Last week, during a speech to the Israeli parliament, President Bush said, “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.”
Yesterday on NBC, Middle East correspondent Richard Engel asked Bush if his remarks were directed at Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Bush, however, ducked the question and refused to give a direct answer:
ENGEL: You said that negotiating with Iran is pointless, and then you went further. You said that it was appeasement. Were you referring to Senator Barack Obama?
BUSH: You know, my policies haven’t changed, but evidently the political calendar has. And when, you know, a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you got to take those words seriously.
In fact, CNN reported last week that White House aides were “acknowledging that this was a reference to the fact that Sen. Obama and other Democrats have publicly said that it would be ok for the U.S. President to meet with leaders like the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.” Moreover, Bush’s press secretary Dana Perino wouldn’t deny his comments “include” Obama.
While some observers have noted the flaw in Bush’s argument — that merely talking to one’s adversaries does not necessarily constitute “appeasement” — others have praised Bush. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Bush’s “appeasement” reference “exactly right,” while Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) added that it was “moving.”
Given that Bush avoided Engel’s question, it seems he can only act as “opiner-in-chief” on the 2008 presidential election when he’s talking to foreigners.