Mike Huckabee, the Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor, continued to defend fiery comments he made about President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement, saying Monday night that Iranian leaders have been using the word “holocaust” to describe their intentions toward Israel. Meanwhile, his remarks coaxed the president into responding critically of the Republican Party in general.
“They used the word 'holocaust.' They used that word in talking about what they wanted to do,” Huckabee said on Fox News Monday evening. He said he was happy to evoke the responses he’s gotten from the president and the Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “When the president and Hillary Clinton are all calling you out personally it must be a good day,” he said.
Huckabee burst into the news cycle by saying a deal with the Iranians that would limit their nuclear enrichment capacity temporarily in exchange for sanctions relief would amount to marching Israelis to the “door of the oven.” Huckabee said he had visited former Nazi concentration camps and knew what the door looked like.
Aside from Obama and Clinton, a Republican rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush condemned Huckabee’s remarks as well. The president called Huckabee’s comments “sad” and talked at length about what he characterized as a culture in the Republican Party that rewards incendiary remarks.
Iran's nuclear program has been a divisive issue in American politics for months. Critics of the president’s deal say it gives the Iranian government too much room to develop a nuclear weapon, despite its claims to the contrary, and supporters are quick to assert that the agreement does no such thing.
The debate has brought about peculiar moments for American politics as well. Earlier this year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech to a joint meeting of Congress without first consulting the White House. A group of Republican senators then sent a letter to Iran saying that any agreement the Obama administration made with it would be worthless. Both moves were generally considered to be breaches of protocol for foreign policy debates in Washington.