The fracas over the President's speech in Israel is one of the silly stories of the week. Bush uttered one of his standard denunciations against appeasement, likening people who recommend negotiating with "terrorists" and "radicals" with people from 70 years ago who thought they could have talked Hitler out of World War II. He's said the same thing innumerable times and so have many other Republicans. But now Senator Obama takes it as an attack on himself. He complains that Bush misrepresented his position, insofar as Obama has never called for negotiations with "terrorists." The White House press secretary was right to remind Obama that, despite the dizzying conditions of a presidential campaign, the world doesn't revolve him, and not everything that politicians say is directed at him. That may be, after all, why it seemed inaccurate to the senator.
Bush is also wrong, of course, to equate negotiation with appeasement. He misses the point of the myth of "Munich," the summit of 1938 when Britain and France appeased Hitler by letting him occupy Czechoslovakia. The problem with Munich wasn't that Britain and France negotiated with Hitler; the problem was that they capitulated instead of telling him that they would go to war if he crossed the Czech border. Telling Hitler that he would be attacked if he tried his stunt is "negotiation" just as much as telling him it was O.K. with you. Negotiation and appeasement are not one and the same thing. Those who equate the two either don't understand what negotiation is, or are uninterested in the concept. Americans, unfortunately, are used to demanding "unconditional surrender" without the bother of compromise, the murky middle ground between plain negotiation and abject appeasement.Convinced of their own right and righteousness, they consider it an injustice if they can't get their own way entirely in international dealings. Of course, just about every other country feels that way as well; that's why we have to negotiate with those we disagree with and sometimes make compromises with them. How long do Americans need to learn this?
To sum up, Obama was right to criticize the speech, but wrong to make it personal. Bush's sentiments would be equally misguided no matter who was running to succeed him, or if no one was.