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Barack Obama not about to appease President Bush or John McCain

May 16, 2008 | 10:27 am

Signaling he's not about to let the "appeasement" issue die, Barack Obama moments ago scored President Bush and John McCain on foreign policy. Speaking at a forum on agricultural issues in Watertown, S.D., Obama slammed the Republicans for contending that he was willing to negotiate with terrorists.

"They're trying to scare you and trying to keep you from seeing the truth," Obama told a cheering crowd packed into an agricultural arena. "And the reason is, they can't win a foreign policy argument on the merits."

Our colleague, Nicholas Riccardi, was in the arena, and reports the crowd booed as Obama described how Bush criticized him during his speech to Israel's Knesset. "That's the sort of appalling attack that divides our country and alienates us from the world," Obama said.

The audience booed again as Obama said that McCain, after a morning speech pledging bipartisanship and civility, "jumped on a call with a bunch of bloggers and said I wasn't fit to protect this country that I love.... So much for civility."

Tough talk won't be enough to push Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions, Obama said, adding that "tough" negotiations could make a difference. "I'm running for president to change course," Obama said, "not to continue George Bush's course."

Obama put the war front and center, arguing that it has left the nation at greater risk, and jabbed McCain for projecting a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by 2013. Obama recalled an offhand remark by McCain in New Hampshire that he'd be happy to have troops in Iraq for 100 years, a line Democrats have used against him ever since.

"I think he noticed it wasn't polling well," Obama said.

UPDATE: Tucker Bounds, McCain's spokesman, responds. "It was remarkable to see Barack Obama’s hysterical diatribe in response to a speech in which his name wasn’t even mentioned. These are serious issues that deserve a serious debate, not the same tired partisan rants we heard today from Senator Obama. Sen. Obama has pledged to unconditionally meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- who pledges to wipe Israel off the map, denies the Holocaust, sponsors terrorists, arms America’s enemies in Iraq and pursues nuclear weapons. What would Sen. Obama talk about with such a man? It would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don’t have enemies. But that is not the world we live in, and until Sen. Obama understands that, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment and determination to keep us safe."

--Scott Martelle