MCCAIN ON THE FOREIGN-POLICY FRINGE…. The Bush administration has shown an increasing willingness to engage Iran diplomatically. Most of the living U.S. secretaries of state believe this is the right way to go.

Five former U.S. secretaries of state said Monday the next American administration should talk to Iran, a foe President Bush has generally shunned as part of an “axis of evil.”

Engaging Iran is important because Washington’s military options against Tehran are unsatisfactory, said the diplomats, who worked for Republican and Democratic administrations.

The five — Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, James Baker and Henry Kissinger — all said they favored talking to Iran as part of a strategy to stop Tehran’s development of a nuclear weapons program.

This, of course, has a fairly significant political salience. Kissinger is a co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign, and Powell and Baker are two of the more respected foreign policy voices in traditional Republican circles.

And all of them agree that when it comes to U.S. policy towards Iran, Barack Obama is offering the right approach, and John McCain is offering the wrong approach.

There’s a mainstream when it comes to U.S. foreign policy, and McCain is clearly to the right of it.

I am, however, curious to see how this might shake out during the candidate debates. McCain will no doubt blast Obama’s willingness to talk to our rivals. Here’s hoping Obama is willing to say, “Colin Powell, James Baker, Henry Kissinger, and current Pentagon chief Robert Gates all agree with me and think you’re wrong.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.