ABC News’ Teddy Davis and James Gerber Report: The McCain campaign played up its differences with President Bush on nuclear security on a Tuesday conference call with reporters.
"I think it’s fair to characterize this as a significant departure from the nuclear security policies of the Bush administration," said McCain advisor Randy Scheunemann.
Scheunemann said that the differences between McCain and Bush covered not only a discrepancy on the "ultimate goal" of a "nuclear-free world" but also McCain’s openness to further testing limits, his openness to treaty-based discussions with Russia, his openness to talking with China, and his support for international enrichment centers and spent fuel depositories.
"These are all differences from the Bush administration," said Scheunemann who serves as McCain’s senior foreign policy and national security advisor.
McCain’s claim that he was departing from Bush’s policy was supported, albeit with qualifications, by an unlikely source: Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been an outspoken critic of McCain. But Biden acknowledged Tuesday that McCain’s nuclear security speech contained "many ideas that suggest a welcome departure from the Bush Administration’s hostility to arms control."
While praising McCain’s pledge to work with Russia on nuclear arsenal reduction, Biden maintained that McCain’s policy has some "critical gaps," particularly on the issues of Iran and North Korea.
Without ever mentioning Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., by name, McCain mocked his likely Democratic rival by saying that "many believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile governments is have our president talk with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran, as if we haven’t tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades."
Biden thinks that McCain’s aversion to diplomatic talks with hostile nations would put the United States on a path for war.
"If Senator McCain thinks it is useless to negotiate with Pyongyang," said Biden, "then that would be a serious setback to American security."