Rookie mistakes again: Obama owns appeasement
posted at 2:00 pm on May 16, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
George Bush seems to have really rattled Barack Obama and the Democratic Party with his speech yesterday in the Israeli Knesset. Rather than ignoring Bush’s argument against appeasement, or adopting it, Barack Obama has declared that Bush intended his denunciation of appeasement as an attack on his campaign, even though Bush never even mentioned the nationality of modern appeasers in his speech. Obama lashed out in a speech today, calling Bush’s rhetoric “appalling”:
Barack Obama has called President Bush’s comments on appeasement “exactly the kind of appalling attack that’s divided our country and alienates us from the rest of the world.”
Obama criticized Republican rival John McCain and President Bush for “dishonest and divisive” attacks in hinting that the Democratic presidential candidate would appease terrorists.
Obama strongly responded Friday to the comments Bush made in Israel on Thursday and McCain’s subsequent words. Obama told a town hall meeting, “That’s the kind of hypocrisy that we’ve been seeing in our foreign policy, the kind of fear-peddling, fear mongering that has prevented us from actually making us safer.” …
Yesterday, Obama accused President Bush of “a false political attack” after Bush warned in Israel against appeasing terrorists — early salvos in a general election campaign that’s already blazing even as the Democratic front-runner tries to sew up his party’s nomination.
But Bush never mentioned any specific person in his speech today, and didn’t even specify that he was referring to Americans. Newsbusters has the full transcript, with this relevant part of the speech.
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you.
No one in the US who runs for public office has suggested that the US break with Israel to appease terrorists. Obama certainly hasn’t suggested that, and perhaps apart from the really lunatic fringes of both Left and Right, that notion doesn’t get any oxygen at all here. Obviously, Bush wasn’t referring to American politicians in this passage, but instead politicians in Europe and elsewhere who have either an animus towards Israel or appreciation for dhimmitude. Nothing — and I mean nothing — in this speech points to any candidate or the Democratic Party, unless they identify themselves as the reference.
Obama and his surrogates drew those connections themselves. Instead of acknowledging the historical truth of appeasement’s failures, they chose to argue with it. Obama could have taken the smart route and embraced it to explain how he understands the lessons of appeasement, which is why his talks with Iran would not result in it. Instead, he got volcanically defensive, which suggests that even Obama sees the parallels between his everything’s-on-the-table approach and the Chamberlain diplomacy which resulted in dismantling Czechoslovakia.
And if Obama considers discussion of foreign policy “divisive”, then he should hie himself right back to Academia. Guess what, Senator? Presidential elections focus on foreign-policy principles, and if you can’t defend yours, then you have no business running for office.
Update: Newt Gingrich calls this a study in guilt:
Update II: Marc Ambinder reports that Bush meant to scold Jimmy Carter for his recent visit with Hamas, as Ed Gillespie explained to reporters in Saudi Arabia:
“We did not anticipate that it would be taken that way, because its kind of hard to take it that way when you look at the actual words. … There was some anticipation that someone might say you know its an expression of rebuke to former President Carter for having met with Hamas. that was something that was anticipated but no one wrote about it or raised it.”
And if one actually reads what Bush said, that interpretation looks a lot more likely than a supposed attack on Obama. Carter had just hugged Khaled Mashaal in Damascus and insisted that the US should open a dialogue with Hamas.
Barack Obama, meanwhile, continues to embarrass himself today at a presser on an attack that never was.