Bush criticizes Obama foreign policy stance

February 28, 2008 4:00:49 PM PST
President Bush fired a shot Thursday at Senator Barack Obama in the war of words over US foreign policy. The president went on to question Obama's willingness to meet with hostile foreign leaders.

Barack Obama hasn't won the Democratic nomination yet. In fact, Hillary Clinton is fighting hard to keep her campaign alive in next week's key primary states of Ohio and Texas. And she is getting some unsolicited help from Republican leaders, who have been attacking Obama's approach to foreign policy. Wednesday it was GOP frontrunner John McCain on the issue of al-Qaeda in Iraq. And Thursday it was the president himself, George W. Bush, on meeting with foreign leaders.

Obama's concept of change includes a willingness to meet with the leaders of hostile nations, without pre-conditions, like the new leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro's brother Raul. But that's a major mistake, according to President Bush, who says it is counter-productive to embrace certain leaders instead of isolating them.

"It can send chilling signals and messages to our allies. It can send confusion about or foreign policy. It discourages reformers inside their own country, and in my judgment, it would be a mistake," the president said Thursday.

A bit later, on a plane ride from Ohio to Texas, Obama defended his approach to foreign policy, claiming the isolation and economic embargo of Cuba has done nothing to advance the cause of freedom there.

"I think the next president has a job to do to repair our image and send a signal, not just to leaders, but also to populations in Iran or Cuba or in Venezuela or in Europe or anywhere in the Middle East or around the world where our standing is diminished that a new era is being ushered in," Obama said.

Obama is also accusing Bush and the likely Republican party nominee John McCain of steering the U.S. economy toward a recession.

Meanwhile, Obama's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, whose campaign raised a staggering $35 million in the month of February, is spending some of the cash on new TV ads in the must-win state of Ohio featuring a key ally, Ohio's popular governor George Strickland.

Governor Strickland, who will probably be on the short list for vice president, whether the nominee is Clinton or Obama, has been at Hillary's side all week. And he is one reason she is still holding on to a single digit lead in the polls. In Texas, the race is a dead heat, but Clinton got a boost Thursday when a prominent Latina politician from El Paso switched endorsed Hillary after previously supporting Obama.