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Obama Fires Back at Bush, McCain

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) speaks during a news conference in Watertown, S.D., May 16, 2008. (Associated Press)

Updated 6:09 p.m.

By Matthew Mosk
WATERTOWN, S.D. -- Sen. Barack Obama suggested to several hundred residents of this farming town of 20,000 that he welcomed the idea of turning the presidential contest into a debate on who is better fit to guide the nation's foreign policy.

Pausing before a town hall meeting in a livestock arena, Obama said he wanted to address what he called his "dust-up over foreign policy" with President Bush and Sen. John McCain.

"If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting America, that is a debate I will have anytime, any place," he said to a cheering crowd. "George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for."

Obama then launched into list of grievances, including a war fought on the premise of uprooting weapons of mass destruction that were never found, the failure to catch Osama Bin Laden and turning Iran into the "greatest beneficiary" of the Iraq war.

"That's the Bush-McCain record on protecting this country," Obama said. "Those are the failed policies that John McCain wants to double down on."

The senator's comments came in response to President Bush's speech before the Israeli Knesset yesterday, in which he likened a willingness to meet with "terrorists and radicals" to appeasement of the Nazis.

"That's exactly the kind of appalling attack that's divided our country and alienates us from the world," Obama said. "And that's exactly why we need change."

In his speech, Bush warned that the United States must not negotiate with Iran or radical groups such as Hamas.

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush told the Israeli lawmakers. "We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

Obama called the comments "dishonest, divisive attacks."

"John McCain has repeated this notion that I'm prepared to negotiate with terrorists. I have never said that," Obama said. "I am not prepared to negotiate with Hamas."

McCain responded to Obama's comments this afternoon at a meeting of the National Rifle Association in Louisville, Ky., saying he would welcome a foreign policy debate with Obama.

"Earlier today, Senator Obama made a few remarks I would like to respond to. I welcome a debate about protecting America," said McCain. "No issue is more important. Senator Obama claimed all I had to offer was the 'naive and irresponsible belief' that tough talk would cause Iran to give up its nuclear program. He should know better. I have some news for Senator Obama: Talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, in unconditional meetings with the man who calls Israel a 'stinking corpse' and arms terrorist who kill Americans will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program. It is reckless to suggest that unconditional meetings will advance our interests.

"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 reality, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment, and determination to keep us safe."

That brought a sharp reply from the Obama campaign. "What's reckless is continuing the Bush-McCain foreign policy that has cost us thousands of lives and a trillion dollars in Iraq, strengthened Iran, enabled Hamas to take Gaza, took our eye off al Qaeda, failed to capture Osama bin Laden, failed to finish the job in Afghanistan, and left us less safe and less respected in the world," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton. "No amount of utterly predictable fear-mongering and tough talk can change the fact that John McCain is running to continue the most disastrous foreign policy in recent American history."

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By Web Politics Editor  |  May 16, 2008; 1:12 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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