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Exactly a month after wrapping himself in Pope Benedict XVI’s copious mantle by welcoming the pontiff with a star-spangled White House gala, George W. Bush seems to have forgotten his catechism. In Israel today, Bush used the ocassion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state to…bash his domestic political opponent, of course. Bush took aim at Barack Obama, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, by painting him as a Nazi appeaser. Nice:
“Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush said. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all 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.”
Of course, Bush was doing his own appeasement by playing to a receptive audience. And never mind the old rule (Godwin’s Law, more or less) that when you resort to Nazi analogies you’ve already lost the argument. It would also be best to forget that Bush is negotiating with the North Koreans, who he said he would never negoitiate with, and is talking to the Iranians, and has conveniently forgotten about the guy behind 9/11, and will give the Chinese a big hug during the Olympics despite their persecution of Christians and Tibetan Buddhists…But I digress.
More to the point, think back last month when Bush welcomed the pope by quoting Benedict’s favorite church figure (St. Augustine, which Bush pronounced like the city in Florida) and stealing his favorite lines (having abandoned “culture of life”–John Paul’s refrain–for Ratzinger’s favorite, the “dictatorship of relativism”) and endorsing the pope’s message of love and the need to live in the world “in mutual support.” The two later discussed the Iraq war–which Cardinal Ratzinger and John Paul and the Catholic Church as a whole–opposed, and agreed on the need “to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights.”
In his address, Benedict spoke of the importance of the United Nations, where he was to speak two days later, and a body whose advice Bush also rejected in the run-up to war. At the General Assembly in New York, Benedict made a plea–consistent with church teaching and other papal addresses there–for pursuing dialogue above all:
“What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.”
That sounds like what Bush would call ‘appeasement.” And one wonders how Bush’s latest comments fit in with the characterizations of him as “speaking Catholic” (Mary Ann Glendon) or as “the first Catholic president,” in the words of Rick Santorum and his fellow travelers.