Obama Fires Back at Bush and McCain

(CBS)

From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

WATERTOWN, S.D. -- Barack Obama responded to George Bush's "appeasement' accusations today, accusing both him and John McCain of making foreign policy blunders which have jeopardized the safety of the country. "I want to be perfectly clear with George Bush and John McCain and with the people of South Dakota, if George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate I will be happy to have anytime, anyplace and that is a debate that I will win, because George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for," Obama said at town hall meeting here.

He went on to describe a host of problems which he accused Bush and McCain of contributing to, including strengthening Hamas in Gaza by advocating for elections and strengthening Iran by invading Iraq. Obama called questions about his ability ensure the safety of the country "dishonest and divisive" rhetoric.

"That's the kind of hypocrisy we've been seeing in our foreign policy, the kind of fear-peddling, fear-mongering, that has prevented us from actually making us safer," Obama said. "They're trying to fool you, they're trying to scare you, and they're not telling truth. And the reason is because they can't win a foreign policy debate on the merits."

Obama said he didn't understand the controversy surrounding his support of diplomatic talks with rogue leaders. "What's puzzling is that we view this in any way controversial when this has been the history of U.S. diplomacy until very recently," he said. "This whole notion of not talking to people, it didn't hold in the 60s, it didn't hold in the 70s, it didn't hold in the 80s, it didn't hold in the 90s against much more powerful adversaries."

He continued to defend his position, arguing that no limitation should be placed on diplomatic talks with countries such as Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.
"I would meet with them without preconditions, although with preparation," Obama said, and went on to explain that he would be clear about his expectations of the leaders to change their behavior. He used Iran as an example, saying that he would expect Ahmadinejad to stop threatening Israel and stand down on the development of nuclear weapons.