Throughout the day on Thursday, CNN carried the water for the Democrats and portayed President Bush’s "appeasement" remarks before the Knesset in Israel as an attack on Barack Obama. "The Situation Room" host Wolf Blitzer began his program by stating that "President Bush slams Barack Obama from Israel." Senior political analyst Gloria Borger quipped, "I know that the White House press secretary says they were not talking about Barack Obama, but of course they were." Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin remarked, "I think this is straight out of the usual Republican playbook." Jack Cafferty struck hard: "He is beyond irrelevant and he's not going to scare anybody. He just babbles away like Eliot Spitzer talking about matrimonial fidelity. It's a joke." CNN’s other senior political analyst, David Gergen, reminisced, "I can't remember as brazen a political shot by a President overseas in a political race back home... an especially jagged kind of criticism."
No Republican appeared on the network to talk about the President’s remarks until the bottom half of the 4 pm hour of "The Situation Room," when former Romney press secretary Kevin Madden appeared along side of Democratic strategist Jennifer Palmieri. In terms of guests, CNN had more Democrats on to talk about the subject than Republicans, by a figure of five to three. Obama campaign communications director Robert Gibbs appeared on "American Morning" within an hour of President Bush’s speech. The other Democrats were Senators John Kerry and Joe Biden, and Jimmy Carter’s appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission Mary Frances Berry. The other Republicans were Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and strategist Ed Rollins.
Correspondent Ed Henry’s live report from Jerusalem during the 9 am Eastern hour of "Newsroom" essentially mirrored the Democrats’ talking points, about an hour after CNN’s initial channeling of the Democrat’s outrage. After playing a clip of the President’s speech, Henry stated, "Now, that's where the tough talk is, suggesting there's appeasement, right now, the Democrats are advocating of terrorists and comparing that directly to what U.S. leaders did with Nazi leaders in the run-up to World War II.... What the White House would say is that Barack Obama has advocated more broad diplomatic talks with Iran, Syria, other nations like that. But it's worth noting that this administration itself has, at a lower level, sat down with Iranian officials in recent months." Many Democratic officials made that exact same point throughout the day on Thursday.
"The Situation Room" host Wolf Blitzer opened his show at the top of the 4 pm hour with the following monologue: "Happening now, President Bush slams Barack Obama from Israel. He suggests if elected, Obama would appease terrorists the same way European leaders appeased Hitler. Obama says President Bush knows he doesn't want to negotiate with terrorists and he's launching a false political attack. But other Democrats use far more colorful words." Yet, as has been consistently pointed out, President Bush didn’t even use Obama’s name in his speech. The "colorful words" phrase was a vague reference to Joe Biden’s "BS" response to the President’s remarks. Senator Biden, as noted earlier, appeared later on "The Situation Room" during the 6 pm hour of the program.
In the segment following Blitzer’s interview of Biden, the CNN host moderated a panel discussion with three of his frequent contributors: CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and resident curmudgeon Jack Cafferty. Borger quipped, "I think the President was clearly criticizing the Democrats.... And so, it's clear that by implication -- if not directly -- he was taking on the Democrats on this issue. They knew what they were doing. I know that the White House press secretary says they were not talking about Barack Obama, but of course they were."
Toobin then responded, "I think this is straight out of the usual Republican playbook, which is Democrats are weak on defense." Cafferty brought up Bush’s low approval ratings and compared the President to a former governor involved in a sex scandal. "Seventy percent have given him the highest disapproval rating of any president in modern American history. He is beyond irrelevant and he's not going to scare anybody. He just babbles away like Eliot Spitzer talking about matrimonial fidelity. It's a joke."
Earlier, during the 5 pm hour of "The Situation Room," Blitzer asked Fareed Zakaria, CNN’s "world affairs analyst" and editor of Newsweek International, "What do you make of what President Bush said in the Knesset today on this the 60th anniversary of Israel regarding those who say the U.S. should be sitting down with leaders like those leaders in Iran and making the comparison to appeasement and the Nazis leading up to World War II?" Zakaria’s answer essentially repeated what Ed Henry said earlier.
ZAKARIA: It was an extraordinarily political statement to make at an event like that. I was actually quite struck by it. It's also somewhat ahistorical. The President has authorized American diplomats to talk to the Iranians in Iraq. They talked to them in Afghanistan. They talked to them in Bonn, Germany, during the founding of the Afghan government, during which the Iranians and Americans worked together. The President's own Secretary of Defense is right now arguing that we should be talking to the Iranians. So in that context to make that kind of characterization and to call it ‘appeasement,’ tied to Hitler or talking to Hitler was striking, and it seemed to me very political.
Both Blitzer and Zakaria glossed over the fact that President Bush didn’t even use the word "leaders" or even mention the Iranian in his remarks. The President’s words: "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."
During the last program of the day, "Anderson Cooper 360," host Anderson Cooper moderated his own panel discussion on the issue, which included the aforementioned Ed Rollins and Mary Frances Berry, as well CNN political analyst David Gergen. Outside of Jack Cafferty’s earlier bomb-throwing, Gergen gave the most vehement attack on the President’s remarks by a CNN contributor.
DAVID GERGEN: I can't remember as brazen a political shot by a President overseas in a political race back home, and especially, going to Israel and talking about Hitler, that had a poignance that I think made it an especially jagged kind of criticism.
Overall, I must say, Anderson, I think that what Bush did today and what John McCain did today was a gift to Barack Obama. Because Barack Obama has wanted to pivot out of this long struggle with Hillary Clinton and to get over to the issue -- the issue differences with John McCain, including national security. And not let John McCain do as well as he's been doing on his record of valor and his long experience in national security, as Ed Rollins just pointed out, but to actually engage him on the issues. And on this issue of talking to other countries, I think for goodness sakes, the Bush administration, after not talking a long time, claims as one of its proudest accomplishments that it got Gadhafi and Libya to give up its nuclear aspirations, its nuclear ambitions. How did they do that? They did that through diplomacy. This was a terrorist state that sponsored -- you know, that brought down airplanes. You know, they eventually decided to negotiate with North Korea after the North Koreans began building up nuclear capabilities.
You know, so there's -- Barack Obama, as long as he's careful about this, as long as he's -- you know, as long as he's much more precise than he was during the early stages of the campaign, I think actually has a very good set of arguments to make here. And to get George W. Bush into the middle of his campaign, from his point of view, is a gift.