Drudge links to this AP story reporting that Obama said he would never use nuclear weapons “in any circumstance.”
According to the report, “‘I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,’ Obama said, with a pause, ‘involving civilians.’ Then he quickly added, ‘Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.'”
And: “When asked whether his answer also applied to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons, he said it did.”
Coverage of these reported statements is likely to dwarf the reaction to comments Obama made yesterday about hunting down terrorists in Pakistan. And the criticism he’s going to come in for both from his conservative critics and from the Clinton campaign — both of whom have an interest in fitting this into the “inexperienced” narrative — is predictable: he’s departing from years of established wisdom on leveraging the threat of America’s nuclear weapons; he’s sending mixed messages by alternately advocating the unilateral projection of power in Pakistan and unilateral nuclear disarmament.
Reaction from the Democratic electorate, I think, is harder to guess.
I (along with the rest of the world, I presume) am waiting for further comment from the Obama campaign.
UPDATE: The AP is now reporting that Obama’s comments were limited to the use of nuclear weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which changes this story considerably.
The beginning of the AP story now reads as follows.
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday he would not use nuclear weapons “in any circumstance” to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” Obama said, with a pause, “involving civilians.” Then he quickly added, “Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”
Obama was responding to a question by the Associated Press about whether there was any circumstance where he would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
“There’s been no discussion of using nuclear weapons and that’s not a hypothetical that I’m going to discuss,” Obama said after a Capitol Hill breakfast with constituents.
When asked whether his answer also applied to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons, he said it did.
UPDATE: Obama responds: “If we had actionable intelligence about the existence of high-level al Qaeda targets like Osama bin Laden, Senator Obama would act and is confident that conventional means would be sufficient to take the target
down. Frankly we’re surprised that others would disagree.”