When Presidents Meet with the 'Bad Guys'

Sen. John McCain has been stepping up the attacks on Sen. Barack Obama, criticizing the Democrat's willingness to open a dialogue with Iran, talk to Cuban President Raul Castro or meet with other hostile leaders. Obama's supporters have fought back with video of a McCain supporter, former Secretary of State James Baker, saying that "talking to an enemy is not, in my view, appeasement."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) has spoken on the issue, saying, "The worst nightmare for a regime that thrives on isolation and tension is an America ready, willing and able to engage."

Biden reminded the crowd at the Center for American Progress this week that the Bush administration negotiated with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Republicans have also been speaking out on the issue. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) was among those encouraging Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week to engage Iran.

"If we do not have dialogue with Iran, at least in one man's opinion, we are missing a great opportunity to avoid future conflict," Specter said.

Gates said historians will have to decide whether the Bush administration already missed an opportunity to talk with Iran before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president.

Newspaper op-ed pages and blogs have been filled with diplomatic history lessons for the candidates about when presidents have been successful negotiators — and when they have failed. But so far, it has been more politics than diplomatic nuance on the campaign trail.

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