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McCain, Obama trade punches

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News The Washington Examiner 28 May 2008

Barack Obama john mccain north korea nuclear weapons rand beers russia

Bill Sammon, The Examiner
2008-05-28 07:00:00.0

WASHINGTON -

Settling into their general election strategies, John McCain ridiculed Barack Obama on Tuesday as naïve on national security, and Obama ripped McCain for campaigning with President Bush.

Both men ignored Hillary Clinton, whose aspirations for the Democratic presidential nomination continued to fade as yet another superdelegate trickled into the Obama camp.

With the nomination all but assured, Obama was free to hammer McCain, the Republican nominee, for campaigning Tuesday with Bush.

“He’s holding a fundraiser with George Bush behind closed doors in Arizona,” Obama told an audience in Nevada. “No cameras. No reporters. And we all know why. Senator McCain doesn’t want to be seen, hat-in-hand, with the president whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years.”

McCain’s campaign responded by trying to walk the political tightrope between embracing Bush and disowning him.

“Whether the issue is global climate change or urging a more effective strategy in Iraq, John McCain has had clear but respectful differences of opinion with the president,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds told The Examiner. “However, it isn’t surprising that Barack Obama is trying to disguise his own lack of depth and weak leadership on the issues with political generalizations and superficial attacks.”

The exchange over McCain’s connection to Bush came shortly after McCain belittled Obama, without uttering his name, for agreeing to meet with the leaders of rogue nations.

“Today, some people seem to think they’ve discovered a brand new cause, something no one before them ever thought of,” McCain said in a Denver speech that was repeatedly interrupted by anti-war hecklers. “Many believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile governments is have our president talk with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran, as if we haven’t tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades.”

During the same speech, McCain used conciliatory language in calling for the United States to work cooperatively with Russia toward nuclear nonproliferation. It was a noticeable change in tone from March, when McCain called for expelling Russia from the Group of Eight industrialized nations for backsliding on democratic reforms.

Rand Beers, president of the National Security Network, portrayed McCain’s shift as a political gaffe.

“Unfortunately, cooperation with Russia, the basic premise of the speech, is undermined by his earlier promise to throw Russia out of the G-8 and his continued support for ballistic missile defense in eastern Europe,” Beers said. “An odd slip-up for a purported national security expert.”

bsammon@dcexaminer.com