July 26, 2007 10:19 AM
Romney sides with Clinton -- just this once
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer
By M.E. Sprengelmeyer
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton got an unlikely ally this morning in her continuing conflict with Sen. Barack Obama over a question of diplomacy that emerged during the CNN/YouTube debate earlier this week.
"She's right on that. He happens to be wrong," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said of Clinton and Obama following his appearance at a crowded, downtown restaurant in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Romney's morning speech was filled with criticism of various Democrats, including Clinton. But he saved his harshest words for Obama over his debate answer saying that, as president, he would agree to meet with the leaders of such American adversaries as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela during his first year in the White House.
Clinton has pounced on that response, calling it "irresponsible and frankly naive" to make such a commitment, saying there's a danger of the president of the United States being used for "propaganda."
Sparring between Clinton and Obama has continued all week, including dueling newspaper interviews in Iowa, where the first caucus votes will be cast next January.
Obama reportedly has called it a "fabricated controversy," implying that Clinton wants to follow a diplomatic strategy that has failed under President Bush.
"The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous," Obama said, according to CNN.
But Romney told reporters this morning that he sides with Clinton on this particular question. He said there should be some contacts with adversarial nations, but that it would be wrong to "bestow the dignity of that office" on leaders like Kim Jong Il of North Korea, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Romney said Obama's statement is "outrageous, and suggests an agenda which is not in keeping with an agenda focused on building friendships with our allies, creating understanding with other nations. It's a wrong course and he should recognize it and change direction -- or simply be rejected."
It "does that mean we don't have any communications with those countries. Of course not," Romney said. "But a presidential contact is as ill conceived as having (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi go to Syria. That was ill conceived, but having a president meet with the authoritiarain tyrants of the world is a remarkably poor judgment conclusion."
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor fired back at Romney this afternoon.
“Unlike Governor Romney and others, Senator Obama had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq before it started," Vietor said. "Our next President can’t keep showing bad judgment by continuing the Bush-Cheney style of foreign policy and stubbornly refusing to talk to countries we don’t agree with.”
In Marshalltown, Romney was asked about this rare time he found agreement with Clinton, whom he and the other Republicans in the race frequently villify on the stump.
"If two Democrats are violently disagreeing with each other, I'm probably going to be on the side of one or the other," Romney said.
UPDATE: Late this afternoon, the Democratic National Committee had harsh words for Romney.
Said DNC spokesman Damien LaVera:
“No mater how hard he tries to hide it, the American people know that smooth talking Mitt Romney is just another Bush Republican who refuses to offer the American people a new direction in Iraq, something all of our Democratic candidates are committed to doing.”
That's one way to try to take some away from the Democrats' civil war, which only intensified on Thursday, with Obama suggesting that Clinton was "Bush-Clinton lite" and Clinton telling CNN: "What's ever happened with the 'politics of hope?'"