Bush the the race for the White House

Behind The News
May 15, 2008 1:52:34 PM PDT
Oh what a brouhaha President Bush created, 6,000 miles away. And, lest anyone think for a nanosecond that President Bush won't be one of the real opponents in this fall's election, just take a look at what happened today in Israel.

His speech to the Knesset in Israel this morning, part of that country's 60th anniversary celebrations, included a criticism of anyone who might use diplomacy (instead of, we are to assume, military muscle) to deal with rogue nations. "Some seem to believe," the President said. "we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them that they have been wrong all along."

The President didn't mention anyone by name, but the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, who has indeed said diplomacy would be and should be the country's first line of action, thought he was the target. The White House says he wasn't -- the target was instead former Pres. Carter, who has met with Hamas this spring -- but

the Obama camp nonetheless seized the opportunity, and fired back.

"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack," Obama said. "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."

The quick response by the junior Senator from Illinois left little doubt that he and his party intend to make the President, with his low approval ratings and an unpopular war in Iraq, a main issue in the campaign this fall. They will try to paint John McCain as being a de-facto third termer for Bush.

McCain, for his part, will be trying to distance himself from the President. We saw him do that this week, with his I've-never-agreed-with-President-Bush on the issue of global warming campaign appearances.

And what an interesting conundrum for the Republicans at their convention: How to handle George W. Bush?

After 8 years of Bill Clinton, Democrats who nominated Al Gore in 2000 heard from Mr. Clinton during the convention. And Ronald Reagan, after 8 years in office, spoke to his fellow Republicans at their convention in 1988 when they nominated George H.W. Bush.

Hard to believe that the current Pres. Bush won't also address his party when it convenes in late August in Minneapolis. But the party faithful will be crossing their fingers. This President ends his two terms as one of the lowest rated Commanders In Chief in history, and Democrats will likely argue that there are few degrees of separation between the 43rd President and the Senator from Arizona.

As for the Republicans, the President's remarks today also signal their strategy on how to deal with Barack Obama. Despite the White House insistence that it was President Carter who was the target of Mr. Bush's remarks -- the implication was clear: Republicans will paint Sen. Obama as unprepared and naïve when it comes to foreign policy. It's not an argument they could have as easily made against Hillary Clinton, and McCain, campaign in Ohio, jumped on the President's remarks. "This does bring up an issue that we will be discussing with the American people," McCain said, "and that is why does Barack Obama .. want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism?"

He was referring to Obama's earlier statements that he'd be willing to enter discussion with Iran's leaders.

Is that a good thing or not? Depends who you are and how you feel about diplomacy. Republicans will argue that you can't trust terrorist states; Democrats will point to the quagmire of Iraq as evidence of what happens when you don't let diplomacy run its course and prematurely engage in military action.

There is, as well, the issue of courting the Jewish vote. And Republicans may be trying to raise red flags among Jews by raising doubts about Obama's policies.

It's going to be a long, interesting and perhaps not-very-pretty stretch till November.

We'll have the latest from the campaign trail, and from Israel, where our N.J. Burkett is covering events for us, tonight at 11.

We're also watching closely a huge California Supreme Court decision today that overturns that state's ban on same-sex marriages. California now becomes the second state that allows so-called "gay marriages." (Massachusetts is the other.). Tonight at 11, we'll have reaction.

Also at 11, everyone talks about political pork -- how to stop it and who gets it. Tonight, our investigative reporter, Jim Hoffer, takes a closer look at the hundreds of millions of dollars that New York State lawmakers hand out in pork spending -- money given to their individual constituents. And it's happening at a time when the budget is in deficit territory. It's an eye-opening report - and there are those who defend the spending as necessary to help small businesses.

And talk about your mess-up, in what appears to be a mistaken airfare rule filing, ABC News' Lisa Stark reports that United Airlines rolled back its $130 roundtrip fuel surcharge on most of its domestic flights today. And the first time they'll be able to rectify it is at 8 p.m. tonight. That means that if you book United Flights before 8 p.m., you'll save a cool $130.

'Nuf said.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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