Obama Takes Issue With Bush Foreign Policy Speech

By Ed O'Keefe

May 15, 2008 9:57am

ABC News’ Ed O’Keefe Reports: The Obama campaign is taking issue with a comment President Bush made while speaking to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s statehood.

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," the President said to the country’s legislative body, "We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of 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."

Watch video of Bush’s comments on terror HERE.

In a statement, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shot across the bow: "It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 6Oth anniversary of Israel’s independence to launch a false political attack. It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel. Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power — including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy – to pressure countries like Iran and Syria. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the President’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel."

ABC News’ White House troops point out that the President has made similar statements in the past and Bush did not specifically cite Obama by name, though he did reference Sen. William Borah’s immortal reaction upon hearing that Hitler had invaded Poland and begun World War II, something he has not highlighted in the past.

"(The President) has said similar things before," a White House official told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. "But it is in reference to a number of people, think Carter, others who have engaged in this or suggested it."

White House spokesperson Dana Perino was asked if Bush’s line was a slam against Obama and she insisted, "It is not."

"I understand that when you are running for office sometimes you think the world revolves around you. That is not always true and it is not true in this case," Perino added, though the White House is keenly aware of how such statements might play during a heated political season and has steadfastly avoided commenting on the 2008 race.

Late Thursday that notion seemed to be confirmed.

"Did we know this could be construed as being about Obama? Yes, of course," a White House source told ABC News. "But was this about just Obama? No, it was about Pelosi, Carter, Biden, Obama, etc. When the line went in the speech, we made sure that it was the same as everything (Bush) has said in the past. This was not about just Obama."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Cali., did not take kindly to the remarks calling Bush’s statement "beneath the dignity of the office of the president" in her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill.

Pelosi alluded that presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., should distance himself from Bush’s assertions in Israel, repeatedly saying "any sensible person" would.

In an ABC News interview with the President in April, Bush told Raddatz, "I’ve said the president’s job is to solve these issues diplomatically first and foremost. But, of course options need to stay on the table."

Vice President Dick Cheney has been more direct in criticizing the 2008 Democratic candidates, although still not by name.

"The idea that we can walk away from Iraq is, I think, terribly damaging on its face, and to say that, ‘well that’s the only way we can get the Iraqis to take on responsibility,’ I don’t believe that’s the case," Cheney said in a March interview with ABC News.

Without addressing the Democratic candidates specifically, the vice president said those who want to pull out of Iraq are "seriously misguided," adding that the presidential candidates would be risking an attack on the homeland if U.S. forces withdrew, and arguing that terrorists would find safe havens in other countries.

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., both have said they’d withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq if elected president. Sen. McCain has advocated a continued U.S. presence in Iraq until security and political situations improve.

When asked if he was talking about any candidate in particular, Cheney said, "I am talking about any candidate for high office who believes the solution for our problem in that part of the world is to walk away from the commitments that we’ve made in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere."

ABC News’ Ann Compton, Jon Garcia, Sunlen Miller, and Martha Raddatz contributed to this report.

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