EXCLUSIVE: President Obama on Nukes, Palin, Confederacy and Iran

Obama: Nuclear Treaty Absolutely Vital

After signing the historic nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia, President Obama, in an interview with ABC News, pushed back against critics who say his new nuclear weapons stance is too soft and leaves the United States vulnerable to attack.

The scene at the signing at the historic Prague Castle in the Czech Republic Thursday was one of cooperation between the United States and Russia, but back home, the Obama administration may face a challenge getting the treaty through the Senate.

Photo: George Stephanopoulos interviews President Obama
President Obama on Nukes, Palin, and Iran

Obama brushed off criticisms from former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin about his nuclear weapons policy.

"I really have no response. Because last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues," he said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced plans to end the development of new nuclear weapons, and iterated a new policy, not part of the new treaty, that the United States would not use nuclear weapons against any country that has signed and is abiding by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if it attacks the United States with chemical or biological weapons.

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In an appearance Wednesday on Fox News, Palin compared Obama to a kid in a playground who is asking for a punch in the face.

"It's unbelievable. Unbelievable," said Palin on Sean Hannity's program. "No administration in America's history would, I think, ever have considered such a step that we just found out President Obama is supporting today. It's kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, 'Go ahead, punch me in the face, and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.'"

Obama Confident Nuclear Treaty Will Be Ratified by the Senate, Despite Republican Opposition

Obama told Stephanopoulos in Prague that he was not worried about Palin's criticisms.

"If the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them, and not from Sarah Palin," he said.

Obama sat down with Stephanopoulos on Thursday at Prague Castle after he'd signed the treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The two leaders pledged to reduce their nation's nuclear stockpiles by a third, from 2,200 deployed warheads for each country to 1,550 over seven years.

Despite signs of Republican opposition, Obama told Stephanopoulos that he is confident that the Senate will ratify the treaty.

"When they have had the opportunity to fully evaluate this treaty, [they] will come to the conclusion that this is in the best interest of the United States," Obama said of Senate Republicans, who have voiced criticisms. Obama called the treaty "absolutely vital" to his administration's anti-nuclear proliferation agenda.

The agreement requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate (67 votes) for ratification. Given the Democrat's 59 seat majority, it looks as if they will need at least eight Republicans to get on board to make the treaty official.

The treaty signing comes after more than a year of intense negotiations and several missed deadlines between the U.S. and Russia.

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