Obama blasts Mike Huckabee: He's trying to 'push Mr. Trump out of the headlines'

Barack Obama KenyaAPPresident Barack Obama waves goodbye to the crowd after delivering a speech at the Safaricom Indoor Arena in the Kasarani area of Nairobi, Kenya

President Barack Obama on Monday rebuked Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s comparison of the Iranian nuclear deal to the Holocaust, saying his comments were “sad.”

Huckabee’s comments were “part of just a general pattern we have seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” Obama said Monday at a press conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. 

In an interview with the conservative news site Breitbart published Sunday, the former Arkansas governor Huckabee said the deal among world powers and Iran over its nuclear program would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” It was some of the most strongly worded criticism of the deal from Republican presidential candidates, who are universally opposed to the agreement.

Obama took a not-so-veiled shot at Huckabee, predicting his comments were meant to garner attention as he stays muddled in the middle of a crowded GOP field.

“Maybe it’s just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines,” Obama said, referring to current Republican poll front-runner and real-estate magnate Donald Trump.

As controversy bubbled up Sunday over his comments, Huckabee doubled down. His Twitter account posted a graphic plastered with his quote, urging Congress to reject the agreement:

“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history,” Huckabee said in the interview with Breitbart. “It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.

“This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people. I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It’s got to be stopped.”

The deal — among Iran and the US, Russia, Germany, France, Britain, and China — was reached nearly two weeks ago after years of negotiations in Vienna two weeks ago. In return for some sanctions relief, Iran accepted restrictions on its nuclear program — but most Republicans say it won’t curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions enough.

Congress has 60 days to weigh in on the deal. Both chambers seem likely to pass a resolution of disapproval, which Obama has said he will veto. It’s unclear if Republicans can garner enough Democratic votes to override that potential veto.

Huckabee sits tied for fifth place nationally in GOP presidential primary polls, according to a recent average by Real Clear Politics. To Obama’s point, Huckabee has dipped from an average of 9.2% at the end of May — before Trump’s entry into the race — to about 6% today, according to Real Clear Politics.

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