This WaPo story from an Obama v. Hillary Clinton primary debate in July 2007 contains this terrific passage:
In Monday’s debate from Charleston, S.C., Obama was asked by a questioner via YouTube if he would be willing to meet without precondition in the first year of his presidency with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.
“I would,” he responded.
In the aftermath, here’s how his foreign policy adviser Anthony Lake defended him:
“A great nation and its president should never fear negotiating with anyone and Senator Obama rightly said he would be willing to do so — just as Richard Nixon did with China and Ronald Reagan with the Soviet Union,” Lake said.
Clinton, for her part, said no:
“I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes,” she said. Clinton said she would first use envoys to test the waters.
Of course, in classic Clinton fashion, she had said something that sounded very different just months earlier:
In February, Clinton had said: “You don’t refuse to talk to bad people. I think life is filled with uncomfortable situations where you have to deal with people you might not like. I’m sort of an expert on that. I have consistently urged the president to talk to Iran and talk to Syria. I think it’s a sign of strength, not weakness.”
This insane video is how the right, already terrified of a potential Obama presidency, responded:
And here’s what Clinton surrogate Madeleine Albright, of future “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support women” fame, had to say on behalf of the center-left:
“It’s a step-by-step process. It’s not just some event,” Albright said of such head-of-state meetings.
“I would think that without having done the diplomatic spadework, it would not really prove anything,” Albright said.
So, to recap:
In 2007, Obama said he’d meet with North Korea without preconditions, and the right flipped out.
In 2018, Trump actually met with North Korea without preconditions, and the left flipped out.
If you’re getting the sense that certain people on our political spectrum only care about symbols, and have highly variable policy, well…you’re not wrong.