Bush stirs hornet’s nest in US presidential race

May 16th, 2008 - 10:25 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 16 (IANS) President George Bush has stirred a hornet’s nest in the US presidential race with his perceived criticism of Barack Obama’s foreign policy stance, sending Democratic leaders to rally round the party frontrunner. At issue are Bush’s remarks Thursday, deliberate or not, that it is a “foolish delusion” to think that negotiations with terrorists and radicals would yield results and likening it to what he called the “false comfort of appeasement” of the Nazis and Hitler.

“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,” Bush said in his address from the floor of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, naming no names.

“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.”

Leading Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, strongly criticized Bush for what is viewed as an attack on Obama.

Obama, who has said he would be willing to meet with leaders of hostile nations like Iran, Syria and Cuba, called Bush’s remarks a “false political attack.”

“George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicisation of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel,” he said.

Even party rival Hillary Clinton, who has criticised Obama’s pledge to meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, came to his defence. “President Bush’s comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous on the face of it,” she said.

But presumptive Republican party John McCain declined to heed Democrats’ call to denounce Bush’s remarks. Though he did not repeat the word “appeasement” he too criticized Obama’s willingness to talk to Ahmadinejad.

Obama needs to explain why he would talk to him, he said in Ohio. “It shows naivete and inexperience and lack of judgment to say that he wants to sit down across the table from an individual who leads a country that says that Israel is a ’stinking corpse,’ that is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel. My question is, what does he want to talk about?” McCain said.

Though White House spokesperson Dana Perino said the remarks were not aimed at Obama, Democrats immediately came to the aid of the front-runner for their presidential nomination.

Pelosi, noting that it is tradition for US politicians to refrain from criticizing the president while he is overseas, said “one would think that would also apply to the president when he’s abroad.”

“His comments were beneath the dignity of the office of the president,” she said. Reid called the remarks “reckless and reprehensible.” Biden, a onetime rival of Obama before dropping out of the race, was even more outspoken.

“This is bulls-t. This is malarkey,” Biden said. “This is outrageous. Outrageous for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country … and make this kind of ridiculous statement.”

Obama supporter Dick Durbin said the White House claim that the statement was not directed at Obama is “baloney.”

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