Bush Lends a Helping Hand
05-16-2008
Several political observers have suggested that President Bush’s comments in the Israeli Knesset yesterday were a political gift to Barack Obama. In drawing an historical parallel between those who would negotiate with our current enemies and appeasers of the Nazis, Bush did indeed provide Obama with a surprisingly valuable political opportunity to solidify his position as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. Although the White House has denied that the comments were targeted specifically at Senator Obama (and he was not mentioned by name), the remarks have been widely interpreted as such by the media, elected officials, and other political elites.
 
So, regardless of the Bush Administration’s intent, the episode has the potential to accomplish three useful political objectives for the Obama campaign. First, it elevates Obama as the presumptive Democratic nominee into a direct political conflict with a sitting president. Provided he offers a strong response to Bush's comments, Obama may boost his stature on the international stage as a result. Second, the conflict has the effect of spontaneously unifying Democratic leaders in their defense of Obama, at a time when the party is still trying to overcome the divisiveness of its long nominee selection process. Finally, it allows Obama to once again closely link John McCain, whose own comments on the matter seem to support Bush, to an unpopular president. From news reports, it does not appear that there was any advance coordination between the White House and the McCain campaign, but I’m sure the latter appreciates President Bush’s early help with the general election’s foreign policy debate.


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