Obama criticizes McCain for 'naive' foreign policy
By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 2
WATERTOWN, S.D. - Barack Obama laid into John McCain
on Friday for advancing a tough-guy foreign policy
that he called "naive and irresponsible," serving
notice that he's ready to launch a full-throttle
challenge to the Republican presidential contender on
international relations in the general election
Lumping McCain together with President Bush, Obama
declared: "If they want a debate about protecting the
United States of America, that's a debate I'm ready to
win because George Bush and John McCain have a lot to
answer for." He blamed Bush for policies that enhance
the strength of terrorist groups such as Hamas and
"the fact that al-Qaida's leadership is stronger than
ever because we took our eye off the ball in
Afghanistan," among other failings.
McCain agreed, at least, that there were huge
differences between himself and Obama on foreign
policy, and said he'd be happy to let the American
people decide who was right.
"It would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world
where we don't have enemies. But that's not the world
we live in. And until Senator Obama understands that
reality, the American people have every reason to
doubt whether he has the strength, judgment and
determination to keep us safe," McCain said in a
speech to the National Rifle Association in
McCain rejected the naive comment, saying Obama should
have known better, and added: "Talking, not even with
soaring rhetoric, in unconditional meetings with the
man who calls Israel 'a stinking corpse,' and arms
terrorists who kill Americans, will not convince Iran
to give up its nuclear program. It is reckless. It is
reckless to suggest that unconditional neetings will
advance our interests."
His campaign issued a statement accusing Obama of
making a "hysterical diatribe."
The three-way dustup over foreign policy Bush vs.
Obama vs. McCain began a day earlier, when Bush gave
a speech to the Israeli Knesset in which he criticized
those who believe the United States should negotiate
with terrorists and radicals. Obama said Bush's
criticism was directed at him, and took umbrage; the
White House denied the president had Obama in mind;
McCain said Obama must explain why he wants to talk
with rogue leaders.
Obama continued the debate on Friday at a town-hall
meeting in a livestock barn. He said he had planned to
focus on rural issues during his swing through South
Dakota, but felt compelled to answer the remarks from
Bush and McCain.
"I'm a strong believer in civility and I'm a strong
believer in a bipartisan foreign policy, but that
cause is not served with dishonest, divisive attacks
of the sort that we've seen out of George Bush and
John McCain over the last couple days," he said.
Obama said McCain had a "naive and irresponsible
belief that tough talk from Washington will somehow
cause Iran to give up its nuclear program and support
Speaking of McCain and Bush together, he added: "They
aren't telling you the truth. They are trying to fool
you and scare you because they can't win a foreign
policy debate on the merits. But it's not going to
work. Not this time, not this year."
Obama vowed to turn the foreign policy debate back
against Bush and McCain, rejecting the notion that
Democrats critical of the war in Iraq are vulnerable
to charges of being soft on terrorism. Meeting with
reporters, he argued that tough-minded diplomacy and
engagement with rivals have long coexisted, citing the
foreign policies of former Presidents Kennedy, Nixon
"That has been the history of U.S. diplomacy until
very recently," Obama said. "I find it puzzling that
we view this as in any way controversial. This whole
notion of not talking to people, it didn't hold in the
'60s, it didn't hold in the '70s ... When Kennedy met
with (Soviet leader Nikita) Khrushchev, we were on the
brink of nuclear war."
He also noted that Nixon opened talks with China with
the knowledge that Chinese leader Mao Zedong "had
exterminated millions of people."
Laying down a marker for the fall campaign, Obama
offered a challenge to the GOP nominee: "If John
McCain wants to meet me anywhere, any time to have a
debate about our respective policies ... that is a
conversation I am happy to have."
Other Democrats accused McCain of hypocrisy Friday,
saying the certain GOP presidential nominee had
previously said he would be willing to negotiate with
the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
McCain told reporters in West Virginia: "I made it
very clear, at that time, before and after, that we
will not negotiate with terrorist organizations, that
Hamas would have to abandon their terrorism, their
advocacy to the extermination of the state of Israel,
and be willing to negotiate in a way that recognizes
the right of the state of Israel and abandons their
terrorist position and advocacy."
McCain said there was a "huge difference" between his
own statements and Obama's willingness to negotiate
with "sponsors of terrorist organizations."
"I'll let the American people decide whether that's a
significant difference or not," he said. "I believe it
Obama said he has stated "over and over again that I
will not negotiate with terrorists like Hamas."
Associated Press Writer Glen Johnson in Louisville,
Ky., contributed to this report.