NEW ORLEANS — President Obama and potential rival Sarah Palin traded barbs over nuclear weapons policy Friday in an exchange that provided an early look at what a 2012 election campaign between the two might look like.
Each politician was openly dismissive of the other.
"Last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues," Obama said in an interview with ABC when he was asked about comments Palin made earlier in the week that pronounced his vow not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations as "unbelievable."
"It's kind of like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, 'Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me,' " Palin said.
Said the president: "If the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin."
Palin struck back Friday during an appearance at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, mocking the "vast nuclear experience that (Obama) acquired as a community organizer."
The back and forth was triggered by the Obama administration's announcement Tuesday that the United States no longer would threaten to use nuclear weapons in retaliation to non-nuclear attacks, even those that involve biological or chemical weapons. The new policy wouldn't prevent the U.S. from conventional retaliation, however, and it exempted Iran and North Korea as well as any other nation that isn't in compliance with nuclear non-proliferation agreements.
Palin, who's said she might run for the Republican nomination to oppose Obama in 2012, also urged Republicans anew to "reload" in their campaign to win control of Congress this fall, but she stressed that she wasn't calling for violence.
"Don't retreat, reload. And that is not a call to violence," she said.
"That of course means taking opportunities to engage, and debate and to vote.... It's not a call for violence. No one is calling for such a thing. The media is so desperate to discredit the tea party movement that they'll make that up. But nobody is calling for violence."
Palin spent much of her speech on energy, lambasting Obama's decision to allow some oil drilling off the coast of Virginia while keeping most offshore sites off-limits pending further study.