:
MR. CATER: Senator Kennedy, last week you said that before we should hold another summit conference, that it was important that the United States build its strength. Modern weapons take quite a long time to build. What sort of prolonged period do you envisage before there can be a summit conference? And do you think that there can be any new initiatives on the grounds of nuclear disarmament uh - nuclear control or weapons control d- uh - during this period?
MR. KENNEDY: Well I think we should st- strengthen our conventional forces, and we should attempt in January, February, and March of next year to increase the airlift capacity of our conventional forces. Then I believe that we should move full time on our missile production, particularly on Minuteman and on Polaris. It may be a long period, but we must - we must get started immediately. Now on the question of disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament, I must say that I feel that another effort should be made by a new Administration in January of 1961, to renew negotiations with the Soviet Union and see whether it's possible to come to some conclusion which will lessen the chances of contamination of the atmosphere, and also lessen the chances that other powers will begin to possess a nuclear capacity. There are indications, because of new inventions, that ten, fifteen, or twenty nations will have a nuclear capacity - including Red China - by the end of the presidential office in 1964. This is extremely serious. There have been many wars in the history of mankind. And to take a chance uh - now be - and not make every effort that we could make to provide for some control over these weapons, I think would be a great mistake. One of my disagreements with the present Administration has been that I don't feel a real effort has been made an this very sensitive subject, not only of nuclear controls, but also of general disarmament. Less than a hundred people have been working throughout the entire federal government on this subject, and I believe it's been reflected in our success and failures at Geneva. Now, we may not succeed. The Soviet Union may not agree to an inspection system. We may be able to get satisfactory assurances. It may be necessary for us to begin testing again. But I hope the next Administration - and if I have anything to do with it, the next Administration will - make one last great effort to provide for control of nuclear testing, control of nuclear weapons, if possible, control of outer space, free from weapons, and also to begin again the subject of general disarmament levels. These must be done. If we cannot succeed, then we must strengthen ourselves. But I would make the effort because I think the fate not only of our own civilization, but I think the fate of world and the future of the human race is involved in preventing a nuclear war.
So. No summit until a lot of things happen first. Consensus with Khruschev on the goals, and ensuring that the U.S. goes into such a meeting not from a position of weakness, but with a newly rebuilt Military, a position of strength.
But we still negotiate on Nuclear Tests.
Here is the 4th final debate between Nixon and Kennedy:
MR. EDWARDS: Mr. Nixon, carrying forward this business about a timetable; as you know, the pressures are increasing for a summit conference. Now, both you and Senator Kennedy have said that there are certain conditions which must be met before you would meet with Khrushchev. Will you be more specific about these conditions?
MR. NIXON: Well the conditions I laid out in one of our previous television debates, and it's rather difficult to be much more specific than that. Uh - First of all, we have to have adequate preparation for a summit conference. This means at the secretary of state level and at the ambassadorial level. By adequate preparation I mean that at that level we must prepare an agenda, an agenda agreed upon with the approval of the heads of state involved. Now this agenda should delineate those issues on which there is a possibility of some agreement or negotiation. I don't believe we should go to a summit conference unless we have such an agenda, unless we have some reasonable insur- assurance from Mr. Khrushchev that he intends seriously to negotiate on those points. Now this may seem like a rigid, inflexible position. But let's look at the other side of the coin. If we build up the hopes of the world by having a summit conference that is not adequately prepared, and then, if Mr. Khrushchev finds some excuse for breaking it up - as he did this one - because he isn't going to get his way - we'd set back the cause of peace. We do not help it. We can, in other words, negotiate many of these items of difference between us without going to the summit. I think we have to make a greater effort than we have been making at the secretary of state level, at the ambassadorial level, to work out the differences that we have. And so far as the summit conference is concerned, it should only be entered in upon, it should only be agreed upon, if the negotiations have reached the point that we have some reasonable assurance that something is going to come out of it, other than some phony spirit - a spirit of Geneva, or Camp David, or whatever it is. When I say "phony spirit," I mean phony, not because the spirit is not good on our side, but because the Soviet Union simply doesn't intend to carry out what they say. Now, these are the conditions that I can lay out. I cannot be more precise than that, because until we see what Mr. Khrushchev does and what he says uh - we cannot indicate what our plans will be.
MR. HOWE: Any comments, Senator Kennedy?
MR. KENNEDY: Well, I think the president of the United States last winter indicated that before he'd go to the summit in May he did last fall, he indicated that there should be some agenda, that there should be some prior agreement. He hoped that there would be uh - b- be an agreement in part in disarmament. He also expressed the hope that there should be some understanding of the general situation in Berlin. The Soviet Union refused to agree to that, and we went to the summit and it was disastrous. I believe we should not go to the summit until there is some reason to believe that a meeting of minds can be obtained on either Berlin, outer space, or general disarmament - including nuclear testing. In addition, I believe the next president in January and February should go to work in building the strength of the United States. The Soviet Union does understand strength. We arm to parley, Winston Churchill said ten years ago. If we are strong, particularly as we face a crisis over Berlin - which we may in the spring, or in the winter - it's important that we maintain our determination here; that we indicate that we're building our strength; that we are determined to protect our position; that we're determined to protect our commitment. And then I believe we should indicate our desire to live at peace with the world. But until we're strong here, until we're moving here, I believe a summit could not be successful. I hope that before we do meet, there will be preliminary agreements on those four questions, or at least two of them, or even one of them, which would warrant such a meeting. I think if we had stuck by that position last winter, we would have been in a better position in May.
Apparently, Eisenhower had indicated that there was an Agenda to a previous summit that took place the Winter before this Debate, a "prior agreement" on substantive issues (Berlin, Disarmament). The Soviet Union did not agree to these "prior agreements", and Eisenhower went anyway. It was, the result of this summit, in Kennedy’s own words, was "Disastrous."
I can’t say if Kennedy’s and Obama’s ideas about Diplomacy are any different. I suspect they are not. But I can say now, with confidence, that how they chose to articulate those ideas in the Debate format are very different.
And I will go one step further and say that how Kennedy chose to express
himself in the Debates of 1960 are more in step with Clinton’s response above than with Obama’s.
Obama is delivering Kennedy’s Inaugural Address during the Campaign. Clinton is delivering Kennedy’s Agenda during the Campaign.
Because I believe a very substantive point has already been made here, I’ll be pretty clear, I limited my research to the 1980 and 1984 debates, and in those debates, the analogous question never surfaced. (That is except to say in the 1984 Debates, Mondale tried get some hits on Reagan, saying his Diplomatic Efforts were insufficient to avoid conflicts in Central America.)
Here is Edwin Meeses III’s gloss on Reagan and "face to face" meetings.
Ronald Reagan was a strong believer in personal diplomacy - the idea of having a face-to-face discussion with those he was seeking to persuade. That's why, after becoming president, he often talked privately about the desire to engage the leader of the Soviet Union in a one-on-one conversation, to diminish any fear of the United States' intentions and to seek common ground for reducing tensions and promoting peace.
Which is what, I think, Obama is communicating, only, as far as Reagan is concerned, that’s not what happened.
So it was understandable that as a newly elected president, Reagan looked forward to meeting his Soviet counterpart. But that day was a long time coming. First, the president wanted to reinvigorate our national defenses, so that he could negotiate with the Communist Party chief from a position of strength.
Eventually he met with Gorbachev, but it’s really only fair to say the demise of Communism was already in full swing at that point. There was a "willingness" on the part of Reagan, a "willingness" that he would not fulfill until the Military left to him by Carter was radically altered.
In any case, both Kennedy and Reagan were in agreement on one very important issue, that they would not hold face to face negotiations at the Presidential level unless they were sure it would be from a re-newed sense of, yes, Military Strength.
None of these things have been articulated very well by the Obama Campaign. In truth Obama himself has articulated some of these things in the Foreign Affairs article that has been previously discussed:
I’m not saying he doesn’t share these same ideas with Kennedy and Reagan, but he is not articulating them in his campaign.
He is articulating his vision, the cart is before the horse, as stated above, Senator Barack Obama is delivering an Inaugural Address when he should be delivering his Agenda.
In my view, obviously I would have this view as a Clinton supporter, but regardless of Obama resorting to Polarized Jargon to attack Clinton, instead of Clinton articulating how her Agenda is different than the Bush/Cheney Agenda, I think it would behoove Barack Obama to articulate a thorough understanding of Diplomacy. Not just how it can succeed. But how it can fail and make things worse if it's not undertaken with not just spadework, pre-planning, but with an Agenda, a set of Pre-Agreements that establish with complete certainty that all parties in a Negotiation are, indeed interested in coming to an agreement.
This was Kennedy's Agenda. I suspect it is Obama's as well. But he has not articulated it as such within the context of his Campaign.