Despite the controversy that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to New York City has triggered, Senator Barack Obama still vows to meet with rogue leaders if he is elected, reports CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic.
"Nothing has changed with respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to their enemies and talk to their adversaries," Obama told reporters at a press conference after receiving an endorsement from the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.
Obama said he would not have invited Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University, but he believes in academic freedom. "They have the right to invite people to speak. As I said, it's not a choice that I would have made but we don't need to be fearful of the rantings of somebody like Ahmadinejad." Obama says the United Nations provides an adequate forum for Ahmadinejad to speak.
Obama was asked if his statements about Ahmadinejad were contradictory – why would he meet with the Iranian leader as U.S. president but not invite to speak if he were the Columbia University president? "There are two different functions, as president of the United States, my job is to look out for the national security interests of this country," Obama said. "In the same way that Nixon met with Mao and that past presidents met with people that we don't like."