Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., accused President Bush of launching “a false political attack” against him in his Thursday speech to Israel’s Knesset. The president, who is touring Israel in honor of the 60th anniversary of its creation, told members of Israel’s legislature that he sees a transition to peaceful coexistence between Israel and neighboring territories such as the Gaza Strip and Syria.
In his speech, Bush took a possible swipe at the Democratic presidential front-runner’s promise to meet with hostile foreign leaders such as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
“We have heard this foolish delusion before,” Bush said without citing Obama by name, according to the Associated Press. “As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all 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.”
Obama reacted immediately, calling the attack “sad” and saying, “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.”
Bush’s comments carry the same tone of criticism typical of presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who in February called Obama’s pledge to meet with Cuban leader Raul Castro “dangerously naive in international diplomacy,” the New York Times reported.
McCain backer and close friend Sen. Joe Lieberman said Thursday the president “got it exactly right” by rejecting the notion that “if only we were to sit down and negotiate with these killers they would cease to threaten us,” Reuters reported. The independent Connecticut senator did not mention Obama by name.
Obama has also taken similar heat from Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, who last summer also called her opponent “irresponsible and frankly naive” for his promise to meet with hostile leaders in July’s CNN/YouTube debate.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said the president’s comments were not in reference to the presidential hopeful.
“I understand when you’re running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you,” she told reporters, according to the AP. “That’s not always true. And it is not true in this case.”