At a closed-door, off-the-record meeting with media mavens and corporate titans at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan Tuesday evening, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the freshman senator who just three years ago was an Illinois state senator, said he had better judgment about foreign policy than any presidential candidate in either party.
"One thing I'm very confident about is my judgment in foreign policy is, I believe, better than any other candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat," Obama said.
Others in the race have spent decades in the foreign policy world, including Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who visited 82 countries as first lady, Vietnam veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and former Vietnam prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
But Obama said, "The notion that somehow from Washington you get this vast foreign policy experience is illusory."
The Clinton campaign begged off commenting, but campaigning in New Hampshire and told of Obama's remark, Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., offered a sarcastic reply.
"Well, I also think I'm the most qualified to run the decathlon because I watch sports on television all the time," McCain said, according to the Associated Press.
More pointedly, McCain criticized a debate answer Obama gave Monday night in which he said he would meet with various leaders of countries hostile to the U.S. within the first year of his presidency and with no preconditions.
"I think that Senator Obama showed a degree of naivete when he advocated direct talks with the leader of North Korea and the president to Iran and of all these other people who are sponsoring terror all over the world," McCain said.
Obama told the crowd of roughly 125 that he didn't base his boast "simply on the fact that I was right on the war in Iraq, but if you look at how I approached the problem. What I was drawing on was a set of experiences that come from a life of living overseas, having family overseas, being able to see the world through the eyes of people outside our borders."
The speaking event, which was not a fundraiser but included a full bar and appetizers, and Time Warner Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Richard Parsons sitting on a stage with Obama, interviewing him for more than an hour.
According to sources at the event, other attendees included Time Inc. Editorial Director John Huey, Time Magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel and Time.com Washington Editor Ana Marie Cox; superstar journalists Charlie Rose, Bryant Gumbel, Harry Smith, Frank Rich, Ken Auletta and Barbara Walters; hip-hop mogul Damon Dash; actresses Edie Falco and Mariska Hargitay; musician Jon Bon Jovi, "The View" co-host Joy Behar and various employees of the Time Warner media empire, all of whom were repeatedly told the talk was off the record and could not be reported.
Several sources, none of them with ABC News, told this reporter about Obama's Tuesday night comments.
ABC News questioned the Obama campaign that night about the remarks, and the Obama campaign provided a partial transcript Wednesday and played a recording of the remarks over the phone.