President George W. Bush spoke to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday morning, to mark the nation’s 60th anniversary. The president said:
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 . . . We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of 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.
Immediately, the Democratic party responded in outrage, insisting it was an unprecedented political attack on their presumptive nominee from foreign soil. Barack Obama himself said: “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.”
Senator Joseph Biden called the president’s remarks “bulls**t.”
The White House denied the remark was about Obama. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino responded, “I would think that all of you who cover these issues and for a long time have known that there are many who have suggested these types of negotiations with people that the president, President Bush, thinks that we should not talk to. I understand when you’re running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you. That is not always true. And it is not true in this case.”
The White House’s denial is believable, and the Democrats’ accusation is a distortion and a distraction. The commander-in-chief, believe it or not, might have been concerned with something besides The Situation Room running a clip of him hitting Obama. The presidency, you see, is about more than the spin-cycle, the next election, and even the next president.
The president could have been speaking of any number of Democrats. Say, Jimmy Carter, who in April, 2008 said: “Through more official consultations with these outlawed leaders [Hamas and Syria], it may yet be possible to revive and expedite the stalemated peace talks between Israel and its neighbors. In the Middle East, as in Nepal, the path to peace lies in negotiation, not in isolation.”
Or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, freelance diplomat, who in December 2007 said: “the road to Damascus is a road to peace.”
Or, perhaps he meant Speaker Pelosi in April 2007: “I believe in dialogue. As my colleagues have said over and over again, unless you communicate, you cannot understand each other. You cannot reach agreement.”
Or maybe he meant recent Obama endorser and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who, according to his own press release in February of last year, believes “the U.S. should step up our diplomatic efforts by engaging in direct talks with all the nations in the region, including Iran and Syria.”
Or Bill Richardson, who has said, about meeting with Iran and Syria: “They’re bad folks … But you don’t have peace talks with your friends.”
It could have been about Congressman Henry Waxman, who in April said: “A Democratic administration would go back and try to open that possibility up for discussions [with Iran] of a grand bargain of one sort or another … Democrats would certainly have seen that as a missed opportunity.”
Or Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “I can go to Syria. I can go to Iran and work to craft a path towards peace. And I will … How can you change peopled minds if you don’t meet with them?”
Or former Democratic presidential candidates and senators Chris Dodd and John Kerry, who met with Syria’s al-Assad and said: “As senior Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee, we felt it was important to make clear that while we believe in resuming dialogue, our message is no different: Syria can and should play a more constructive role in the region … We concluded that our conversation was worthwhile, and that … resuming direct dialogue with Syria should be pursued.”
Or the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, from April 10: “[Diplomats] can deliver some pretty tough messages … You don’t begin with a president of the country, but you do need to talk to your enemy.”
You get the idea. The world does not actually revolve around Barackstar. It doesn’t even revolve around contemporary Democrats. There are two very different ways of looking at the world, represented by the two parties here in the U.S. President Bush, obviously, believes the other party’s approach is wrong. To say so, in his mind, was of historic importance, for obvious reasons. Obvious, at least, to any statesman who can see before and beyond this current election season. Thank you, Senator Obama, for helping make clear where you stand on that front.