Thursday, September 18, 2008
By Patrick Goodenough, International Editor
(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Barack Obama “chose politics rather than the national interest” by sidestepping the opportunity for a bipartisan stand against Iran’s nuclear drive, Sen. John McCain said Thursday.
The Republican presidential candidate leveled the charge after the organizers of the “Stop Iran Now” rally, planned for next Monday in New York City, withdrew an invitation to his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, following appeals by Democrats.
“Governor Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue,” McCain said in a statement. “Regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans.”
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to oppose [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s goal of a nuclear armed Iran. Senator Obama’s campaign had the opportunity to join us. Senator Obama chose politics rather than the national interest.”
“Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should be a shared goal of every American, not another occasion for partisan posturing,” he said.
One week ago, McCain and Obama set aside the campaign to visit the site of the World Trade Center in New York to mark the seventh anniversary of 9/11.
By the prospect of Palin sharing a stage with a senior Democrat during the charged election campaign was evidently unacceptable to some in the rival party.
First, Sen. Hillary Clinton – who had been invited to participate in the Iran rally before McCain picked Palin as the Republican vice-presidential candidate – withdrew once she learned of Palin’s participation.
Then, the National Jewish Democratic Council, while congratulating Clinton’s decision to pull out, urged the Jewish organizations sponsoring the rally to disinvite the Republican, saying that by doing so they would "return the focus to America’s outrage towards the genocidal musings and nuclear ambitions of … Ahmadinejad.”
On Thursday, the organizers withdrew the invitation to Palin, saying in a statement that in order to keep the focus on Iran, there would be no “American political personalities” at the rally.
The NJDC praised the decision, saying it showed “that bi-partisan solidarity against President Ahmadinejad has won out over partisanship.”
The NJDC did not respond to queries Thursday, including questions on whether it had at any point suggested that the Obama campaign put forward vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden or another senior Democrat to provide balance.
The Republican Jewish Coalition said it was “very sad that the NJDC and other partisan groups could not put the issue of a nuclear-free Iran ahead of partisan politics.”
“It is … a sad day for American Jewry when we allow these groups to hijack an event, when we we should all come together and send a powerful message to Iran and the rest of the world that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks.
The rally coincides with Ahmadinejad’s planned visit to New York, where he is expected to address the annual U.N. General Assembly session on Tuesday. President Bush is scheduled to speak the same day.
Organizers include the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the National Coalition to Stop Iran Now and The Israel Project.
“This issue, opposition to a nuclear-armed Iran, is one which enjoys bipartisan support and the backing of the American people across the political spectrum,” they said in an earlier statement.
“On this, all Americans stand together. We acknowledge and deeply appreciate those American political leaders who have been and remain prepared to stand with us as we collectively address the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program and its support for terrorism globally.”
In Tehran Thursday, Ahmadinejad said he was prepared to debate McCain or Obama while in the United States.
“I am ready for a debate with the U.S. presidential candidates over global issues in the presence of the media at U.N. headquarters,” Ahmadinejad told a press conference.
As Bush was approaching the end of his term, he said, an encounter with him now would not impact future bilateral relations.
Ahmadinejad has in previous years challenged Bush to a debate during the annual U.N. session. The White House declined, calling it a distraction from the international dispute over Iran’s nuclear activities, which the U.S. and its allies suspect are a cover for attempts to acquire atomic weapons. Iran says the program is for purely peaceful purposes.
Last summer, Obama said that as president he would be willing to hold talks, without condition, with the leaders of Iran and other countries hostile to the United States. McCain called the stance reckless, and Obama later accused his Republican rival of distorting his position.
On its Web site, the campaign states, “Obama and Biden are willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe. They will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table, and that he is willing to lead.”