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Time to Talk 08/17/2006

Mike Wallace and President Ahmadinejad

If the media can talk to the "Axis of Evil," why can't our political leaders?

As I watched one of the world's most dangerous men engage in a friendly chat with 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace, I couldn't help but think, "What's the harm in talking?" While I'm not sure that a president-to-president meeting between George W. Bush and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would produce anything useful, I don't see how it could produce negative results.

Many have criticized Wallace's interview as too soft, especially since he has praised Iran's president for being "smart" and "rational." Certainly a large portion of the West's major media antagonizes those who wish to talk. Their editorial control and insatiable appetite for "crisis news" often fabricates an imbalanced view of actual events. Slanted reporting and outright misrepresentation stirs controversy, creates polarization and feeds dissention. Yet it is still the media that does something that nobody else in America seems willing to do: they talk.

If Ahmadinejad would sit down with someone who admires him less -- someone who would use truth to expose his lies -- then he could at least be called out on some of his murderous rhetoric. I tend to doubt that Iran's leader would actually allow someone to challenge him with facts, but as long as we refuse to talk to him, the world will never know.

There are other leaders with whom we should attempt to dialogue. I have believed for years that progress could have been made with Cuba had any of our leaders truly talked with Fidel Castro. Whether El Jefe recovers or the leadership passes to his brother, I still believe that an opening could be found to begin a healthy dialogue that could eventually ease tensions between America and the backward island nation.

Despite China's long history of difficulty, the United States has pursued a course of discourse that has slowly, but surely, improved relations with a large, powerful nation. This is a good model of cautious optimism.

Doubtless, some rogue leaders, such as Osama bin Laden and Hezbollah's Sheikh Nasrallah, won't be held to a reasonable conversation, but at least openness to conversation would show a willingness on the part of the United States to humble itself in the name of peace.

The arguments against talking are cheap. "We cannot dignify so-and-so by talking to them." That's arrogance. "He will only twist our words for his own purpose." That's fear. "We don't need to talk to her." That's indifference.

President Kennedy once said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."

When we are on the side of truth, we need not fear debate or negotiation. Nor do we need to compromise our core values, as long as they are grounded in absolute truth. Granted, truth is often uncomfortable. It calls us to account for our words, thoughts, attitudes and actions. Truth confronts our prejudices and deceptions. Yes, the truth hurts, especially when it exposes error or wickedness. William Faulkner called truth "that long, clean, clear, simple, undeniable, unchallengeable, straight, and shining line, on one side of which is black and on the other of which is white."

If we speak the truth, there is nothing to fear. Truth will hold up to any test, including the test of time. Christians can talk to atheists. Baptists can talk to Charismatics. Protestants can talk to Catholics. Jews can talk to Muslims. Blacks can talk to whites. Republicans can even talk to Democrats! We would all be better off if we would be willing to talk.

However, an unwillingness to engage in discourse robs truth of the ability to separate right from wrong. Silence gives place to speculation, presumption, distortion and deception. Though there may be a time to end fruitless discussion, that time must only come after a valid effort to talk.

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 627

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.