Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama strongly criticized President Bush and Republican rival John McCain Friday for what he called appalling, dishonest and divisive attacks. Obama's comments at a campaign rally in South Dakota came one day after the president compared those who would negotiate with terrorists and radicals to the appeasers of Nazi Germany before World War II. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest from Washington.
Foreign policy returned front and center to the U.S. election campaign Friday as Senator Obama sought to rebut comments President Bush made before the Israeli Knesset the day before.
"He accused me and other Democrats of wanting to negotiate with terrorists, and said we were appeasers no different from people who appeased Adolf Hitler," said Obama. "That is what George Bush said in front of the Israeli parliament. Now that is exactly the kind of appalling attack that has divided our country and alienates us from the world. And that is why we need change in Washington, that is part of the reason I am running for president of the United States of America."
White House officials said the president's remarks were not directed at Senator Obama, and that Mr. Bush had in mind those who have proposed direct talks with Hamas and Hezbollah, groups the U.S. government has branded as terrorist organizations.
"We have heard this foolish delusion before," said President Bush. "We have an obligation to call this what it is, the false comfort of appeasement."
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, was more direct in addressing Obama's proposal for direct talks with Iran and other U.S. adversaries abroad.
"It is a serious error on the part of Senator Obama," said McCain. "It shows naivete and inexperience and lack of judgment."
In South Dakota Friday, Obama accused both the president and Senator McCain of dishonest, divisive and fear mongering attacks that do nothing to make the United States safer from terrorist attacks.
"If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate I am happy to have anytime, anyplace, and that is a debate I will win because George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for," said Obama.
The controversy over the president's remarks in Israel also brought support from Obama's rival for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton.
"I think what President Bush did was to make an outrageous and deeply offensive comparison," she said. "I just reject it out of hand, and I think any fair-minded American will reject it out of hand."
Clinton and Obama face two more primary contests Tuesday, one in Kentucky and the other in Oregon. Clinton is ahead in the polls in Kentucky while Obama has a lead in Oregon.
The primary season ends on June 3, and there appears to be virtually no chance that Clinton will catch up to Obama in the overall delegate count by then.
Despite Clinton's impressive victory earlier this week in the West Virginia primary, Obama continues to add the support of so-called superedelegates, Democratic officeholders and party activists who can vote for either candidate.
Neither Obama nor Clinton can secure the Democratic nomination without winning a majority of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates.