The Appeasement Game

While Obama stresses the importance of talking, he must also show he is willing to fight.

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Barack Obama is, for the moment, winning the silly appeasement debate raging in American politics, but the fact that the fight is occurring at all highlights a set of vulnerabilities that Obama must address quickly if he is to win in November. Because he is still distracted by a prolonged primary battle with Hillary Clinton, Obama has left John McCain and his surrogate in the White House an unfettered opportunity to set the agenda. By raising the appeasement issue, Republicans have signaled their intent to try to scare voters away from the Democratic nominee. They plan to depict Obama as unpatriotic, weak, muddled and naive in his thinking about the world, and ultimately, unwilling to fight.


The silver lining in this strategy is that this was entirely predictable. The bad news is that Democrats have not fully figured out how to address these questions and put them to rest. While he stresses the importance of diplomacy, Obama must, if he is to win this easily winnable fight, demonstrate his willingness to use force.


Obama's success thus far is due, in part, to the fact that he is in a fight with George Bush. In suggesting that Obama would appease the country's enemies, the president picked a fight he could not win. The gods have delivered one of the all-time great political gifts to Democrats in the form of Bush, who is now so politically toxic that if he says he loves his mother, the favorability numbers for motherhood begin to suffer.


What struck me about Bush's comments before the Knesset is how antiquated they felt. There is something old-fashioned and musty, fetid almost, about the appeasement discussion; it has a time-capsule quality as if taking place without any recognition of the last 60 years. The notion of trying to buy peace on the cheap pretty much died with the birth of the nuclear age.


My initial reaction was that Bush had, once again, misread the occasion and was using a friendly audience to make cheap political points and rationalize the disaster that his foreign policy had become. He was again drawing parallels that did not apply. Classic bush, nothing new there.