Adviser Defends Obama on Foreign Policy
By Jonathan Weisman
Barack Obama's campaign seemed reticent to respond to John McCain's attacks early this morning, but when the Arizona Republican's latest comments went public, it was forced to answer.
In a hastily arranged conference call, Susan Rice, an Obama foreign policy adviser and State Department veteran, said McCain had distorted Obama's record by saying the Illinois Democrat would bomb an ally, Pakistan. And it was McCain who "was the one who offered confused foreign policy leadership" when he advocated invading Iraq as a response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, then joked about bombing Iran by mimicking a Beach Boys song.
The issue of foreign policy is a soft spot for Obama, who has not served in the military and has minimal experience on international issues. Rice called Obama "a leader" on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but as a subcommittee chairman on the panel, he has yet to chair a hearing.
Rice countered that Obama had more foreign policy experience than Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did when they ran for president, and exit polls from Wisconsin indicated voters yesterday narrowly believed he would make a stronger commander in chief than Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Still, Republicans are clearly on the attack. McCain was singling out a statement Obama made last year when he suggested he would take unilateral military action against al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan if Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf was not willing to. Rice repeated that, but said Obama was referring to action only after he had "actionable intelligence" on "high-value terrorist targets."
McCain's foreign policy "is very much a continuation and intensification of the failed Bush policies," she hit back. "Really, in many respects, it's just four more years of George Bush."
That was a far cry from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe's response to McCain only an hour earlier. Then, he said, "the general election is going to be a long general election. We don't have control of when it starts. We need to focus on the nomination" and the fight with Clinton.
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