MIAMI -- Barack Obama addressed the Cuban exile community today at a luncheon celebrating Cuban Independence Day. Obama criticized John McCain's recent campaign stop here, accusing him of pandering to Cuban voters and not presenting new policies for the region.
"Every four years, they come down to Miami, they talk tough, they go back to Washington, and nothing changes in Cuba," Obama said, "That's what John McCain did the other day. He joined the parade of politicians who made the same empty promises year after year, decade after decade."
Speaking in front of a more moderate branch of the exile community, Obama reassured the crowd that diplomatic talks with Raul Castro will be come with "careful preparation."
"John McCain's been going around the country talking about how much I want to meet with Raul Castro, as if I'm looking for a social gathering - I'm going to invite him over and have some tea. That's not what I said and John McCain knows it," Obama said and went on to explain his position.
"As President, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the United States, and to advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people."
The McCain campaign quickly responded to Obama's speech, criticizing his willingness to talk to Castro. "Senator Obama's promises of unilateral concessions to Cuba's dictators even in advance of an unconditional summit meeting with Raul Castro is exactly the wrong approach to free the people of Cuba," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a writen response.
Bounds described Obama's judgement and overall Latin America policy as "reckless." "Senator Obama's reckless judgment, and his pandering on trade will set back relations between the United States and Latin America for decades. That's not a new day the people of North and South America want to wake up to."