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Associated Press - Obama Renews Call for Shift in Diplomacy

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Location: DES MOINES, Iowa

Associated Press - Obama Renews Call for Shift in Diplomacy

Mike Glover

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Saturday again said he would open diplomatic channels to "rogue nations," continuing a running exchange with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The two White House hopefuls clashed in last week's CNN-YouTube debate over opening talks with nations such as North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran, something Obama answered he would do. Clinton quickly labeled the response naive and the argument escalated throughout the week.

"We need a president who'll have the strength and courage to go toe-to-toe with the leaders of rogue nations because that's what it takes to protect our security," Obama told a crowd during a campaign stop on Saturday in Des Moines. "That's what I'll do as your next commander in chief."

To underscore his argument, Obama's campaign launched a direct mail campaign featuring a letter from a prominent Korean War veteran and former Iowa House Minority Leader Richard Myers. In the letter, Myers targets undecided Iowa Democrats who have listed foreign policy or the war in Iraq as their top issues.

"Sen. Obama offers a dramatic change from the Bush administration's seven-year refusal to protect our security interests by using every tool of American power available _ including diplomacy," Myers said in the letter. "In short, his view of American diplomacy reflects our values."

During the stop in Des Moines, Obama referred to the exchange with Clinton by quoting former President John F. Kennedy saying "we should never negotiate from fear, but we should never be afraid to negotiate.

"I was called irresponsible and naive because I believe that there is nobody we can't talk to," said Obama, drawing loud cheers. "We've got nothing to fear as long as know who we are and what we stand for and our values."

He went to say that the debate is "about my turning the page on a failed foreign policy and having the strength to engage our adversaries and protect American interests around the globe."

"I am confident we can go before the world and talk to the worst dictators and tell them we don't believe in your values, we don't believe in your human rights violations, we don't believe in you exporting terrorism, but if you are willing to work with us in a better direction then we're willing to talk," Obama said. "We shouldn't be afraid."

He shared his observations about the running exchange.

"The beltway chattering class wants to talk about the political ramifications of the discussion about the future of American diplomacy," he said. "They want to focus, like they always do, on who's up and who's down."

Obama is wrapping up a two-day swing on Saturday with plans to return to Iowa on Monday.

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