Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who has made opposition to a U.S.-led nuclear agreement with Iran a major theme of his re-election campaign, likened home-state President Barack Obama to “drug dealer in chief” over a $400 million payment linked to the release of American prisoners.
Kirk’s controversial rhetoric has been an issue as the first-term senator is viewed as perhaps the most vulnerable Republican incumbent nationally this fall. He is being challenged by two-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates.
The latest eyebrow-raising comment came as he spoke last week to a Downstate newspaper. Kirk echoed GOP criticism that the U.S. cash payment of $400 million to Iran was a ransom for the release of American prisoners held by the country.
The money was part of a previously announced settlement in a case stemming from money owed since 1979. The U.S. has had a long-standing policy of not paying ransom for hostages, and the Obama administration described the payment as “leverage” for the release of U.S. prisoners.
“We can’t have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer in chief,” Kirk said, “giving clean packs of money to a … state sponsor of terror. Those 500-euro notes will pop up across the Middle East. … We’re going to see problems in multiple (countries) because of that money given to them.”
Kirk’s comments, made to the editorial board of The State Journal-Register of Springfield on Tuesday, were first reported online on Saturday by the paper’s political columnist, Bernard Schoenburg.
The senator has made national security issues paramount in his bid for a second term — a campaign complicated by a controversial GOP presidential nominee and Illinois’ tradition of voting overwhelmingly Democratic in presidential years.
Kirk has unendorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and has gone through a back-and-forth series of statements of whom he would write in for president, settling on former U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, though the vote would not be counted under Illinois election law.
Kirk’s comments are not the first time he has criticized Obama over the deal aimed at reducing Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon.
SOURCE: Rick Pearson