General: McCain weak on security

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“So he’s going to have to carry the weight, the tonnage of bad judgment on that particular issue.”

On the issue of meeting with rogue leaders, Gen. McPeak predicted that Mr. Obama will turn his much-criticized position into an election benefit.

“[McCain] is wrong about whether or not we ought to talk with people we don’t like,” the retired four-star general said.

“The whole idea that we shouldn’t talk to the Cubans, or the North Koreans or the Iranians because they’re not nice boys. I would think by now people would have figured out that is not helpful.

“That hasn’t achieved what we needed to achieve in Cuba for the last 50 years. It was a positive disaster in terms of our policy in North Korea.

“Maybe the biggest foreign policy blunder of the Bush administration was to refuse to negotiate with North Korea while they built a half-dozen nuclear weapons.

“This whole idea that diplomacy is attending cocktail parties with your best friends, that’s kind of dumb. It’s a national security issue that McCain is wrong on.”

The intelligence community and the White House tell a different story. North Korea is thought to have built its first nuclear weapons in the 1990s during the Clinton administration.

The Bush administration has engaged in talks with North Korean leaders in partnership with other countries in the region. It has announced a deal under which the North is supposed to abandon atomic weapons research and development.

The Times provided the McCain campaign with a selection of Gen. McPeak’s quotes for rebuttal.

Randy Scheunemann, the campaign’s director of foreign policy and national security, said in a statement to The Times:

“Our campaign welcomes a debate on national security issues with Senator Obama and his advisers. General McPeak - the same Obama adviser who claims that the problem in America’s Middle East policy is pro-Israel sentiment among American voters in Miami and New York - now dishonestly ascribes a view of diplomacy to Senator McCain that he has never advocated or held.

“If General McPeak supports Senator Obama’s policy of withdrawing and retreating from Iraq regardless of events on the ground or the advice of military commanders, he knows as little about the realities of securing American interests in the Middle East as he does about American electoral politics.”

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