WASHINGTON — President Bush heaped criticism on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Thursday for saying that he would meet with leaders of nations hostile to the United States.
He also rapped Obama for recent comments about Iraq, and slammed Obama and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying the North American Free Trade Agreement should be renegotiated.
The criticism came during a news conference that began and ended with Bush saying he would not be drawn into the race to replace him.
Bush was particularly hard on Obama for saying that, as president, he would meet with the leaders of Cuba, Iran and North Korea.
"What's lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs? What's lost is it'll send the wrong message," Bush said. "I'm not suggesting there's never a time to talk, but I'm suggesting now is not the time" to talk with new Cuban President Raul Castro.
Obama said Bush's approach to Cuba has accomplished nothing. He also said Thursday that the economy is "on the brink of a recession" and mocked a more optimistic picture painted by Bush at the news conference.
"People are struggling in the midst of an economy that George Bush says is not a recession," he said, blaming economic policies espoused by Bush and Republican presidential contender John McCain.
Fundraising bonanza: More than doubling her January total, Clinton will raise $35-million in February, her advisers said Thursday, a figure Obama's campaign said it would surpass. That could make February a fundraising record-breaker, more than $80-million combined if Obama donors' estimates of $50-million are correct. The campaign did not divulge totals.
CITIZENSHIP: McCain said the question of whether he can be president, despite being born in the Panama Canal Zone, was put to rest 44 years ago in Barry Goldwater's run for the White House. He said he doesn't know why his campaign sought legal analysis. "Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona when it was a territory … and it went all the way to the Supreme Court," McCain said. The Panama Canal Zone was a U.S. territory at the time of McCain's birth; his father was in the Navy. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri introduced a bill Thursday declaring that any child born abroad to citizens serving in the U.S. military would meet the "natural born" requirement, and Obama said he would co-sponsor it.