President Barack Obama said some U.S. critics of the deal struck with Iran on its nuclear program don’t have a credible argument and are using arguments that have reached “ridiculous” extremes.
Asked at a news conference in Ethiopia about remarks by Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who said the deal “is marching Israelis to the door of the oven,” Obama said they were a commentary on the state of political debate.
Those comments are “part of a general pattern that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” Obama said Monday in Addis Ababa.
Most of the world supports the agreement struck between Iran, and the U.S. and five other world powers, Obama said. The debate should be grounded in facts, and attacks such as Huckabee’s are mainly attempts by candidates to draw attention to themselves, he said.
“Presidential debates deserve better,” Obama said.
Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, made the comments in an interview with the Breitbart News website.
“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history,” Huckabee said. “It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
While other Republican candidates have scorned the Iran deal as a capitulation to Iran by Obama, the use of a Holocaust reference drew fire from some Jewish groups and Democrats.
“Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable,” Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement on Sunday. “Mike Huckabee must apologize to the Jewish community and to the American people for this grossly irresponsible statement.”
Huckabee hasn’t backed down. He has since highlighted the remarks on his Twitter feed and released a statement Monday saying, “What’s ridiculous and sad is that President Obama does not take the Iran threats seriously.”
He quoted Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei as having vowed to “wipe Israel off the map.”
Obama said the Republican candidates are trying to draw attention to themselves as real estate mogul Donald Trump continues to lead in polls.
“Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it’s not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now,” he said.
The accord is being reviewed by Congress. Opponents, which include most congressional Republicans and some Democrats, probably have enough votes for a resolution to reject the deal, which Obama has said he would veto. But overriding that action would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers and administration officials said they are confident that critics won’t be able to muster the necessary votes.