So let’s see: President Bush quotes a clueless Republican senator (isolationist William Borah) in 1939 saying if he’d only been able to talk with Hitler all this unpleasantness could have been avoided, and somehow this is interpreted as an attack on Obama and Democrats. My, what a hair trigger we’re on.
Now I can understand that Democrats think they responded too weakly to previous Republican criticisms they didn’t understand (Dukakis and the Pledge, Kerry and the Swift boats, Gore and his lack of truthiness, etc) and so are on DefCon 1 against the slightest slight. But this seems like an unforced error on Obama’s part (not his first, of course). How much more clever it would have been for Obama to say, "Of course the President is right, so why does he go on appeasing the Saudi’s?, etc."
And I can understand some of the parsing of "appeasement." It is one thing to talk with some odious person; appeasement, strictly speaking, is giving them something under threat. Sure enough, Churchill himself defended appeasement at other times.
So in contemplating whether Obama lacks prudence in saying he’d meet with Ahmadinawhackjob without preconditions, it is worth recalling Churchill’s meditation about how the Munich crisis should be understood from The Gathering Storm:
It may be well here to set down some principles of morals and action which may be a guide in the future. No case of this kind can be judged apart from its circumstances. [Me: This is more or less what McCain said about contact with Iran in the now-controversial Rubin interview.] The facts may be unknown at the time, and estimates of them must be largely guesswork, colored by the general feelings and aims of whomever is trying to pronounce. . .
There is, however, one helpful guide, namely, for a nation to keep its word and to act in accordance with its treaty obligations to allies. This guide is called honor. . . Here, however, the moment came when Honor pointed the path of Duty, and when also the right judgment of the facts at that time could have reinforced its dictates.
Things will really get interesting and hot if McCain suggests that the problem with Obama is not that he is an appeaser, but that he might be dishonorable in his statecraft..
UPDATE: Turns out Jay Leno saw the matter as I did. From the Tonight Show, as reported in the NY Times today:
Huge political fireworks today after President Bush went to Israel and he talked about American politicians who might want to talk to Hamas or other leaders. Politicians who would sit down and appease terrorists. He said he would not do it. He would not put up with it. He would never talk to terrorists. And then he flew to Saudi Arabia to spend a couple of days with the Saudi royal family.
Obama could have swatted the ball out of the park if he’d said something like this instead of whining about having been attacked.