the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

February 28, 2008

Talking Is Embracing


Two questions from Bush’s press conference today, presented without comment:

Q […] I’d like to ask you about another issue that’s kind of come up on the campaign trail, in terms of discussion, which is, this is a point of view that has been espoused, that we would be better off if we talked to our adversaries, in particular, Iran and Cuba, you know, without preconditions. And as President, you have obviously considered and rejected this approach. And I’m wondering if you can give us a little insight into your thinking about this, and just explain to the American people what is lost by talking with those when we disagree?

THE PRESIDENT: What’s lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs? What’s lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It will give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity.

I’m not suggesting there’s never a time to talk, but I’m suggesting now is not the time — not to talk with Raul Castro. He’s nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island, and imprison people because of their beliefs.

I had these wives of these dissidents come and see me, and their stories are just unbelievably sad. And it just goes to show how repressive the Castro brothers have been, when you listen to the truth about what they say. And the idea of embracing a leader who’s done this without any attempt on his part to release prisoners and free their society would be counterproductive and send the wrong signal.

Q No one is saying embrace him, they’re just saying talk –

THE PRESIDENT: Well, talking to him is embracing. Excuse me. Let me use another word — you’re right, “embrace” is like big hug, right? You’re looking — I do embrace people. Mike, one of these days, I’m just thinking about — (laughter.) Right, okay, good, thank you for reminding me to use a different word. Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him. He gains a lot from it by saying, look at me, I’m now recognized by the President of the United States.

Now, somebody would say, well, I’m going to tell him to release the prisoners. Well, it’s a theory that all you got to do is embrace and these tyrants act. That’s not how they act. That’s not what causes them to respond. And so I made a decision quite the opposite, and that is to keep saying to the Cuban people, we stand with you; we will not sit down with your leaders that imprison your people because of what they believe; we will keep an embargo on you; we do want you to have money from people here in the homeland, but we will stay insistent upon this policy until you begin to get free.

And so that’s the way I’ve conducted foreign policy, and will continue to conduct foreign policy. I just remind people that the decisions of the U.S. President to have discussions with certain international figures can be extremely counterproductive. It can send chilling signals and messages to our allies; it can send confusion about our foreign policy; it discourages reformers inside their own country. And in my judgment, it would be a mistake — on the two countries you talked about.

Some questions later:

Q […] In China a former factory worker who says that human rights are more important than the Olympics is being tried for subversion. What message does it send that you’re going to the Olympics, and do you think athletes there should be allowed to publicly express their dissent?

THE PRESIDENT: Olivier, I have made it very clear, I’m going to the Olympics because it’s a sporting event, and I’m looking forward to seeing the athletic competition. But that will not preclude me from meeting with the Chinese President, expressing my deep concerns about a variety of issues — just like I do every time I meet with the President.

And maybe I’m in a little different position. Others don’t have a chance to visit with Hu Jintao, but I do. And every time I meet with him I talk about religious freedom and the importance of China’s society recognizing that if you’re allowed to worship freely, it will benefit the society as a whole; that the Chinese government should not fear the idea of people praying to a god as they see fit. A whole society, a healthy society, a confident society is one that recognizes the value of religious freedom.

I talk about Darfur and Iran and Burma. And so I am not the least bit shy of bringing up the concerns expressed by this factory worker, and I believe that I’ll have an opportunity to do so with the President and, at the same time, enjoy a great sporting event. I’m a sports fan. I’m looking forward to the competition. And each Olympic society will make its own decision as to how to deal with the athletes.

I see AltHippo has a related post on his blog.


  1. I didn’t see the whole press conference (I don’t think I could have endured it), but what I did see what mind-blowing. What was even more amazing was this Pundit Woman that Dan Abrams had on last night who, even after Abrams had pointed out how Chimpie (and McCain, and the reporter asking the question at the press conference) had completely distorted Obama’s answer about going back into Iraq (after a hypothetical withdrawal) to deal with al Qaeda- NOT ONLY insisted that “the President got it right,” but also puffed and snorted at any suggestion that this was not the case, and at any subsequent defense of Obama on any issue. Does anyone know who this idiot is (Kate or Katherine something, I think), and why ANYONE employs her as a journalist or commentator??? I mean, this was pathetic even for a Cable News Talking Head.

    —Paul • 11:19 am, February 29

  2. Kate Obenshain.

    —Paul • 9:06 pm, April 4

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