Obama flip-flops on meeting with Iran?

The New York Times reports that Obama has reversed his position on meeting with Iran without conditions. In typical form, however, the Obama campaign will not admit that his position has changed:

Susan E. Rice . . . a foreign policy adviser to the Democratic candidate, said that “for political purposes, Senator Obama’s opponents on the right have distorted and reframed” his views. Mr. McCain and his surrogates have repeatedly stated that Mr. Obama would be willing to meet “unconditionally” with Mr. Ahmadinejad.

But Dr. Rice said that this was not the case for Iran or any other so-called “rogue” state. Mr. Obama believes “that engagement at the presidential level, at the appropriate time and with the appropriate preparation, can be used to leverage the change we need,” Dr. Rice said. “But nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.”

(Emphasis mine.) Rice’s statement is completely clear: Obama never said it and McCain is lying. Charles Johnson ran down the facts, which turned out to be really easy. Obama made the statement unambiguously in a public debate (video at LGF):

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?

COOPER: I should also point out that Stephen is in the crowd tonight.

Senator Obama?

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.

(APPLAUSE)

(Emphasis mine.)  Unless Rice is trying to draw a distinction between “unconditionally” and “without precondition,” she’s the one being dishonest.  (ASIDE: It’s ridiculous to suggest that the idea that the above is a principle of the administration at all, much less its “guiding principle.”)

There’s also Obama’s own web site: “Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.”

The only question now is whether Rice gets disavowed.  I hope not; this flip-flop is actually good from a policy standpoint.

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