Obama Strikes Back

Responding to attacks about his foreign policy positions from both John McCain and President Bush, Obama says he's ready to debate the issues, and win on them.


Vincent Rossmeier
May 17, 2008 12:02AM (UTC)

Barack Obama responded today to comments President Bush and John McCain made Thursday that criticized Obama's foreign policy approach. Speaking at a rally in South Dakota, Obama issued a challenge: "If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate that I'm happy to have any time, any place, and that is a debate that I will win because George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for."

Obama went on to bluntly cite what he views as the foreign policy failures of Bush and McCain -- the Iraq War, the burgeoning power of Iran in the Middle East, that Osama Bin Laden is still sending out video tapes, and that "Hamas now controls Gaza." He also denounced Bush's statement as "fear-mongering." You can watch a long excerpt of Obama's speech at the bottom of this post.

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Thursday, during a speech before Israel's parliament, the Knesset, Bush compared those willing to negotiate with "terrorists and radicals" to those nations that practiced appeasement with the Nazis. Bush did not mention Obama by name in the speech but the implication seemed apparent. Later in the day, McCain concurred with Bush, saying "the president is exactly right."

Not surprisingly, today the McCain campaign touted the experience card in a response to Obama's speech. McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds characterized Obama's foreign policy challenge as the "hysterical diatribe" of a diplomatic naif. Courtesy of Ben Smith's blog over at Politico.com, here are Bounds' full remarks about Obama's speech:

It was remarkable to see Barack Obama's hysterical diatribe in response to a speech in which his name wasn't even mentioned.

These are serious issues that deserve a serious debate, not the same tired partisan rants we heard today from Senator Obama. Senator Obama has pledged to unconditionally meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- who pledges to wipe Israel off the map, denies the Holocaust, sponsors terrorists, arms America's enemies in Iraq and pursues nuclear weapons. What would Senator Obama talk about with such a man? It would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don't have enemies.

But that is not the world we live in, and until Senator Obama understands that, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment and determination to keep us safe.

Bounds' insinuation that Obama overreacted to Bush's speech because Bush never mentioned Obama by name and could have been referring solely to former President Jimmy Carter seems strained. Though the Bush Administration has claimed they were only aiming at Carter, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder contradicts such a notion with quotes from two well-respected Washington reporters, both of whom cited anonymous Administration officials who admitted Bush's comments were a jab at Obama.


Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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Barack Obama John Mccain, R-ariz. War Room

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