ABC News’ Bret Hovell Reports: Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill, sparred in separate speeches Friday, perhaps a foreshadowing of the tone of the general election race to come.
At the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association in Louisville, Ky., the presumptive Republican nominee hit hard at Obama, calling him reckless and saying that the American people have a right to question his leadership abilities.
Watch the VIDEO HERE.
McCain was responding to Obama’s remarks earlier in the day that challenged both McCain and President George Bush for suggesting that he is soft on terrorists. Obama challenged McCain to a debate "any time, anywhere" on how best to protect America.
"Earlier today, Senator Obama made some remarks I’d like to respond to. I welcome a debate about protecting America. No issue is more important," McCain said.
"Senator Obama claimed all I had to offer was the quote ‘naïve and irresponsible’ belief that tough talk would cause Iran to give up its nuclear program. He should have known better," McCain told the pro-gun rights crowd.
McCain went on to echo the tone of the Bush speech, which criticized Obama’s remarks in a primary season debate that he would be willing to meet with world leadersr, including some with whom the US does not currently have diplomatic relations, like Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
"I have some news for Senator Obama," McCain began, "Talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, in unconditional meetings with the man who calls Israel a stinking corpse, and arms terrorists who kill Americans will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program."
"It is reckless to suggest that unconditional meetings will advance our interests," McCain said, to a round of applause at the NRA conference. "You know it would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don’t have enemies. But that’s not the world we live in. And until senator Obama understands that reality, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment and determination to keep us safe."