(CNN) - Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain swiftly responded to Barack Obama’s foreign policy criticism Friday, calling the Illinois senator’s positions “reckless,” saying Americans had “every reason to doubt” he could keep the country safe.
“Senator Obama claimed all I had to offer was the ‘naive and irresponsible belief’ that tough talk would cause Iran to give up its nuclear program. He should know better,” McCain told the audience at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Lousville, Kentucky. “I have some news for Senator Obama: Talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, [about] unconditional meetings with the 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 to suggest that unconditional meetings will advance our interests.
“It would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don't have enemies. But that is 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.”
Earlier Friday Obama told reporters that McCain was deliberately distorting his position, and that he was offended by the tone of President Bush’s controversial remarks before the Israeli Knesset.
“I don’t take what Bush said personally, but I was offended by what is a continuation of a strategy from this White House – now mimicked by Senator McCain - that replaces strategy and analyses and smart policy with bombast exaggerations, and fear mongering. And that is what we heard yesterday,” said Obama.
He also slammed McCain for suggesting that he would hold unconditional talks with the Islamic militant group Hamas, pointing to a new op-ed by Jamie Rubin - a supporter of Hillary Clinton - in which the former State Department official said McCain had advocated unconditional dialogue with the group. (The McCain campaign disputes the charge, saying that Rubin has not included the full context of McCain’s remarks.)
Obama said that any dialogue he would engage in as president with hostile nations like Iran would take the form of “tough diplomacy,” adding that he would “meet with them without preconditions – although with preparation.
“If they are willing to change behavior, then we would offer inducements and benefits diplomatically, and if they don’t then we will continue to ratchet sanctions and isolation on Iran,” he said. “That has been a consistent policy that I have presented throughout – there is no contradiction whatsoever - so I have no idea where it is that they are suggesting that somehow there has been a change in policy.”