16 May 2008

Barack's Blunder

Why did Barack Obama respond to Bush's speech to the Knesset? He is angry that Bush said,
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. We have heard this foolish delusion before...We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history (text of speech is here).
Because Obama is the only candidate who has suggested talking with Iranian president Mahmoud Amadinejad, he has claimed that this was an attack on him, even though Bush didn't mention anyone by name, or even link it to the presidential campaign.

Assuming he's right, it would be very bad form for a president to use a speech to another country's government as a direct campaign speech. But if this was a swipe at Obama, it was a very indirect one--it could just as easily have been directed at all of those who believe the U.S. is responsible for Muslim anger at us. I know a few of those people myself.

So it's strange that Obama jumped up to take credit for being the target of Bush's critique. The speech was barely covered by the U.S. media, and the first most of us heard about it was when Obama cried foul. There's no way this makes Obama look good--he is creating the linkage between him and appeasement in the public's mind by making a big deal of what would have passed almost unnoticed if he'd kept quiet.

If others had tried to make the linkage, Obama should have just agreed with Bush that appeasement is bad, but said he agreed with Winston Churchill that "talk, talk, is better than shoot, shoot." Better to be associated with Churchill than Chamberlain, but Obama blew it.


James K said...

Interesting, to my foreign eyes it looks like he's acting like the Leader of the Opposition, perhaps that's his strategy, get everyone to think of him as the natural antagonist to Bush.

Collin Brendemuehl said...

I think james k is the right track.
Obama & Clinton are not running against each other so much these days, or even against McCain, as against Bush. No strategy is perfect, and no candidate has handlers who manage every silly thing they say. It's one of those things that makes campaigns so (relatively) enjoyable at time. Anyone's favorite candidate still has feet of clay.

James Hanley said...

I would agree with james k if Obama had simply criticized Bush's speech, rather than acting like it was a personal shot at him. I do agree with Colin, cetainly, that all the candidates are human. Unfortunately we, as a people, tend to demand inhuman perfection from our presidents.