Commentary: Obama unlikely to cozy up to Castro, Chavez

One of the biggest questions about President-elect Barack Obama is whether - unlike President Bush - he will fulfill his campaign vow to meet without preconditions with anti-American strongmen such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Raul Castro.

I doubt it.

Judging from my own interviews with Obama and what I'm hearing from some of his advisors, there are three reasons why Obama is not likely to take chances with these and other U.S. adversaries.

First, Obama's campaign vow to meet with anti-American leaders was not the product of a carefully thought out foreign policy plan, but most probably a rookie misstatement in the heat of a Democratic Party primary debate.

It happened during the July 24, 2007, CNN-YouTube debate, when Obama was asked whether he would meet separately, without preconditions, with the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and other countries critical of U.S. policies. Obama answered, "I would."

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton immediately seized on Obama's answer to portray him as inexperienced in foreign policy issues, and argued that she wouldn't hold such meetings because "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes."' Later, Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign would turn that verbal exchange into one of its main propaganda weapons against Obama.

To read the complete column, visit The Miami Herald.

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