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Obama Fires Back At Bush, McCain on War and Terror

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In a speech May 16 in Watertown, South Dakota, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama rejected criticisms this week leveled by George Bush in the Israeli parliament about Obama's plans for a diplomatic surge to bring peace to Iraq, Iran and the Middle East.

Obama described as "dishonest" and "divisive" accusations by Bush and John McCain that an Obama administration would negotiate with terrorists and would not be suitable to lead US foreign policy.

"If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate I am happy to have any time and any place. And that is a debate I will win, because George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for," Obama fired back to a standing ovation.

Obama went on to point out that George Bush and John McCain have to explain to the American people, as we enter our sixth year of war in Iraq that was premised on finding non-existent weapons of mass destruction and has cost thousands of lives and over $600 billion, why Bush-McCain policies have failed to make our country safer.

In addition, Obama suggested that with Osama bin Laden at large and sending out video tapes with impunity, it is impossible for George Bush and John McCain to insist credibly that it is their political opponents who are soft on terror.

"Al Qaeda's leadership is stronger than ever," Obama reminded his audience. The invasion of Iraq, he suggested, was a diversion that allowed that to happen.

Bush and McCain "have to answer for the fact that Iran was the greatest strategic beneficiary of the invasion of Iraq," Obama went on. "George Bush's policies made Iran stronger."

Additionally, George Bush and John McCain have to explain why it has been under Bush's watch and resulting from his policies that Hamas and Hezbollah, in Palestine and Lebanon respectively, have grown in prominence and strength.

"That's the Bush-McCain record on protecting this country," Obama summed up.

He flatly rejected McCain's claim that Obama would negotiate with Hamas. He pointed out that just as McCain made that statement media reports broke showing that McCain had previously suggested that the US ought to negotiate with Hamas after it had won elections in Gaza.

"That's the kind of hypocrisy that we've been seeing in our foreign policy, the kind of fear-mongering that has actually prevented us from making this country safe," Obama said. "They're trying to fool you, because they don't want to have a foreign policy debate on the merits. But it's not going to work. Not this time."

The reason John McCain has stooped to misleading claims in this campaign is that "he has nothing to offer except the naive and irresponsible belief that tough talk from Washington will somehow cause Iran to give up its nuclear program and support for terrorism," Obama stated.

"I'm running for president to change course, not to continue George Bush's course," Obama emphasized.

Obama also hinted that because Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also called for talks with Iran, that George Bush might have been referring to Gates as an "appeaser."

Obama linked the McCain campaign's misleading accusations to stark inconsistencies in John McCain's position on the Iraq war. In the fall of 2007 as he launched his campaign for the Republican nomination, McCain went on his "no surrender" tour, accusing political opponents who called for the end of the Iraq war of wanting to "surrender." McCain then went on to tell Republican voters that he supported staying in Iraq for 100 years or more.

"I think he noticed that it wasn't polling well, because he said yesterday suddenly that the troops would be home by 2013, although he didn't explain how that would happen," Obama said.

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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.
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