Obama blasts ‘ridicu­lous’ Repub­li­cans

Wades into 2016 cam­paign over GOP at­tacks on Iran deal

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama un­leashed a blis­ter­ing and be­lit­tling re­buke of Repub­li­can White House hope­fuls Mon­day, call­ing their at­tack on his land­mark nu­clear deal with Iran “ridicu­lous if it weren’t so sad.”

Stand­ing be­fore tele­vi­sion cam­eras dur­ing a trip to Africa, Obama sug­gested the bel­li­cose rhetoric from some GOP can­di­dates was an at­tempt to di­vert at­ten­tion from Don­ald Trump, the wealthy busi­ness­man-turned pres­i­den­tial con­tender whose pop­u­lar­ity is con­found­ing the Repub­li­can field.

“Maybe it gets at­ten­tion and maybe this is just an ef­fort to push Mr. Trump out of the head­lines, but it’s not the kind of lead­er­ship that is needed for Amer­ica right now,” Obama said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Ethiopia.

Obama’s com­ments marked his most di­rect en­gage­ment in the race to suc­ceed him.

Un­til now, he’s largely lim­ited his com­men­tary to pol­icy dif­fer­ences with Repub­li­cans, of­ten sidestep­ping the names of spe­cific can­di­dates.

But the pres­i­dent’s un­spar­ing crit­i­cism Mon­day — tar­get­ing can­di­dates Mike Huck­abee and Ted Cruz, as well as Trump — un­der­scored his sen­si­tiv­ity to ef­forts to scut­tle the Iran ac­cord, which he hopes will be his sig­na­ture for­eign pol­icy ini­tia­tive.

It also raised the prospect of an ag­gres­sive role for Obama in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

“In 18 months, I’m turn­ing over the keys,” Obama said.

“I want to make sure I’m turn­ing over the keys to some­body who is se­ri­ous about the se­ri­ous prob­lems that the coun­try faces and the world faces.”

The pres­i­dent was asked specif­i­cally about Huck­abee’s as­ser­tion that Obama had agreed to a nu­clear deal that would “take the Is­raelis and ba­si­cally march them to the door of the oven,” a ref­er­ence to cre­ma­to­ria in Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps dur­ing the Holo­caust. The Is­raeli gov­ern­ment staunchly op­poses the agree­ment and views an Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram as a threat to its ex­is­tence.

Obama said the com­ments from Huck­abee, a for­mer Arkansas gover­nor, were part of a broader pat­tern from Repub­li­cans. He also sin­gled out Cruz, the Texas sen­a­tor, for say­ing the nu­clear deal makes Obama — not Iran — the lead­ing state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism.

“These are lead­ers in the Repub­li­can Party,” Obama said, seem­ing in­cred­u­lous. He sug­gested the GOP was break­ing long­stand­ing Amer­i­can tra­di­tion of not play­ing “fast and loose” with facts dur­ing se­ri­ous for­eign pol­icy de­bates.

Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, the front-run­ner for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, said she was “of­fended per­son­ally” by Huck­abee’s com­ments.

His re­marks should be “re­pu­di­ated by ev­ery per­son of good faith,” she said dur­ing a cam­paign stop in Iowa Mon­day.

Huck­abee dis­missed the crit­i­cism, ar­gu­ing that what was “ridicu­lous and sad” was that Obama wasn’t tak­ing Iran’s threats to de­stroy Is­rael se­ri­ously.

“I will stand with our ally Is­rael to pre­vent the ter­ror­ists in Tehran from achiev­ing their own stated goal of another Holo­caust,” Huck­abee said in a state­ment.

AP PHOTO

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ges­tures dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Ad­dis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mon­day.

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