Saturday, May 10, 2008

McCain Previews Attacks on Obama's Foreign Policy Weakness


As Barack Obama continues to have missteps in foreign policy (recall Friday's firing of an Obama adisor who had direct talks with Hamas), John McCain has initiated a new campaign approach taking down the likely Democratic nominee for his foreign policy inexperience.

The New York Times has the details:

In the clearest indication yet of how he intends to confront Senator Barack Obama on foreign policy issues in the general election, Senator John McCain on Friday again portrayed the Democratic contender as being the favorite of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, and implied that he would also be friendly with Iran, a Hamas ally.

Speaking at a news conference in New Jersey, Mr. McCain said he believed that comments made by a Hamas leader approving Mr. Obama’s candidacy were “a legitimate point of discussion,” and he went on to accuse Mr. Obama of agreeing to negotiate with the president of Iran, who on Wednesday referred to Israel as “a stinking corpse facing annihilation.” He described that as “a distinct difference between myself and Senator Obama.”

Mr. Obama has not let attacks go unanswered. On Thursday, he replied by saying that Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, was “losing his bearings” and engaging in “smear” tactics. “My policy toward Hamas has been no different than his,” Mr. Obama said in an interview on CNN.

Mr. McCain’s attacks are part of a broader effort by his campaign to depict Mr. Obama, the leader in the delegate count in the Democratic race for president, as inexperienced and na├»ve on foreign policy in general and soft on terrorism and its sponsors specifically. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama has also had to fight a related perception, one encouraged by his Democratic rivals, that his support for Israel is also weak.

But important nuances appear to have been lost in the partisan salvos, particularly on Mr. McCain’s side. An examination of Mr. Obama’s numerous public statements on the subjects indicates that he has consistently condemned Hamas as a “terrorist organization,” has not sought the group’s support and does not advocate immediate, direct or unconditional negotiations with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.

The McCain-Obama dispute about Hamas began last month, after Ahmed Yousef, a political adviser to the group’s leadership in Gaza, made complimentary remarks about Mr. Obama in an interview with WABC radio in New York. After initially complaining that “everybody tries to sound like he is a friend of Israel” when out on the campaign trail, including Mr. Obama, Mr. Yousef shifted tone.

“We like Mr. Obama,” Mr. Yousef said, “and we hope that he will win the election.”

“I do believe that Mr. Obama is like John Kennedy, a great man with great principles,” he continued. “He has a vision to change America, to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with domination and arrogance.”

Though Hamas describes itself as both a political party and a movement with an armed wing, the State Department, as well as Israel and several other countries, classifies it as a terrorist organization. The group has sponsored suicide bombings against Israeli military and civilian targets, and its charter calls for the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Islamic Palestinian state.

The United States has pursued a policy of isolating Hamas while trying to strengthen moderate Palestinian leaders.

For his part, Mr. McCain has taken pride in the enmity with which he regards Hamas. “I think that the people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare,” he said late last month in a conference call with conservative bloggers.
McCain's generally expected to toughen the U.S. stance toward the new "Axis of Evil" of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar Assad. and Kim Jong Il.

In the meanwhile, the Obama campaign is said to be "flattered" by the fawing attention it's getting from Hamas.

Photo Credit: New York Times