John McCain, turning his fire on Barack Obama to foreign policy, launched a new TV ad today that says the Democrat doesn't take the Iranian nuclear threat seriously.
The ad seeks to capitalize on Obama's remark in May that Iran is a "tiny" threat compared to the Soviet Union, and in a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of Obama's positions on Iran.
"Iran, radical Islamic government, known sponsors of terrorism, developing nuclear capabilities to generate power, but threatening to eliminate Israel," the announcer says.
"Obama says Iran is a 'tiny' country, 'doesn't pose a serious threat,' " the announcer continues. "Terrorism, destroying Israel, those aren't "serious threats? Obama -- dangerously unprepared to be president."
Here's the full quote from Obama in May on the campaign trail in Oregon: "Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. That's what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That's what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That's what Nixon did with Mao. I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we're going to wipe you off the planet. And ultimately that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war, and over time allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall. Now, that has to be the kind of approach that we take. You know, Iran, they spend one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn't stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen. That doesn't mean we agree with them on everything. We might not compromise on any issues, but at least we should find out other areas of potential common interest, and we can reduce some of the tensions that has caused us so many problems around the world.
Haaretz reported: "Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate's stance on Iran as 'utterly immature' and comprised of 'formulations empty of all content.'
"Obama visited Paris in July, and the Iranian issue was at the heart of his meeting with Sarkozy. At a joint press conference afterward, Obama urged Iran to accept the West's proposal on its nuclear program, saying that Iran was creating a serious situation that endangered both Israel and the West.
"According to the reports reaching Israel, Sarkozy told Obama at that meeting that if the new American president elected in November changed his country's policy toward Iran, that would be 'very problematic.' "
UPDATE: The French government is denying the Haaretz report. "The remarks attributed by the newspaper Haaretz to the President of the French Republic concerning Senator Obama's positions on Iran are groundless. To the contrary, the in-depth discussions between the President of the Republic and Senator Obama on Iran during their meeting in Paris in July demonstrated a broad convergence of views on this issue. President Sarkozy and Senator Obama agree to oppose Iran's development of a military nuclear capability," said the communique issued through the French embassy in Washington, D.C.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.