Obama’s Fine Line on Appeasement

May 18 2008 Published by under Featured News

Sen. Barack Obama accused President Bush of making a “dishonest, divisive attack” on him last week during a speech to the Israeli Knesset. In a 20-minute speech marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, Bush said that “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.” Naturally, Obama interpreted this comment as a personal insult.

Bush went on to use the increasingly tiresome example of Neville Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler. Arguably, it’s a cheap shot by Bush to raise the most glaring (and loaded) example of failed appeasement to discredit his political opponents. But it’s also a cheap shot for Obama to feign righteous indignation and lash out at a President with a sub-30% approval rating. Here are some of Obama’s comments on Bush’s Knesset speech, made during a town hall event on Friday:

“[Bush and John McCain] aren’t telling you the truth. They are trying to fool you and scare you because they can’t win a foreign policy debate on the merits,” said Obama. “But it’s not going to work. Not this time, not this year.”

Bush did not mention Obama by name in his speech, but Obama and other Democrats said the implication was clear.

“That’s exactly the kind of appalling attack that’s divided our country and that alienates us from the world,” Obama said…

The Illinois senator also said that he has stated “over and over again that I will not negotiate with terrorists like Hamas.”

It’s curious that Obama took Bush’s criticism so personally, considering the President didn’t name anyone. Obama simply assumed it was a dirty, illegitimate attack on him. However, it was only one month ago that former President Jimmy Carter met with Hamas. Since he was making a speech to Israeli lawmakers, it’s much more likely that Bush’s remarks were meant to criticize Carter.

In April, Obama said that Carter’s meeting with Hamas was a “bad idea”, given that the meeting didn’t achieve any meaningful outcome. Although Carter said that his meeting had been productive, Obama pointed out that Hamas still hasn’t recognized Israel or renounced terrorism.

Obama may have his hands full if he wants to win a foreign policy debate on the merits. After all, despite his near-obsessive insistence that he won’t negotiate with terrorists, and his criticism of former President Carter for meeting with Hamas, Obama continues to say he will negotiate with Iran. Obama’s own web site brags that he’s the only candidate willing to engage in “tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.”

Obama needs to explain what the fine line is between negotiating with terrorist groups like Hamas (which was democratically elected, mind you), and negotiating with state sponsors of terror such as Iran (also an elected government). The distinction may be obvious to the activist base of the Democrat party, but it may be a little too subtle for the general electorate to grasp.

Full text of Bush’s Knesset speech here.

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