McCain campaign takes aim at Obama
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06/04/08 Seán Kinane
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The campaign of Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, responded to Senator Barack Obama’s speech to AIPAC on a conference call today.

Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000, said there was a disconnect in what Obama said about Iran on Wednesday compared to things he has said or done earlier in the campaign or in the Senate.

“I was troubled earlier in the year, during the campaign season when Sen. Obama referred to, I guess, compared Iran and other rogue and terrorist states to the Soviet Union and minimized the threat represented by Iran. I think that’s wrong. Today Sen. Obama said that he thought Iran represented a grave threat. That’s the disconnect. And I think of course the statement he made today was right,” Lieberman said.

Randy Scheunemann, McCain campaign’s director of Foreign Policy and National Security, suggested that Obama was tailoring his message to a specific audience.

“So I think it’s hard to escape the conclusion that last fall when the audience was MoveOn.org and other Democratic activists vs. today when it is AIPAC and pro-Israel activists, that Sen. Obama has different messages for different audiences,” Scheunemann said.

Lieberman referenced Obama’s opposition vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard unit as a terrorist group. Critics of the amendment say that it paves the way for a U.S. attack on Iran. Lieberman said that foreign policy will be a major topic during the presidential campaign.

“Sen. Obama today argued that American foreign policy in recent years has essentially sort of strengthened Iran. At one point he almost seems to suggest that it helped to elect Ahmadinejad and has made Israel less safe and I just disagree with that. Iran elected Ahmadinejad for their own reasons. If Israel is in danger today, it’s not because of American foreign policy, which has been strongly supportive of Israel in every way. It’s not because of what we’ve done in Iraq. It’s because Iran is fanatical, terroristic [sic], expansionist state,” Lieberman said.

Rep. Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, called Obama’s speech to AIPAC “nice” but said it did not dispel doubts about Obama’s support for Israel “or the likelihood that he would have the strength of leadership or character to protect Israel as pillar in America’s national security policy." Cantor added, "At the end of the day, I think it’s easy to talk about supporting Israel as Barack Obama did today, but it’s hard to actually do it. John McCain has had 30 years of foreign relations experience. He’s had extensive travel to the region. His support never wavered. … John McCain doesn’t need any on-the-job training; it’s just in his DNA.”

McCain’s foreign policy director Scheunemann, questioned Obama’s claim that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has strengthened Iran.

“Sen. Obama, in his speech had a rather odd alternate reality wherein he talks about somehow the presence of American troops has strengthened Iran. He refuses to deal with the consequences of what is now a phased withdrawal, what when he voted last year would have been an absolutely precipitous withdrawal when he voted to cut off funds and the consequences that that would have for Iranian power in the region,” Scheunemann said.

Scheunemann criticized Obama’s suggestion that America was outsourcing diplomacy by having European allies negotiating with Iran.

“That was a rather strange line for Sen. Obama to use. Frankly, to say we’re outsourcing diplomacy to our European allies disparages the very essence of allied cooperation. Sen. McCain has had discussions at the highest levels, including with President Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Brown of Britain. … Senator Obama seems more interested in disparaging our allies and engaging in cowboy summitry with unspecified leaders of Iran,” Scheunemann said.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

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