EXCLUSIVE: 'Not Much of an Expert' -- Obama Slaps Sarah Palin for Nuke Policy Criticism

Obama is also confident the Senate will ratify new nuclear treaty.

ByABC News via logo
April 8, 2010, 1:26 PM

April 8, 2010— -- In Prague to sign a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia, President Obama pushed back against Republican critics, including Sarah Palin, who say that his new nuclear stance is too soft and leaves the United States vulnerable to attacks.

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

Obama brushed off criticisms from former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin of his administration's recently announced nuclear policy by noting her lack of experience on the subject.

"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, ahead of today's treaty signing, Obama announced plans to end the development of new nuclear weapons in the U.S. and impose a new policy, not included in the new treaty, that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against any country that has signed and is abiding by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attack the United States with chemical or biological weapons.

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 Wednesday evening while appearing on Sean Hannity's Fox News 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 told Stephanopoulos in Prague that he was not concerned 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.

Despite signs of Republican opposition, Obama said today that he is confident that the new nuclear disarmament treaty he signed with Russian President Medvedev will be ratified by the Senate.

"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 concerns about the new treaty.

Obama told Stephanopoulos that the treaty is "absolutely vital" to his administration's nuclear proliferation agenda.

"I will also say to those in the Senate who have questions is that this is absolutely vital for us to deal with the broader issues of nuclear proliferation, that are probably the number one threat that we face in the future," the president said.

Obama sat down with Stephanopoulos at Prague Castle after signing the historic new nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia President Medvedev.

Obama and Medvedev pledged today to reduce their nation's nuclear stockpiles by a third, from 2,200 deployed warheads for each country to 1,550 over seven years. The treaty signing comes after more than a year of intense negotiations and several missed deadlines between the United States and Russia.

The scene in Prague was one of cooperation between the United States and Russia but back home, the Obama administration may face a challenge getting this treaty through the Senate.

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.

Senate Republican leadership sources say the minority's leaders don't have a firm position because they have not been consulted in any substantive way about the treaty by the Obama administration beyond some minor discussions.

This week the White House has been consistently emphasizing that past Senate votes on nuclear arms reduction treaties passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.