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. Barb

    Once again, Bush speaks as the one and only expert in all matters concerning peace in the Middle East. He himself has certainly brought mankind to a deeper understanding of what real peace progress means. He is the epitome of peace?

    May 15, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  2. D Dunn

    Yet another idiotic coment from our idiotic President.

    May 15, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  3. Mike

    What a loser. he has to go to another country to talk about people back home. he's the terrorist. we should be allowed to throw rocks at him. maybe someone should coat him with cement and make him into a statue and stick him in Crawford square.

    May 15, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  4. Pandering

    Wow! It seems there are many politicians who are so loyal to Israel over their fellow countrymen. So, let me guess, by saying this, the Israelis would not vote for a democrat? As if they can vote... The Jewish Americans know better than that and knows when to smell a rat.

    May 15, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  5. gk

    It is so sad that Bush is using his office and his role as a President towards a political domestic goal. Really sad. Trying to paint Democrats as meek and docile and not strong on defense is not justified in this election year. Israel is an ally but it is not the 51st state. Folks like Bill Kristol and the powerful Jewish Israel lobby – are behind this. These are the same folks who led us to an unnecessary war in Iraq. When are the war trials to begin? We should hold Bush and his administration as war criminals for causing so much grief and making us more unsafe than before.
    Learn a thing or two, Mr President – from Dalai Lama, learn from him the power of non-violence and need to communicate openly.

    May 15, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  6. Just Me

    Even Republicans do not listen to George Bush anymore. So having the president take shots at Obama will probably boost Obama rather than work against him. Perhaps Bush thinks he's helping out McCain... but the last thing McCain needs is to have anything to do with this current administration.

    May 15, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  7. Southern native

    Obama, I couldn't have said it better.

    May 15, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  8. no bigot in the white house

    Well, what do you call it when a junior senator running for the highest office in the land proposes to sit down and talk to a person like Iran's leader, who has called for the total destruction of Israel and has denied that the Nazi extermination campaign ever existed? Lord help us if this guy is elected.

    May 15, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  9. Les from Virginia

    Fool me once, shame on you!
    Fool me twice, shame on me!

    Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
    Chinese general & military strategist (~400 BC)

    Fear mongering is not the plan this day.

    May 15, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  10. Jessica, GA

    After 8 years of Foreign policy based on Isreal's interest, we need a President that bases foreign policy on American interest. Unfortunately McCain also have the naive believe that Isreal is the site of Armagedon.

    May 15, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  11. Matt

    This is not only despicable, but proves yet again Bush's terrible command of the English language.

    Appeasement was not talking to Hitler. Appeasement was offering him half of Czechoslovakia in return for a promise not to invade the rest of Europe.

    It's the grossest arrogance to believe that simply the honor of talking to you is the greatest prize in world politics.

    What Obama has proposed is totally different from the appeasement of Hitler. Obama does not suggest any kind of reward for past aggressions. He suggests sitting down and telling these people to their face that what they're doing is unacceptable, and what we want them to do before we can consider them a welcome part of the community of nations.

    Nelson Mandela said: "You don't make peace by talking to your friends; you have to make peace with your enemies."

    May 15, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  12. Blaising

    Uh oh....

    Bush is such a wimp. He has to go several thousand miles away before he feels comfortable enough to take a pot shot at Obama.

    Bush is such a Nancy ...

    May 15, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  13. Jason King

    Congratulations to the President for telling it like it is! This is one of the most cogent statements I have ever seen him to make. "Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" goes the old saying, and it is none the less true for being a cliche. There is shame to be had for those who repeat history out of will ful ignorance 9for there is little excuse for such ignorance); but there are also those who repeat it on purpose, because they wish to see such things as our appeasement of Hitler (Neville Chamberlain is dead, but his spirit lives on, forever, and where is Churchill today, who can fix what those of his ilk have wrought?), or our betrayal of South Viet Nam. To these, there is more than shame. If Mr. Obama would seek to avoid the label, he should avoid the actions and appearance.

    May 15, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  14. Onlooker from outside

    Scare tactics and fear mongering? From President Bush?? I'm so surprised!

    May 15, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  15. Briarwood

    This is the first thing Bush has ever said that is true and it has taken him long enough to say it! We all know (at least those of us who can see past the make-believe world of Osama's "change") that Obama is alligned with the middle-eastern terror groups and they are funneling money into his campaign. Ask yourself where all his millions are coming from-the pipeline never runs dry.

    May 15, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  16. Mark Mineo

    Outrageously inappropriate comments, timing, lack of statesmanship. Sums up the utter shamelessness, lack of understanding and complete incompetence of Bush and his cabal.
    It will be interesting to see if his party backs him up on this outrage like they have for the past eight years of his buffoonery.

    May 15, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  17. mike bacon in Belleville Illinois

    This president has a lot of nerve making references to Adolph Hitler in light of his propensity to "bend" the truth. Isreal shoul know this only too well and be a little worried.

    Futhermore, his reference to lessons learned in history sounds funny comming from a man who can't seem to learn from his own. ,

    i just have to laugh.

    We need change

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  18. John

    There are countries which affected by terrorism, like Israel, u.k, india and even Russia, but Mr. Bush's solutions is unique, economy in the dumps, wrong strategies used in the war. when oil was at $38, Bin ladin wanted $75, Mr. Bush is now giving him $127. There is only one thing common with this president that is common with coroporate CEO's. don't see the reason riff people off .

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  19. shelly in IL

    To CNN:

    Kieth Olberman of MSNBC did a great job when he blasted president Bush last night on his show (Count Down with Kieth Olberman). We need more commentators like him that will speak their minds and the truth for the little people of this country. If we had more commentators like Mr. Olberman, this country would not be in the predicament it's in now with job loss, this horrible war and the gas crisis. If President Bush were a Democratic president, he would have been impeached within a matter of minutes and that's the truth.

    I don't care if you post or not, this is something CNN, the staff (and other networks like (fixed noise) need to think about, instead of posting negative and devisive headlines all the time.

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  20. J. Sully, New York

    Oh Bush. Stop it. Just stop it. Get out of that white house and let Obama in. You're so full of it. Go home to Texas and play golf and forget about the 4000 lives lost in Iraq under your stupid watch.

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  21. Jai in PA

    Bush's approach has worked so well, of course we should listen and follow his guidance. This country desparately needs a change!

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  22. Uncle Sam

    I find it ironic that after Sen. McCain was widely criticized for bringing up the fact that the terrorist organization Hamas had endorsed Sen. Obama, it was revealed that Obama advisor, Robert Malley, had been meeting with Hamas.

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  23. Bonnie

    After a lifetime of voting Democrat I will not be voting Democrat this year – Barack Obama is NOT the man for this position. His lack of experience and rascist position are not where we need to go to pull this country together – another Democratic defeat in the making.

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  24. Linda, Kentucky

    The Middle East is not Nazi Germany and George Bush isn't FDR (not by a long shot!). Obviously, Bush's way of dealing with international relations has not worked. Who is he, then, to issue dire warnings about what the Democrats may do? Where are his diplomatic successes?

    Seven more months. It can't come soon enough.

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  25. Tim

    The politics of fear do not work anymore. This is why the Republicans just lost the special election in Mississippi.

    May 15, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
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