Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tom Bevan raises some doubts about the notion that George W. Bush's "attack" upon Barack Obama at the Knesset (even though he never mentioned Obama or Democrats but merely criticized appeasement) is "unprecedented" (in that it was an American politician criticizing another American politician while on foreign soil). While some are calling this "political treason" and are suggesting that Bush be impeached over these remarks, are they completely unprecedented? Bevan notes that Bush has said a number of similar things against "appeasement" before, so they're not "unprecedented" on that count.

What about one American politician to be criticizing another on foreign soil (assuming Bush is criticizing Obama)? Just to refresh, here's what Bush actually said:

There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

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. (Applause.)

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.
We might compare these words of Bush with those of John Kerry speaking at Davos, Switzerland
in January 2007 (some video at Hot Air):

Kerry said the Bush administration has failed to adequately address a number of foreign policy issues, speaking during a World Economic Forum panel discussion that also included Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad's more moderate predecessor as Iranian president.

"When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don't advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy," Kerry said.

"So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East — in the world, really. I've never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today."


Kerry criticized what he called the "unfortunate habit" of Americans to see the world "exclusively through an American lens."

He said a new approach could yet bring great benefits to the United States and other countries.

"I think if we did that more forcefully and effectively we could really change the dynamics of the world," Kerry said. "We should be less engaged in this 'neocon' rhetoric of regime change and more involved in building relations and living up to our own values so that people make a different judgment about us."

These are certainly attacks upon the present administration's policies and are more clearly focused on Bush than Bush's remarks seem to have been on Obama. Are these words by Kerry "political treason," too?

Of course, it seems--in the short term at least--to have been advantageous for Obama to pounce on these remarks: it gives an opening for the media, which seems to have tired of primary season, to enter general election mode, and it helps position Obama as the anti-Bush.