Iran General NewsObama and McCain spar over Iran

Obama and McCain spar over Iran


ImageNew York Times: Senators Barack Obama and John McCain traded blows over foreign policy in separate speeches on Monday in which the two presidential hopefuls clashed over the proper approach to dealing with Iran.

The New York Times

Published: May 20, 2008

ImageSenators Barack Obama and John McCain traded blows over foreign policy in separate speeches on Monday in which the two presidential hopefuls clashed over the proper approach to dealing with Iran.

As part of a running dispute over diplomatic policy, Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has criticized Mr. Obama for saying he would meet with the leaders of Iran, calling such a position naïve. Mr. Obama has countered by saying the current policy toward Iran is misguided and noting that the United States had been willing to meet with the leaders of the Soviet Union, which posed a far greater threat to country at the time.

The two continued the fight on Monday. Senator McCain, speaking at a meeting of the National Restaurant Association in Chicago, dismissed Mr. Obama’s Soviet comparison.

“Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had,” Mr. McCain said. “But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant.”

He said Mr. Obama’s statement that, as president, he would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders without preconditions “betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment.”

Mr. Obama countered on Monday, saying the Bush administration’s policy in the Middle East had only strengthened Iran and that meeting with Iranians was “common sense.”

“The threat from Iran is grave,” Mr. Obama said. “But what I have said is we should not just be willing to talk to our friends, we should engage with our enemies as well. That is what diplomacy is all about.”

Speaking in Billings, Mont., a day before Democratic primaries in Oregon and Kentucky, Mr. Obama said that during the most dangerous period of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy had been willing to meet with the Soviets to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“That is what strong countries do,” he said. “That is what strong presidents do.”

As the Democratic primaries draw to a close, Senator Obama chalked up another endorsement from a senior party leader. Senator Robert C. Byrd, of West Virginia, endorsed Mr. Obama, calling him “a shining young statesmen.” Mr. Byrd, the longest serving member of the Senate, called both candidates “extraordinary individuals.” But Mr. Byrd, a strong opponent of the war in Iraq, said Mr. Obama had the “personal temperament and courage necessary to extricate our country from this costly misadventure in Iraq.”

“Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support,” Mr. Byrd said.

In his speech in Billings, Mr. Obama downplayed concerns that the long primary race between him and Senator Hillary Clinton would hurt the Democratic Party’s chances in November. He said whatever differences there might be between him and Senator Clinton, the two candidates and their supporters would put their divisions aside in November.

“We are going to be united,” Mr. Obama said.

Senator Clinton, who has scheduled a series of appearances in Kentucky on Monday, signaled her clear intention to remain in the race until the last primaries on June 3.

“This is nowhere near over,” Mrs. Clinton told supporters during an appearance in Maysville.

Mrs. Clinton said she had won more popular votes in the primary than Mr. Obama, and warned Mr. Obama’s supporters from claiming that their candidate had won the nomination before the final primaries and before the party settles what to do about votes cast in Florida and Michigan. The Democratic Party has said delegates from those states would not be seated because the state’s primaries were held earlier than party leaders allowed.

“None of us is going to have the number of delegates we’re going to need to get to the nomination, although I understand my opponent and his supporters are going to claim that,” she said. “The fact is we have to include Michigan and Florida. We cannot claim that we have a nominee based on 48 states, particularly two states that are so important for us to win in the fall.”

John M. Broder, Michael Luo and Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting.


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