The Bush-Israel Contretemps

The blogosphere and prominent Democrats are going crazy in the aftermath of President Bush’s remarks to the Israeli Knesset.

The meme here is that Bush was trying to make political points in Israel by likening Democrats to the appeasers of the Hitler Era. I have a few comments.

1. At this point in his lame duck presidency Bush poisons everything he touches. Notwithstanding the merits or lack thereof of his comments, his brand is so low, the president only hurts the cause he was purportedly helping — support for Israel. At this point, Bush should be winding things down and preparing to ride off into the sunset, not making comments easily construed as political attacks.

2. Having said that, an argument can be made that Bush was saying exactly what he believes. After all, a common refrain from Bush’s critics he is that he is too resistant to negotiations to solve problems and too quick to select the military option. But within the context of that critique, it would be wrong to somehow suggest at the same time that Bush doesn’t truly believe what he is saying. I thought that’s a big reason people don’t like him.

3. Observing the vitriol of Keith Olbermann last night, a heavy-handed performance which prompted me to change the channel, I couldn’t help but wonder where Olbermann’s anger was at the actual acts of terrorism that emanate from Hamas-controlled Gaza and into Israel, which, it should be remembered, withdrew from the coastal plain unilaterally in 2005.

4. Finally, why is it completely verboten to discuss the possibly existential threats Israel faces today from Iran? We can quarrel over the extent of danger posed by Iran and the true intentions of the Iranian regime. But there are certain facts on the record. Ahmadinejad has, after all, vowed “to wipe Israel off the map.” It is probably true that the position of Iran’s presidency does not hold exclusive authority in that country, and debates do exist about Iran’s progress at constructing a nuclear weapon. On the merits, too, it’s never a good idea for a sitting U.S. president to launch a political attack, particularly in a foreign land. At the same time, it suggests something pernicious about our culture when a ham-handed political attack from a president on his way out engenders more anger than a maniac’s promise to destroy another sovereign, democratic state.

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