WASHINGTON — Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday ridiculed Democratic rival Barack Obama for saying he would meet, without precondition, with leaders of renegade nations.
The Obama campaign answered back, arguing that Giuliani may not want to engage in diplomacy with outlaw leaders but he's been willing to take their money.
Addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition, Giuliani described Obama's offer, during a presidential debate in July, to meet as president with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.
"Then he went on to explain that Ronald Reagan negotiated with the communists," Giuliani said, pausing and sighing. "I say this most respectfully: You're not Ronald Reagan, you know?"
The audience in a downtown Washington hotel laughed and clapped.
"Here's what Ronald Reagan did before he negotiated with communists," the former New York mayor continued. "First he called them the evil empire. Then he took missiles, intermediate-range missiles ... and he put them in European cities, and he pointed the missiles at Russian cities with names on them.
"Then he said, in a very nice way, 'Let's negotiate.'"
Obama's campaign had a ready response, citing the links between Giuliani's law firm and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
"While Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton do not think we should engage in the type of strong diplomacy practiced by Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy, Obama does," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said. "And given the hefty fee that Hugo Chavez's oil company paid Rudy Giuliani's firm, he apparently thinks we shouldn't talk to Chavez, but it's fine to take his money."
Giuliani's law firm, Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani, represents an American subsidiary of an oil company controlled by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Petroleos de Venezuela, the country's national oil company controlled by Chavez, purchased U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corp. in 1990, and Giuliani's firm represents Citgo before the Texas legislature.
To date, Giuliani has directed most of his criticism at Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.