As far as political reactions go, it was a weird one. President Bush gave a beautiful and moving speech in the capital of Israel to give voice to America's solidarity with the Jewish state. He reached back to Herzl and beyond, declaring that the establishment of the State of Israel was, as the president put it, "the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people ..." "Israel's population," Mr. Bush said, "may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you."
So how did the Democrats react? They seized on one fragment of Mr. Bush's speech — "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. 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." And the Democrats took that language as a personal affront.
The speed with which Democrats recognized themselves in that particular paragraph is telling. The president later said he wasn't talking about them, but they insisted he was. "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," Senator 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."
In fact Senator Obama has promised to meet with the leaders of Iran, who are terrorists, and with the leader of North Korea, which is on the State Department's terrorist list and which provided nuclear assistance to the terror-sponsoring state of Syria. If Mr. Obama doesn't think the leaders of Iran are terrorists, he's really not ready to answer that 3 a.m. phone call in the White House. To his credit Mr. Obama has said he won't meet with Hamas, but his promise to meet with Hamas's masters in Tehran undermines that position, as both Senator McCain and Senator Clinton have pointed out.
In any event, it was a moving thing for many of us to hear Mr. Bush speak so clearly and eloquently and to speak so affectionately of the man, in Ariel Sharon, with whom he once exchanged pointed words about the meaning of Munich. That was days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when Mr. Sharon, then prime minister, warned that Israel "will not be Czechoslovakia." At the time, Mr. Bush took it as an insult and was hurt, but he embraced the lesson of Munich in a way that has rarely been matched.
This is something to think about on the eve of our own election. Painful though it may have been for Mr. Obama to sense himself as the object of Mr. Bush's remarks, no one need rule out the possibility that, should the Democrat gain the White House, he will also gain an appreciation of what Mr. Bush has comprehended so clearly and of the nature of the covenant of which the president gave such an eloquent expression.