THE PLANK MAY 15, 2008
Bush at the Knesset:
In a particularly sharp blast from halfway around the world,
President Bush suggested Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama and other
Democrats are in favor of "appeasement" of terrorists in the same way
U.S. leaders appeased Nazis in the run-up to World War II.
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and
radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have
been wrong all along," said Bush, in what White House aides privately
acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for
the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the
60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political
attack. It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that
have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel.
Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon
and Reagan did and use all elements of American power - including
tough, principled, and direct diplomacy - to pressure countries like
Iran and Syria. George Bush knows that I have never supported
engagement with terrorists, and the President's extraordinary
politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to
secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.
Bush is wrong, or at least substantially misleading, on the facts--as Ben Smith notes, "Obama has advocated talking to the leaders of hostile states, but not of groups like Hamas." And making an attack this direct on a domestic political opponent while on foreign soil is generally considered out of bounds. But more than either of those responses, I'm struck by how politically foolish this assault appears to be. Bush attacking Obama, and Obama counter-attacking Bush, while John McCain sits on the sidelines, is a disastrous dynamic for the GOP. The more Obama can frame this race as him vs. the most unpopular president in modern history, the easier a time he'll have in the fall.