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Obama-Bush Tussle, GOP Losses Top Campaign Headlines

May 16, 2008 at 6:30 PM EST
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Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama takes issue with President Bush's perceived criticism of his foreign policy positions, while the GOP lost a House seat in Mississippi, following other losses in Louisiana and Illinois.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, the 2008 race for the White House. An unexpected player, President Bush, shakes things up.

Barack Obama was in Watertown, South Dakota, this morning for what was intended to be a town hall meeting on rural issues.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: But because there was a little dust-up yesterday about foreign policy, I feel obliged just to make a few comments about that, as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The “dust-up” was over remarks President Bush made yesterday to the Israeli Knesset, rebuking those who would negotiate with leaders of rogue nations.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.

We’ve heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all 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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House denies that Mr. Bush’s comments were directed at Senator Obama, but Obama and others saw it differently.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: He accused me and other Democrats of wanting to negotiate with terrorists and said we were “appeasers,” no different from people who appeased Adolf Hitler. That’s what George Bush said in front of the Israeli parliament.

Now, that’s exactly the kind of appalling attack that’s divided our country and that alienates us from the world. And that’s why we need change in Washington. That’s part of the reason why I’m running for president of the United States of America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday, Hillary Clinton came to Obama’s defense, criticizing both the substance and the timing of the president’s remarks.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: President Bush’s comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous.

On the face of it, especially in light of his failures in foreign policy, this is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address. And, certainly, to use an important moment like the 60th anniversary celebration of Israel to make a political point seems terribly misplaced.

Engagement of Iran a hot topic

JUDY WOODRUFF: John McCain entered the fray while traveling on his campaign bus yesterday and again today, referring to a previous statement from Obama that he would be willing to talk with Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Senator Obama wants to have direct talks with the president of Iran, who has said that Israel is a stinking corpse and who wants to wipe Israel off the map -- those are his words, not mine -- and that are developing nuclear weapons, that are exporting the most lethal, explosive devices into Iraq, killing innocent Americans. I strongly disagree with that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, Obama fired back, pointing to McCain's own statement two years ago that he'd be willing to negotiate with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: John McCain has repeated this notion that I'm prepared to negotiate with terrorists. I have never said that. I have been adamant about not negotiating with Hamas, a terrorist organization that has vowed to destroy Israel and won't recognize them.

In fact, the irony is, yesterday, just as McCain was making these attacks, a story broke that he was actually guilty of the exact same thing that he's accusing me of and, in fact, was saying that maybe we need to deal with Hamas.

I mean, that's the kind of hypocrisy that we've been seeing in our foreign policy, the kind of fear-peddling, fear-mongering that has prevented us from actually making us safe.

They're trying to fool you; they're trying to scare you; and they're not telling the truth. And the reason is, is because they can't win a foreign policy debate on the merits.

But it's not going to work. It's not going to work this time, and it's not going to work this year.

JUDY WOODRUFF: John McCain responded during an address to the National Rifle Association convention late this afternoon in Louisville.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Earlier today, Senator Obama made a few remarks I'd like to respond to. I welcome a debate about protecting America; no issue is more important.

Senator Obama claimed all I had to offer was the, quote, "naive and irresponsible" belief that tough talk would cause Iran to give up its nuclear program. He should have known better.

I have some news for Senator Obama: talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, unconditional -- in unconditional meetings with a man who calls Israel a stinking corpse and arms terrorists who kill Americans will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program.

It is reckless. It is reckless to suggest that unconditional meetings will advance our interests.

You know, it would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don't have enemies, but that's 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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: McCain went on to call Iran the "biggest state supporter of terrorists, with a declared desire to destroy the state of Israel."