Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani put his own spin on a famous line from American political history to attack rival presidential hopeful Barack Obama today.
Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., Giuliani criticized Obama's willingness to meet with enemies of the current Bush Administration -- including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Cuba's Fidel Castro. Obama has justified reaching out to such leaders by referencing former president Ronald Reagan's past negotiations with Soviet leaders during the Cold War.
"I say this most respectfully," Giuliani said. "You're not Ronald Reagan."
Obama spokesman Bill Burton shot back, releasing a statement saying, "While Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton do not think we should engage in the type of strong diplomacy practiced by Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy, Obama does. And given the hefty fee that Hugo Chavez's oil company paid Rudy Giuliani's firm, he apparently thinks we shouldn't talk to Chavez, but it's fine to take his money."
Giuliani's campaign could not be immediately reached to respond to this claim.
Obama has repeatedly defended his willingness to talk to rogue leaders by discussing former presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Richard Nixon. In Iowa today, Obama said, "We have Kennedy meeting with Khrushchev, Nixon meeting with Mao, Reagan meeting with Gorbachev at a time when those countries posed a much greater threat than Iran or Syria or Venezuela. And, so I think that we have gotten in a mindset that believes that not talking to a leader is a sign of acting tough or having a position of strength. I don't think that it communicates strength. I think that it communicates weakness. I think that it communicates arrogance."
Giuliani's line is derived from the famous exchange in a 1988 debate between then senators Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen, who at the time were competing vice presidential candidates. Bentsen solemnly dressed-down Quayle, who had been pointing out similarities between himself and former president Kennedy.
"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy," said Bentsen to huge applause. Quayle received even greater applause when he told Bentsen that the comment was out of line.