As a U.S. senator, Mr. Obama “has a foot in both camps,” said Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “It’s within the jurisdiction of his committee and something he’s entitled to speak about. It doesn’t raise a red flag for me.”
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined to comment on the matter.
Leslie Phillips, a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, also declined to comment even though an embassy note-taker was present during the senators’ meeting in Iraq. “The embassy’s role is purely to facilitate the meetings,” she said.
Presidential nominees traditionally have not intervened personally in foreign-policy disputes, although campaign surrogates have done so.
Historian Robert Dallek has documented meetings with South Vietnamese diplomats in 1968 by Republican vice-presidential candidate Spiro Agnew and Anna Chennault, widow of Gen. Claire Chennault, the commander of “Flying Tiger” forces in China during World War II.
Mr. Dallek, author of “Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1961-1973,” obtained tapes of the conversations from bugs the Johnson administration had placed in the South Vietnamese Embassy in Washington.
Negotiations to end the Vietnam War were taking place in Paris at the time between the Johnson administration and the North and South Vietnamese.
Mr. Agnew and Mrs. Chennault “signaled the South Vietnamese that they would get a better deal with Richard Nixon as president instead of the Democrat” Hubert Humphrey, Mr. Dallek said.
“Johnson was furious and said that Nixon was guilty of treason,” Mr. Dallek said, but neither he nor Mr. Humphrey disclosed the matter before the election, which Mr. Nixon won.
Barbara Slavin is assistant managing editor for World and National Security at The Washington Times and the author of a 2007 book on Iran, titled “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation.” Before joining The Times in July 2008, she was senior diplomatic reporter for USA Today. She has accompanied three secretaries of state ...
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