White House Press Secretary Dana Perino has refuted assertions by CNN that President Bush, in a speech to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday, "[suggested] that Senator Barack Obama and other Democrats are in favor of appeasing terrorists in the same way that U.S. leaders appeased the Nazis in the run-up to World War II."
As my colleague Matthew Balan reported less than two hours ago, CNN's "American Morning" was quick to view statements made by the President as hostile to the junior senator from Illinois and other Democrats.
Yet, in a press gaggle following the President's speech, Perino flatly denied such assertions (file photo above right):
UNKNOWN QUESTIONER: There's some question about his comment here about "some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong" -- you know the passage. And he talks about the "false comfort of appeasement." This is being seen in some quarters as a slam on Senator Obama. Is this in any way directed at Senator Obama?
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is not. And I would think that all of you who cover these issues and have for a long time have known that there are many who have suggested these types of negotiations with people that President Bush thinks we should not talk to. I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you -- that is not always true and it is not true in this case.
Q: But, so, not aimed at him -- do they include him?
PERINO: He'll have to speak for himself as to what his policy is and you guys can know it well. This was a speech that the President gave to the Knesset. And this is not a new statement by President Bush. This is long-established United States policy, so it should come as no surprise that President Bush suggests that we should not be talking with these people.
Q: This is part of the election cycle, though -- was he stepping into the political cycle?
PERINO: Of course he's not -- the President is President, regardless of an election cycle. And he's going to be the President of the United States until January 20, 2009. And we are not going to change policy based on the '08 election. We're not going to stop talking about the ideals and the values of the United States because there's an '08 election. They can fight it out for themselves over there, but this is not new policy that the President announced and it should come as no surprise to anybody that the President would talk about this. He talks about it in almost every interview, and in particular when he's talking about the issues of Hamas and Hezbollah, al Qaeda, the Taliban, Iran, other state sponsors of terror. It's long-established United States policy.
Q: But you did say there are others who have enunciated a policy --
Q: -- of talk -- and he has talked about this. So why shouldn't it be seen as anything?
PERINO: I'm not going to get into '08 politics. The speech was not about '08 politics. If they want to try to make it about '08 politics -- and obviously be helped by the media -- so be it. But the President is President of the United States. This is a long-established policy that he has held and that he has talked about all over the world. And you guys have seen it for seven-and-a-half years. It's not going to change now.
As CNN correspondent Ed Henry's sources were unnamed "White House aides," it will be very interesting to see how this story plays out in the next 24 hours.