Obama attacks ‘ridiculous’ claims of Republican candidates

US president defends nuclear agreement he and other world leaders reached with Iran

Barrack Obama during a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today. Photograph: STR/EPA

Barrack Obama during a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today. Photograph: STR/EPA


President Barack Obama has lashed out at Republican presidential candidates for making what he called “ridiculous” claims about his policies and “outrageous attacks” that crossed the line of political decorum. At a news conference while visiting this African country, Obama defended the international nuclear agreement he and other world leaders reached with Iran and he bristled at the assertion by former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas that the president’s policy would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven”.

Obama said such comments demonstrated a lack of seriousness on the part of those seeking to succeed him and reflected an anything-goes political culture that rewards incendiary rhetoric over sober deliberation. Asked specifically about Huckabee’s remarks, Obama linked them to those of other Republican presidential candidates, including businessman Donald J Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

“The particular comments of Mr Huckabee are just part of a general pattern we’ve seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” Obama said. “We’ve had a sitting senator call John Kerry Pontius Pilate. We’ve had a sitting senator, who also happens to be running for president, suggest that I’m the leading state sponsor of terrorism. These are leaders in the Republican Party. ”

Republican senator Tom Cotton, Arkansas, a leading critic of the Iran agreement, last week said that Kerry, the secretary of state who negotiated it, “acted like Pontius Pilate” by letting the International Atomic Energy Agency negotiate separate inspection provisions with Iran to verify the agreement. “He washed his hands” and “kicked it to the IAEA”, Cotton said.

Cruz objected to the agreement’s provision lifting sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear programme because that would free up $100 billion or more of frozen Iranian assets. As a result, he said, “the Obama administration will become the leading financier of terrorism against America in the world.”

As for Trump, Obama mentioned him by name several times without being asked, just a week after cutting off a reporter who tried to ask about him at a White House news conference on Iran. “Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr Trump out of the headlines,” the president said of the Republican rhetoric.

Obama went on to note Trump’s assertion that Senator John McCain, Arizona, a former prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was not a genuine war hero. Obama, who defeated McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign, said it was offensive to “challenge the heroism of Mr McCain, somebody who endured torture and conducted himself with exemplary patriotism”.

But the president also made it a broader indictment of the Republican Party, many of whose leaders denounced the Trump remarks as well. “The Republican Party is shocked, and yet that arises out of a culture where those kinds of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and get circulated nonstop through the Internet and talk radio and news outlets,” Obama said. “And I recognise that when outrageous statements are made about me a lot of the same people who were outraged when it’s made about Mr McCain were pretty quiet.”

Obama said candidates should not “play fast and loose” with comments like that. “The American people deserve better,” he said. “Certainly presidential debates deserve better. In 18 months, I’m turning over the keys. I want to make sure I’m turning over the keys to somebody who’s serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces.” – (New York Times)