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US President Barack Obama makes a statement at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 2, 2015 after a deal was reached on Iran's nuclear program.
Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images

President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker traded barbs this week over the White House’s emerging nuclear agreement with Iran, with the commander-in-chief suggesting his potential successor “bone up” on foreign policy.

The back-and-forth stems from Walker’s comments last week on a conservative radio show that if elected president he would pull the U.S. out of an Iran agreement on the day he takes office, even if American trading partners wanted to abide by the deal.

“Absolutely,” Walker told radio host Charlie Sykes. “If I ultimately choose to run, and if I’m honored to be elected by the people of this country, I will pull back on that on January 20, 2017, because the last thing — not just for the region but for this world — we need is a nuclear-armed Iran.”

In an interview with NPR Monday, Obama said Walker’s approach was “foolish” and would undercut executive power.

“I am confident that any president who gets elected will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling to question the capacity of the executive branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries,” Obama said. “If that starts being questioned, that’s going to be a problem for our friends and that’s going to embolden our enemies.

“And it would be a foolish approach to take, and, you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way,” Obama continued.

Walker, a second-term governor, has had little exposure to foreign policy issues and has spent much of the past several months engaged in policy briefings to bring him up to speed. Next week, Walker is scheduled to travel to France and Germany, two American allies at the center of the Iran talks, as well as Spain. Next month he is expected to make his first visit to Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a vocal critic of the emerging agreement.

In a statement, Walker did not back away from his position, criticizing Obama’s “failed leadership” on the world stage.

“President Obama’s failed leadership has put him at odds with many across the country, including members of his own party, and key allies around the world,” Walker said. “Americans would be better served by a president who spent more time working with governors and members of Congress rather than attacking them. Whether it is cutting a bad deal with Iran, calling ISIS the J.V. squad, or touting Yemen as a success story, Obama’s lack of leadership has hurt America’s safety and standing in the world.”


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