Friday, May 16, 2008

With Friends Like These...

Efforts to prevent an electoral tsunami against the Republicans on November 4 suffered another major set back. Once again it was from a self-inflicted wound.

Senator John McCain gave a major address outlining the outcomes of his possible first term. It was an attempt to “rebrand” his candidacy and put some distance between President Bush and himself. In an ideal world, McCain’s comprehensive trail balloon should have been the focus of pundits through the Sunday talk shows.

Then President Bush stepped-up to the podium at the Israeli Knesset and hurled a rhetorical bomb linking Democrats with appeasement. McCain’s address is immediately driven from the first tier of news coverage. Then the partisan salvos flew between Democratic leaders and Bush over the remark. Then McCain stepped into the fracas to defend Bush.

Where does one begin on such a meltdown?

First, Bush violated a fundamental American tradition – “partisanship ends at the water’s edge”. For generations, leaders from across the American political spectrum resisted attacking each other when on foreign soil. Bush crossed that line. He exploited a memorable moment in US-Israeli relations to launch a lame partisan attack.

Bush’s attack was even more ridiculous since his historical analogy was based upon the remarks of Idaho Republican Senator William Edgar Borah

Don’t Bush’s speechwriters do any homework? The Republican Party had a deep-seated isolationist wing until the 1960’s. Using nearly fifty-year-old isolationist Republican rhetoric to score points against the Democrats was ludicrous.

Bush’s remark also confused talking to people with “appeasement”. Talking is talking. Appeasement is a decision or action that capitulates to the other side without any counter balancing advantage for our side. Every President, and his senior officials, “hold their nose” and talk to unsavory adversaries. The issue should be, “how does this interaction fit within our broader strategic objectives?”. Only then can the value of talking be weighed. Bush chose the pander to the dwindling minority of people who still view him as credible instead of raising a far more serious and important point.

The worst offense of Bush, among all these offenses, is the trap he laid for John McCain. Just like when Reverend Wright displayed his self-obsession by upstaging Obama, so now does Bush display a similar disregard for others by hurling himself into the 2008 Campaign. His timing could not have been worse. He upstaged and derailed McCain’s major effort to avoid being viewed as Bush’s third term. It also forced McCain to close ranks with Bush over a false and tangential issue, thereby placing McCain squarely as the protector and caretaker of Bush’s status quo.

The damage done by Bush is just one more straw on an already broken camel’s back. The Republican Party’s only hope is to ask President Bush to take a vow of silence until November 5, 2008.

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