Thursday 20 June 2019

Republicans savage Obama over 'bomb Pakistan' threat

Tim Reid

REPUBLICAN candidates for the White House formed an unlikely alliance with Hillary Clinton yesterday when they branded Barack Obama reckless for suggesting he might bomb Pakistan.

"He's gone from Jane Fonda to Dr Strangelove in one week," said Mitt Romney, to applause, during a Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa. "He went from saying he's going to sit down for tea with our enemies but then he's going to bomb our allies."

Over at the nearby Drake diner, where those enjoying English muffins, eggs over easy and iced tea, found themselves part of a focus group, the sound bite scored big. Nearly eight years ago, a Republican presidential candidate called George W Bush couldn't identify the president of Pakistan - lamely hazarding "general". Now, Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror, is centre stage.

Candidates rounded on Mr Obama, who trails Mrs Clinton in national polls but is on the rise in the key early states, for saying he would not use nuclear weapons in "any circumstance" in Pakistan or Afghanistan - before pausing and adding "involving civilians" and then asking the reporter to "Let me scratch that."

John McCain, whose tough stances on Iraq and the war on terror remain his only hope of reviving his flagging candidacy, said: "It's naive to say that we will never use nuclear weapons. It's naive to say we're going to attack Pakistan without thinking it through.

Mrs Clinton called Mr Obama "naive" and "irresponsible" last week for telegraphing his intentions to America's enemies and potentially undermining the West's alliance with Pakistan, which lodged a protest about his remarks.

The broadsides against Mr Obama perhaps reflect a sense that he might be gaining on Mrs Clinton, the favourite to become Democratic nominee, but it was chiefly because the Illinois senator had made what Republicans view as a big mistake. "He was just the easier target this week," said Prof Dennis Goldford of Iowa's Drake University. But the Republican attacks could boost Mr Obama's prestige among Democratic voters. Ironically, by sharing Mrs Clinton's analysis on Pakistan and the nuclear issue, the Republicans might help her show that she has the judgment to deal with crises.

In the debate, Tom Tancredo defended his suggestion that America should threaten to bomb the Islamic holy sites of Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia if a terrorist attack was launched against the US. The US State Department had condemned the comment as "absolutely outrageous and reprehensible". But the moment that drew the best response from the focus group at the Drake diner was when Mike Huckabee, who has moved up into joint third place in the Iowa polls alongside Mr McCain, slammed the House of Saud. "Look, we've made them rich," he said. "Every time somebody in this room goes to the gas pump, you've helped make the Saudi royal family a little wealthier. And the money that has been used against us in terrorism has largely come from the Middle East."

Meanwhile, Judith Giuliani has admitted she finds politics "a learning curve" after coming under attack from the US press for being a shopaholic gold digger who demands a plane seat for her Louis Vuitton handbag. "When it comes to politics, I'm new to this," she said. "

The 53-year-old revealed how she met her third husband at a Manhattan bar, when she was divorced and he was still married to his second wife. The interview followed a devastating Vanity Fair article entitled "Giuliani's Princess Bride", which portrayed her as a ruthless social climber. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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