Skip to main content

Obama blasts Bush, McCain over 'attacks'

  • Story Highlights
  • McCain blasts Obama's comments in NRA speech
  • Obama slams Bush over attack "that alienates us from the rest of the world"
  • He blasts McCain for "embracing" Bush's attacks
  • Next Article in Politics »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

WATERTOWN, South Dakota (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama linked Sen. John McCain Friday with what he called "the failed policies" of the Bush administration, accusing the presumed Republican presidential nominee and the White House of "bombastic exaggerations and fear-mongering" in place of "strategy and analysis and smart policy."

"What we've done over the last eight years does not work," the Democratic front-runner said.

Obama accused McCain of supporting a track record from the Bush administration that included the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a longer and more expensive war in Iraq than was initially projected, the continued freedom of September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and the strengthening of Iran after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"The American people are going to look at the evidence," he said. "We don't get a sense that this has been a wise foreign policy or a smart foreign policy or a tough foreign policy. This has been a policy that oftentimes revolved around a lot of bluster and big talk, but very little performance, and what the American people want right now is performance."

In a speech at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday, McCain defended his foreign policy positions, saying the United States has a realistic chance of success in Iraq after four years of costly mistakes.

McCain called some of Obama's ideas "reckless" and questioned his understanding of America's standing in the world. Video Watch McCain take on Obama's comments »

"It would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don't have enemies," the Arizona Republican said. "That's not the world we live in. And until Sen. Obama understands that reality, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has strength, judgment and determination to keep us safe."

The verbal sparring took place a day after President Bush suggested in a speech before the Israeli Knesset that those who want to shift American policy to include direct talks with what he called "terrorists and radicals" were appeasers and delusional. Video Watch more of the controversy surrounding Bush's speech »

"I don't take what Bush says personally, but I was offended by what is a continuation of strategy from this White House, now mimicked by Sen. McCain, that replaces strategy and analysis and smart policy with bombast, exaggerations and fear-mongering," Obama said. Video Watch more of Obama's comments »

"The speech yesterday was not about an actual policy argument. It was about politics and scaring the American people, and that's what will not work in this election," he said.

Obama said he would offer "tough diplomacy" to the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea "without preconditions, although with preparation, and I would present to them very clearly what my expectations would be in terms of them changing their behavior."

On Thursday, McCain spoke warily of Obama's willingness to meet with dictators and "state sponsors of terrorists."

"I have some news for Sen. Obama," McCain told the NRA Friday. "Talking, not even with soaring rhetoric ... will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program. It is reckless to suggest that unconditional meetings will advance our interests."

Speaking to reporters earlier, McCain said he disagreed with Obama's desire to talk with Iran's president.

"What you do, if you sit down face to face, as Sen. Obama wants to do, is you legitimize a regime that's dedicated to the extinction of Israel, supports terrorist organizations and is responsible for deaths of brave young Americans," McCain said.

McCain also said he would not meet with representatives of Hamas, the Palestinian organization listed as a terrorist group by the United States and Israel, which won elections in 2006 and now controls Gaza while U.S.-friendly President Mahmoud Abbas controls the West Bank.

Obama agreed with that position, calling Hamas a terrorist organization that has vowed to destroy Israel.

But Obama said McCain and Bush have to answer for Iran's benefiting from the invasion of Iraq, Hamas' gaining control of Gaza and Iran's continued funding of terrorist organizations, all of which, he said, have affected U.S. security.

"That's the Bush-McCain record on protecting this country," he said at a Watertown, South Dakota, town hall meeting. "Those are the failed policies that John McCain wants to double-down on."

"I am happy to have a debate with John McCain and George Bush about foreign policy," Obama said. "I believe that there is no separation between George Bush and John McCain when it comes to our Middle East policy, and I think their policy has failed."


In Kentucky, McCain said he would also welcome a debate about "protecting America."

"No issue is more important," he said. "Sen. Obama claimed all I had to offer was a quote 'naive and irresponsible belief' that tough talk would cause Iran to give up its nuclear program. He should have known better."

CNN's associate political editor Rebecca Sinderbrand and political producer Ed Hornick contributed to this story.

All About Barack ObamaGeorge W. BushJohn McCain

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print