May 15th, 2008
10:48 AM ET
10 years ago

Bush suggests Obama wants 'appeasement' of terrorists

Bush aides say the President was aiming his remarks at Obama and other Democrats.

Bush aides say the President was aiming his remarks at Obama and other Democrats.

JERUSALEM (CNN) - President Bush launched a sharp but veiled attack Thursday on Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats, suggesting they favor "appeasement" of terrorists in the same way some Western leaders appeased Hitler in the run-up to World War II.

The president did not name Obama or any other Democrat, but White House aides privately acknowledged the remarks were aimed at the presidential candidate and others in his party. Former President Jimmy Carter has called for talks with Hamas.

"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," Bush said at Israel's 60th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to Israel's parliament, the Knesset. "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."

The remarks seemed to be a not-so-subtle attempt to continue to raise doubts about Obama with Jewish Americans. Those doubts were earlier stoked by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee in the 2008 presidential election, when he recently charged that Obama is the favored candidate of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which the U.S. government has listed as a terrorist group.

Obama last week called the Hamas allegation a "smear" and lashed out Thursday at Bush's speech in Israel.

"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," Obama said in a statement released to CNN by his campaign. "It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel...."

"George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel," Obama's statement said.

Obama favors "tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions," according to his Web site, "and is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe." He does not favor talks with Hamas, which he has called a terrorist organization.

The Bush administration held three rounds of discussions with Iran about security in Iraq last year, including two at the ambassadorial level, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates Wednesday said Washington needed to "figure out a way to develop some leverage ... and then sit down and talk with" Iran.

Bush largely focused his speech in Jerusalem on highlighting the American-Israeli partnership. "The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty," he said.

Bush said the United States and Israel are locked in an ideological struggle with radicals in the Middle East, using the speech to tie al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah. "That is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the 'elimination' of Israel," said Bush. "That is why the followers of Hezbollah chant 'Death to Israel, Death to America!' That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that 'the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.' And that is why the president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map."

Bush then made his transition to Obama and other Democrats without naming names, raising the specter of the Holocaust to make his point.

"There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain their words away," said Bush. "This is 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," the president said.

(Updated with new Obama comment)

soundoff (400 Responses)
  1. Dave in Atlanta

    The appeasement comment is getting tired. Bush used it in the runup to the Iraq war suggesting that letting the inspectors finish their work, and search Iraq for weapons amounted to appeasement. Well guess what? We invaded Iraq and there were no WMD.

    That being said I would like to encourage Bush to continue to criticise Barack Obama on the issue of Iraq. Right now, the democratic party is divided with Hillary supporters and Obama supporters. We need for more republicans to start taking shots at our candidates, to remind us that for all our differences, we all have something in common. We all disagree strongly with Bush. We may bicker within the party, but when someone takes a shot at one of our own we rally around our own.

    Besides, with Bush's current approval rating any criticism from him is only bound to endear voters to Obama. I just have one request: While you are criticising Obama, would you mind throwing in a word or two of praise for McCain in there while you are at it? Just keep distancing yourself from Obama, and linking yourself to McCain, we'll ride it all the way to the white house in Novemeber.

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  2. Beth

    And if that isn't reason enough to elect Obama, I don't know what is! Bush's "kill 'em all and let God sort it out" philosophy is definitely not the answer.

    Obama '08

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  3. Gerry

    What an embarrasment BUsh is.

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  4. Mikey Boy

    George Bush is stubborn beyond logic, and definitely beyond effective global leadership.
    Obama is not alone in his desire to talk to our enemies as well as our friends, because he is confident in his ability to state the US position.

    Awaiting next January, so we can see this effective leadership begin.

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  5. Senovia Galvan

    I think the President Bush is totally correct; “Barack Obama is the 2nd Malcolm X”. He will be the worse enemy for this country. I'm not a nature born in this great country, but I'm a City of the USA, and “yes I'm very proud to be”.

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. MB

    At least now we know that Bush, treacherous piece of garbage that he is, has no problem comparing Democrats to Nazis on foreign soil.

    It's not too late to impeach him, folks.

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  7. Brian

    Wouldn't a more poignant comparison be:

    "Lord, if only somebody could have talked to W before he invaded iraq, all of this might have been avoided"

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  8. Gwen NC

    I'm not a soccer mom and I dislike/despise Bush, but he is correct on this one. That is my worry w/Obama that he will, out of ignorance & inexperience, serve our country on a platter to the like of people like Ahmadinejad & others who seek to do us harm. Talking will not change their minds, it's ingrained in their DNA to hate us.
    Hillary first, McCain if I must and by the way, Edwards is more of a "Slick Willy" than Bill C. ever thought about

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  9. bukky

    you GOT to be kidding me

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  10. Eric

    The only "foolish delusion" in this story are the words coming from George W. Bush's mouth. It is reprehensible that he would use a trip to Israel as a base from which to launch such a fallacy. The man's entire Presidency is a "foolish delusion"! This story only emphasizes the fact that a major change of power needs to happen.

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  11. William E. Diethrich

    Junior Bush's comment, on an international stage, re "appeasement of terrorists," which incidentally opposes what his own people have said, is just the latest proof that he is brain-dead.

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  12. atl guy

    yeah I like Bushes tactic better. Ingnore them and they will go away.

    May 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |









    GO HILLARY!!!!!!!

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  14. Tom Keefe

    Didn't Republicans negotiate with terrrorists under Reagan and the first Bush, specifically the Iran... hence the Iran-Contra Affair which led to the release of American hostages?

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  15. Susan

    This was a good article, but the bit of perspective we should remember from this is that the current Bush has been a consistant and absolute failure at anything other than brute force–so that is the only thing he knows. Come to think of it, even his attempts at brute force have failed. It's very sad that Bush doesn't even believe in negotiation, but given his failure at negotiation & compromise we should not be surprised. It is time for a new leader with an entirely new perspective and the ability to listen to others–after all, isn't it OUR government?

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  16. McCain in '08

    Mccain in '08!

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  17. Laura

    Nice, way to play the fear card. Again. Is anyone still buying this crap?

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  18. Karl

    Gibbs is putting conditions on an Obama meeting with Iran but in the debates didn't Obama say he would meet unconditionally with Iranian leaders? I am confused. It was put one way in the debates, now being put another way. Sounds like he is now mirroring Hillary's stand that meetings would only take place after alot of preparation and after only certain conditions were met. I truly believe Hillary is the one to be in the Oval office.

    Being caught up in the celebrity of a candidate is one thing, relying on and choosing a candidate with the strength to run the country is another....

    Still Hillary08!

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  19. Judy

    I think we should be nice to other countries. It wouldn't hurt to talk before we react. Hillary made that mistake early by talking before she realized that words are not cheat when it comes to war. Sometimes we have to put up or shut. So if we talk first we know in what directions we are headed and can make the sound and appropriate judgement.

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  20. Oracle99

    All of you at CNN are about smearing Obama. Why aren't you talking about the John Endorsement. Is this more racial bias against Obama...I think so.

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  21. Kim, Fort Lauderdale, FL

    O.Kaaaaay, and who's istening to him anymore....To bad someone didn't sit down and have a really long talk with him before we went to war!

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  22. McCain-in-4, Clarksburg, MD

    President Bush needs to stay out of this debate, and let the candidates make their own case to the voting public. John McCain & Barack Obama have diametrically opposing views, and I need their best defensible arguments for me to vote rationally in November. All President Bush is doing is muddying the waters with the dire (unintended?) effect of torpedoing John McCain's candidacy.

    President Bush should respond only to those statements directed at him.

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  23. Jamaal Kansas

    Bush is a Liar and Mccain is a Liar I hate all Republicans Democrats Unite Because Bush is attacking the Democrats when he has the lost approval rating of any President in History so anything that Obama does Different I am Open to because it could not be worst than what Bush and his gang of Idiots have done these 8 Years and Mccain will try to Continue. Democrats 08 No More Republicans

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  24. Ellis Tibbett

    It is disgraceful that George Bush, during his visit to Israel for the Jewish State's 60th celebrations, should use the opportunity to do political propaganda for his party. During his seven and half years in office he continuously looked around to see which countries, who didn't comply to his form of correctness, he could attack verbally and eventually phyically. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to end the conflict in Iraq to enable him to attack Iran. The miserable chap now sees that time is running out for him to do so since there are only a few months left before the end of his presidency.

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  25. Doug

    Mr. Bush confuses appeasement with diplomacy and coalition building. Bush's cowboy diplomacy is no match for significant international alliances that would create the conditions for peaceful settlements. America will continue to have the best equipped military in the world, but fewer men and women will come home in boxes. George W. Bush continues to amaze with his pandering to the military industrial complex and his inferior mental abilities. He just can't fathom any relationship outside of his very limited conceptual box.

    May 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
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