Election 2008


Foreign Policy Takes Center Stage as Nominees Spotlight Differences

June 06, 2008 09:02 AM
by Christopher Coats
With the general election unofficially underway, McCain and Obama have turned to foreign policy criticism to help define each other in the public eye.

30-Second Summary

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has taken aim at the foreign policy credentials of Democrat Barak Obama in hopes of defining his opponent as naïve and inexperienced.

In addition to the two candidates’ differing positions on the U.S. role in Iraq, McCain has taken specific issue with Obama’s past statements regarding talks with foreign leaders thought of as hostile to the United States.

During a debate last year, held in Charleston, S.C., Obama responded to a question by saying he would be willing to meet with leaders of “rouge states” such as Iran and North Korea without preconditions.

First criticized by primary challenger Hillary Clinton, the comments have now become a central McCain criticism of Obama.

The Democratic nominee has since sought to include the possibility of certain preconditions, but has not backed away from the idea of meeting with leaders such as Raul Castro, Kim Jong Il and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Obama responded to criticism by saying that he viewed meetings with hostile foreign leaders as United States policy until recently, citing meetings held by past presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

Meanwhile, Obama has sought to link McCain’s foreign policy approach to the decisions of President George W. Bush, often citing the Arizona senator’s support of the Iraq war.

McCain has distanced himself from the president in recent weeks, highlighting his criticism of postwar planning and the actions of Bush administration figures such as Donald Rumsfeld.

The two candidates’ disagreement regarding the U.S. role in Iraq centers on a definition of success and how long the military should remain there.

Headline Links: McCain and Obama trade criticism

Background: Obama’s ‘appeasement,’ McCain’s stance on Iraq

Reactions: Changing minds

Opinion & Analysis: McCain, Obama on foreign policy

Reference: The candidates


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