Democrats Accuse Bush of Politics in Speech in Israel

The president compares negotiating with Iran to appeasing Hitler.


Democrats lashed out at President Bush, accusing him of engaging in partisan politics during remarks he made to Israel's parliament today.

"What I see emerging in this campaign is an ugly pattern I quite frankly find disturbing and I think is threatening our national security," says Sen. Joseph Biden, the Democratic chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We should not be engaging in the parliaments of other nations, making political points against your opponents that are outrageous."

The Delaware Democrat was referring to remarks that Bush made comparing the idea of negotiating with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the appeasement of Adolf Hitler before World War II. The remark was widely seen as a direct attack on Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama, who has suggested that the next president should consider meeting the leaders of such U.S. foes as Iran and North Korea.

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush said during events celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary. "We have heard this foolish delusion before."

Bush cited the remarks of a U.S. senator who suggested in 1939 that he could have negotiated with Hitler to avert the Nazi invasion of Poland. "We have an obligation to call this what it is—the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history," Bush declared.

Obama condemned the president for launching a "false political attack," while Biden called the remarks "malarkey" during a conference call with reporters (although he declined to repeat a stronger expletive that he uttered earlier in the day).

Biden noted that the Bush administration has conducted a series of negotiations with North Korea despite its record of proliferating nuclear technology, and has even conducted some low-level meetings with Iranian diplomats. "This fellow seems to be out of touch with his own administration," Biden says. "His own secretary of defense and the secretary of state favor engagement with Iran."

He pointed to remarks that Defense Secretary Robert Gates made Wednesday about the need to use a combination of pressure and incentives to launch a dialogue with Iran. "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage...and then sit down and talk with them," Gates told a group of retired diplomats. "If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us."

—Kevin Whitelaw