Obama Slams McCain's "Cowboy Diplomacy"

(CBS)

From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

BILLINGS, MONT. -- Barack Obama today pushed back on John McCain's claims that he exhibits "inexperience" and "reckless judgment" on foreign policy. This morning, McCain attacked Obama for saying that Iran does not pose as large a threat to the United States as the Soviet Union did.

"The Soviet Union has thousands of nuclear weapons and Iran does not have a single one," Obama said at a town hall meeting here. "And when the world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust, Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba. Why shouldn't we have the same courage and the competence to talk to our enemies?" Obama's remarks garnered a standing ovation from the crowd of mostly supporters.

McCain argued this morning that an unconditional meeting between the next American president and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would give the Iranian president more legitimacy and strengthen him domestically. Obama jabbed back at McCain, saying that the war in Iraq has strengthened Iran.

He went on to argue that McCain was too preoccupied with the war instead of handling the nuclear threat in Iran. "John McCain is right that the greatest threat we face is a terrorist with a nuclear weapon, that's why when he was busy supporting a war against a country that had no nuclear weapons, I was busy in the senate working with Republican Dick Lugar to pass legislation to secure loose nuclear weapons and loose nuclear materials around the world," Obama said.

Trying to link his Republican rival to the current administration, he described George Bush's foreign policy as "failed cowboy diplomacy," and questioned Bush and McCain's reluctance to engage in diplomatic talks without preconditions. "For all of their tough talk, one of the things you have to ask yourself is what are George Bush and John McCain afraid of. Demanding that a country meet all your conditions before you meet with them, that is not a strategy, it is just naïve, wishful thinking," Obama said. "I am not afraid that we will lose some propaganda fight with a dictator."