Mark, a quick question. What are you so worried that a President McCain would say in Tehran? Obama might be a different matter, but McCain?
As for Reagan, let me dust off again what he wrote to Leonid Brezhnev in an attempt to restart dialogue between the two men (they had met in the 1970s):
You took my hand in both of yours and assured me that you were dedicated with all your heart and mind to fulfilling those hopes and dreams.
Reagan, a man with profound confidence in the ability of America to prevail, and with few illusions about the nature of this country’s enemies or their willingness to lie and to otherwise deceive, had no hang-ups about engaging with the adversary diplomatically when he thought it could be of use. One thing, incidentally, he did not do, was “blow off” detente. What he did do was demonstrate, most effectively, that detente was not a synonym for American weakness.
We’ll never know, of course, whether Reagan would have gone to Teheran under current circumstances. My guess? He might well have seen it as a chance, above all, to appeal to the people over the heads of the regime. That would have been too good an opportunity for the Great Communicator to miss.