Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rise of the Straw Men

It's tempting to think that George Bush has already plumbed the rhetorical depths in his 7+ years on the job, but he managed to hit a new low in the Knesset today. Two things. First, in a faux "I have a dream" touch, he envisaged a Middle East 60 years from now --

From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today's oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents.

It's not clear whether he'll be mentioning this dream to King Abdullah and President Mubarak -- the next stops on his trip. Or, if he is planning on mentioning it to King Abdullah, it's not clear whether he will do that before or after asking the King to pump more oil. The good news: is it a prediction that US troops will be out of Iraq by 2068?

But anyway, that was the only sideshow to the most incendiary part of the speech --

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. 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. (Applause.)

This followed the typical equation of Iran with al-Qaeda and is clearly aimed at Barack Obama (despite the expert mischaracterization of his position in the guise of "some"), who has suggested contacts, not negotiations, with Iran. And while there's nothing new in Bush's equation of Iran/al Qaeda with the Nazis, it's worth pointing out that "appeasement" was not a decision to ignore Hitler's words, but his actions -- the Versailles treaty violations, the annexations of Austria and part of Czechoslovakia, and the repression of Germany's Jewish population.

The depressing thing is that this segment of the speech mirrors a line of attack that Straight Talking MaverickTM John McCain has used against Obama, and thus indicates a key platform of the Bush-Cheney-McCain campaign in the run-up to November.

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