I've seen a lot of sad things in American politics in my lifetime -- the resignation of a president who became a national disgrace after he oversaw a campaign of break-ins and cover-ups, another who circumvented the Constitution to trade arms for hostages, and yet is now hailed as national hero. And those paled to what we have seen in the last seven years -- flagrant disregard for the Constitution, the launching of a "pre-emptive" war on false pretenses, and discussions about torture and other shocking abuses inside the White House inner sanctum.
But now it's come to this: A new low that I never imagined was even possible.
President Bush went on foreign soil today, and committed what I consider an act of political treason: Comparing the candidate of the U.S. opposition party to appeasers of Nazi Germany -- in the very nation that was carved out from the horrific calamity of the Holocaust. Bush's bizarre and beyond-appropriate detour into American presidential politics took place in the middle of what should have been an occasion for joy: A speech to Israeli's Knesset to honor that nation's 60th birthday.
But here's what he said:
JERUSALEM (CNN) – In a particularly sharp blast from halfway around the world, President Bush suggested Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats are in favor of "appeasement" of terrorists in the same way U.S. leaders appeased Nazis in the run-up to World War II.
"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," said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to the Israeli 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."
As a believer in free speech, I think Bush has a right to say what he wants, but as a President of the United States who swore to uphold the Constitution, his freedom also carries an awesome and solemn responsibility, and what this president said today is a serious breach of that high moral standard.
Of course, there are differences of opinion on how America should handle Iran, and that's why we're having an election here at home, to sort these issues out -- hopefully with respect and not with emotional and inaccurate appeals. Not only is the president's comment a gross misrepresentation of Barack Obama's stance on the issue, but ironically, it comes just a day after his own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said of Iran: "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them." Is Gates a Nazi appeaser-type, too? And Bush has been hardly consistent on this point, either. Look at his own dealings with oil-rich Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, linked to deadly terror attacks like Pan Am Flight 103.
But what Bush did in Israel this morning goes well beyond the accepted confines of American political debate, When the president speaks to a foreign parliament on behalf of our country, his message needs to be clear and unambiguous. Our democracy may look messy to outsiders, and we may have our disagreements with some sharp elbows thrown around, but at the end of the day we are not Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives.
We are Americans.
And you, Mr. Bush, are the leader of us all. To use a diplomatic setting on foreign soil to score a cheap political point at home is way beneath your office, way beneath your country, and way beneath the people you serve. You have been handed an office once uplifted to great heights by fellow countrymen from Washington to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Eisenhower, and have plunged it so deeply into the Karl-Rove-and-Rush-Limbaugh-fueled world of political destruction and survival of all costs that have lost all perspective -- and all sense of decency. To travel to Israel and to associate a sitting American senator and your possible successor in the Oval Office with those who at one time gave comfort to an enemy of the United States is, in and of itself, an act of political treason.
In another irony, this comes from an administration that has already committed such grave abuses that its former officials are becoming fearful of traveling overseas, lest they be arrested for war crimes. Despite the alleged crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration, the Democrats who control the House have until now been restrained in their use of the impeachment process, hoping that the final eight months of our American nightmare can pass by quickly. Indeed, one has to wonder how much of Bush's outrageous statement this morning arose from fear -- fear that a President Obama will go after his wrongdoing in 2009.
Today, it's a whole new ballgame. I believe this treacherous statement by a U.S. president in Israel is a signal to the Democrats in the House in Washington, that it's time to play its Constitutional role in ending this trauma, before even greater acts against the interest of America are wrongly committed in our name.