Running against Neville Chamberlain

By Tim Grieve

Published August 2, 2004 8:37PM (EDT)

Watching the Democrats in Boston last week, it was hard not to be struck by just how hawkish the party's leadership has become. Again and again in the Fleet Center and all around it, Kerry, Edwards and the small army of retired generals who support them made it clear that they will not hesitate to use military force to fight terrorist threats.

The White House chose to hear a different message from Boston: the Democrats want to "appease" the terrorists. "See, evidently some must think that you can negotiate with them, you can talk sense with them, you can hope that they change," President Bush said during his Rose Garden appearance Monday morning. Vice President Cheney, speaking at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, warned that al Qaida "is not a foe we can reason with, or negotiate with, or appease. This is . . . an enemy that we must vanquish."

While we can't claim to have listened with rapt attention to every word of every speech delivered in Boston last week, we sure can't remember hearing anybody say anything about negotiating with terrorists. And of course, the last time the United States did negotiate with terrorists, a Republican, Ronald Reagan, was in the White House.

Where did the Bush-Cheney machine get the idea that Kerry would negotiate with or appease terrorists? CNN's Judy Woodruff put that question to White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett Monday. He responded by changing the subject to the "explaining" Kerry must do about his votes on the Iraq war.

The Kerry campaign called the White House "appeaser" smear a "shame." Appearing on CNN just after Bartlett spoke, Kerry foreign policy advisor Jamie Rubin said that the Bush-Cheney campaign is "inventing and fabricating an argument that doesn't exist."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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