The Current Crisis

Appeasers and Bullies

Our Democrat leaders have it both ways.

By 5.22.08

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WASHINGTON -- Poor Neville Chamberlain. The long deceased British prime minister -- remembered through the decades for his policy of appeasement and for the war with Hitler that it hastened -- now suffers yet another disgrace. The mere mention of "appeasement" apparently sets off paranoid tantrums amongst members of the political class. Once deemed a very enlightened tool of statecraft, appeasement has become a slur, a hate term. Speaking before the Israeli Knesset, President George W. Bush associated appeasement with those who "believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along." Kapow! The Democrats went on the offensive, though they had not been mentioned.

Pronounced House Squeaker Nancy Pelosi: "beneath the dignity of the office of the president and unworthy of our representation at that observance in Israel." The observance of which she spoke was Israel's 60th birthday, and no member of the Israeli parliament shared her anger. In fact, many applauded the President. Pronounced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "reckless and irresponsible." Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took leave of her campaign, where she probably has wrapped up the white supremacist vote, and denounced the president's choice of words as "offensive and outrageous."

Even the serene and august Senator Barack Obama stepped down from his cloud of serenity to asseverate: "It is sad that President Bush would use a speech at the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack." Betraying a hint of what may very well be megalomania, the likely Democratic presidential candidate continued, "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists…." Yet the President had not mentioned the senator or any other living American politician, not even Jimmy Carter who most certainly did engage with terrorists and as recently as April when he conferred with representatives from Hamas to mull over of all things "human rights."

For that matter, it was not more than a year ago that Squeaker Pelosi visited with the Syrian leadership in Damascus, concluding "we came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace." If the Syrians do not qualify as terrorists they certainly give sanctuary and arms to terrorists, some of whom are using those arms in Iraq. I guess we can understand why she is sensitive when the President mentions appeasement.

As for Senator Obama, he is still trying to wriggle out of an answer he gave to a question asked him during a debate last summer. Would he as president "without preconditions" meet with the anti-American, anti-Semitic, and seemingly delusional president of Iran, he was asked. "I would," he answered in the sanctimonious tone that always suggests incense is burning nearby. So maybe we can understand why he and the Democratic leadership are so anxious to transform yesteryear's failed policy of appeasement into a hate term. Incidentally, Senator Clinton's immediate assessment of Senator Obama's pert answer was, "irresponsible and frankly naive." She has shown herself to be an able critic of the Democratic frontrunner. Possibly she will eventually join the McCain campaign.

One thing that all these Democrats have in common is a colossal moral superiority. As we have seen before, they repeatedly presume to set the terms of political debate. They rule over the appropriateness of words and strategies, telling us what the Republicans can and cannot say. Now they have ruled the word "appeasement" to be "reckless," "outrageous," and bereft of "dignity." The term has been applied to opponents of a forceful foreign policy for two generations during which forceful foreign policy kept America secure. Alas, in this election the Democrats have ruled the word appeasement out of bounds.

To Obama the term is redolent of that "divisiveness" that he abhors. He has crossed the length and breadth of the land lecturing against divisiveness. So how can we end this offensive divisiveness? Well, obviously by agreeing with him and his wife. His wife is also on the campaign trail, and when Republicans react unfavorably to her complaints about America he tells them to "lay off my wife." What kind of a person tells us what we can and cannot say and whom we must be in agreement with? To my mind it is a bully, and now we are going to have months of watching Senator Obama attempt to bully Senator John McCain. Over in Vietnam somewhere there are retired jailers who could tell him that one cannot bully McCain, even when you have him flat on his back with broken bones.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.