Monday, following news that a fifth staffer has left John McCain's campaign as a result of lobbying ties, Barack Obama claimed the campaign is "being run by Washington lobbyists and paid for with their money."
Speaking at an event in Montana, Obama said, "We need a president who sees government not as a tool to enrich friends and high-priced lobbyists, but as the defender of fairness and opportunity for every American." The speech seemed to be part of an effort by the Obama campaign to counteract McCain's reputation as a maverick impervious to the corrupting influences of Washington lobbyists.
The McCain campaign chose to respond to Obama's attack by invoking Obama's relationship with former Weather Underground member William Ayers. McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said, "Just a few years ago when Barack Obama was beginning his career in politics he was launching it at the home of William Ayers, an unrepentant domestic terrorist who his chief strategist said Senator Obama was certainly friendly with. If Barack Obama is going to make associations the issue, we look forward to the debate about Senator Obama's associations and what they say about his judgment and readiness to be commander in chief."
The two camps have also been sparring on foreign policy. On Monday, while speaking to the National Restaurant Association in Obama's home state of Illinois, McCain tried to depict Obama as inexperienced concerning foreign policy issues. McCain has frequently painted Obama's willingness to sit down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as naive and even dangerous. Sunday, during a speech, Obama said, "Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries ... Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we're going to wipe you off the planet." McCain seized on this statement, saying in response, "Obviously, Iran isn't a superpower and doesn't possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant."
Also Monday, Obama replied to McCain's rebuff. According to a transcript of the relevant portion of the remarks he made in Montana released by his campaign, Obama said:
I understand the threat of Iran ... But this threat has grown, primarily -- and this is the irony -- the reason Iran is so much more powerful now than it was a few years ago is because of the Bush-McCain policy of fighting an endless war in Iraq and refusing to pursue direct diplomacy with Iran ...
And John McCain is right that the greatest threat we'd face is a terrorist with a nuclear weapon; that's why when he was busy supporting a war against a country that had no nuclear weapons, I was busy in the Senate working with Republican Dick Lugar to pass legislation to secure loose nuclear weapons and loose nuclear materials around the world ... But when you're running for George Bush's third term, it's hard to make a case on the merits ...
Here's the truth: the Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear weapons and Iran doesn't have a single one. But when the world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust, Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba. Why shouldn't we have the same courage and the confidence to talk to our enemies? ... So, you know, for all their tough talk, one of the things you have to ask yourself is what are George Bush and John McCain afraid of?