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Bush's Overseas Policies Begin Resembling Obama's
Obama, although supportive of the shift in focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, criticized the effort as too little and too late. McCain said the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was possible because of the addition of 30,000 troops last year, which the Democrat had opposed. McCain said Obama's "focus is on withdrawal, not on victory."
On the diplomatic front, Obama has made a point of advocating dialogue with Iran as well as Syria, though the McCain campaign accuses him of backing off from a statement that he was prepared to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without conditions. Bush waded into the debate in May during a speech at the Israeli Knesset, when he compared talking with Iran or terrorist groups to the appeasement of Nazi Germany -- a comment widely seen as a swipe at Obama.
Then, in July, Bush sent a high-level U.S. emissary to attend nuclear talks with Iran and authorized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to join North Korean diplomats at six-party talks about ending that country's nuclear programs. The moves prompted howls from many conservatives but were viewed by the Obama campaign as signs that the Bush administration was moving in its direction.
Another case is Georgia, the small country that was invaded by Russian forces early last month. McCain has been notably harsher in his anti-Moscow rhetoric than Obama and has called for expelling Russia from the Group of Eight major industrialized nations. The Bush administration has not taken that step, but it did announce a $1 billion aid package for Georgia that was similar to a proposal previously made by Obama and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), now Obama's running mate.
"They said it was naive to deal with Pakistan, appeasement to talk to Iran, surrender to withdraw forces from Iraq," said Ben Rhodes, an Obama senior foreign policy adviser. "The rhetoric that greeted all of these proposals from Obama does not square at all with the positions the Bush administration has been forced into in recent months."
But the McCain campaign and many other conservatives dispute the comparisons. One senior Bush administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Obama campaign was using "phony talking points."
McCain aides said the argument that the administration has moved toward Obama's positions appears intended to make their candidate appear more extreme. "There's a huge misconception that the Obama campaign has tried to foster that somehow they're in favor of diplomacy and we're not," Scheunemann said.
Gary Schmitt of the conservative American Enterprise Institute said that the range of issues amounts to "apples and oranges" and that the administration's recent policies have little in common with the Democratic candidate's views. "I don't think they're moving towards Obama's positions at all," he said.