Charles Krauthammer writes today about:
… when a presidential candidate makes a gaffe, then, realizing it is too egregious to take back without suffering humiliation, decides to make it a centerpiece of his foreign policy.An absurdity, indeed.
Before the Democratic debate of July 23, Barack Obama had never expounded upon the wisdom of meeting, without precondition, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Il or the Castro brothers. But in that debate, he was asked about doing exactly that.
Unprepared, he said sure -- then got fancy, declaring the Bush administration's refusal to do so not just "ridiculous" but "a disgrace."
After that, there was no going back. So he doubled down. What started as a gaffe became policy. By now, it has become doctrine. Yet it remains today what it was on the day he blurted it out: an absurdity.
Senator Obama and his aides no doubt wish now he’d said something the day following the July 23 debate to “clarify what he really meant.”
But Obama, who’s lately gotten quite good at "clarifying" his remarks – he seems to have to do it daily – stood by his “no preconditions” offer to the terrorist states.
Now it’s hurting him politically.
Realizing that, today a NY Times editorial undertakes an Obama rescue mission which begins:
Everybody knew President Bush was aiming at Senator Barack Obama last week when he likened those who endorse talks with “terrorists and radicals” to appeasers of the Nazis.The Times is wrong on every point.
But now we know what Mr. Bush knew then — that Israel is in indirect peace talks with Syria, a prominent member of Mr. Bush’s list of shunned nations — and it seems as if the president was going for a two-for-one in his crack about appeasement.
If so, it was breathtakingly cynical to compare the leadership of the Jewish state with those who stood aside in the face of the Nazi onslaught, and irresponsible to try to restrain this American ally from pursuing a settlement that it judges as possibly being in its best interests. . . .
Everybody doesn’t know President Bush “was aiming” at Senator Obama last week in his Knesset speech.
Hundreds of pundits here, in Europe and Israel have pointed out appeasement is, for all practical purposes, the policy of many leaders. What’s more, there’s a huge difference between negotiation and appeasement.
Churchill, the leading foe of Britain’s appeasement policy, was an ardent advocate of negotiations to settle international disputes and to form strong alliances to contain Hitler.
Instead of whining, Obama should tell us why he isn't an appeaser and why he belongs to be included with the negotiators such as Egypt's late President Anwar Sadat.
The Times' claim Bush in his Knesset speech was somehow suggesting Israel is engaged in appeasement for negotiating with Syria is as absurd as Obama pretending he never heard about Rev. Wright’s racist and anti-American sermons until they started affecting his poll numbers.
As for Syria, Israel has always been willing to meet with its enemies. But its never been reckless enough to meet with the heads of their states without preconditions. Bush and America support that policy.
In 1973 the October War, brought on by the determination of Arab states, chief among them Egypt, to destroy Israel ended disastrously for the Arabs.
Afterwards, Egypt's Sadat realized the war's lesson was peace with Israel is better than war. So he quietly began behind the scenes negotiations -first at a low echelon level - with his former enemy.
Those complex negotiations, in which each side had to repeatedly meet certain conditions for the negotiations to move forward, led in time to Egypt’s recognizing Israel’s right to exist, the settlement of the Sinai/Suez issues, and other terms for a peace between the two nations that's lasted to this day.
After agreements between the two nations had been reached, Sadat made a state visit to Israel in November, 1977 during which he addressed the Knesset (I believe he's the only head of an Arab state to ever do so).
Sadat presented to the Knesset and the world a plan for mid-East peace in a wise, stirring and brave speech you can read here.
That Israel would negotiate with Syria or any of its other enemies is nothing new. It's done that frequently since it gained independence in 1948. But it's done so in circumstances where certain preconditions have been met.
I'd be surprise if Israel adopted Obama's "no preconditions" policy and had its President or Prime Minister fly to Damascus or Munich to met with Syria's President Assad and "seek peace in our time."
The Times editorial distorts history to help Obama.
Krauthammer's column's here; the NYT's editorial's here; and Sadat's speech is here.