May 15 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush stirred up the campaign to replace him by suggesting on Thursday that Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama’s pledge to talk to Iran’s leader represented "the false comfort of appeasement."
Following is reaction to Bush’s comments:
BARACK OBAMA, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND ILLINOIS SENATOR
"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 6Oth anniversary of Israel’s independence to launch a false political attack.
"It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel. Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power — including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy — to pressure countries like Iran and Syria.
"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."
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, CONNECTICUT INDEPENDENT SENATOR
"President Bush got it exactly right today when he warned about the threat of Iran and its terrorist proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah. It is imperative that we reject the flawed and naive thinking that denies or dismisses the words of extremists and terrorists.
"It is critical to our national security that our commander in chief is able to distinguish between America’s friends and America’s enemies, and not confuse the two."
JOSEPH BIDEN, DELAWARE DEMOCRATIC SENATOR
"It’s absolutely outrageous what he said."
Biden said if Bush felt that way, he should return home and fire both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had both favored talks with Iran under certain conditions.
"For him to call those who rightly see the need for change, appeasers, is truly delusional and for him to do it abroad is truly disgraceful."
JOHN KERRY, MASSACHUSETTS DEMOCRATIC SENATOR
"George Bush should be making Israel secure, not slandering Barack Obama from the Knesset. If George Bush believes engagement with Iran is appeasement, the first thing he should do when he comes home is demand the resignation of his own cabinet. Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice have both favored negotiations with Iran."
"The bottom line is that George Bush’s policies have made America less safe. The Middle East is more unstable than it’s been in decades. Al Qaeda is reconstituted, Israel is more threatened, Hamas controls Gaza, Hezbollah threatens to take over Lebanon, Iran is stronger and Iraq is in chaos.
"America needs — and Israel deserves — presidential leadership that actually makes us safer and stronger."
NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND CALIFORNIA DEMOCRAT
"We have a protocol, sort of a custom, informally around here that we don’t criticize the president when he is on foreign soil. One would think that that would apply to the president that he would not criticize Americans when he is on foreign soil.
"I think what the president said in that regard is beneath the dignity of the office of the president and unworthy of our representation at that observance in Israel.
"I would hope that any serious person would disassociate himself from the president’s remarks who aspires to leadership in our country."
JOHN MCCAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND ARIZONA SENATOR
McCain did not repeat the word "appeasement" but he criticized Obama’s foreign-policy approach of being willing to speak directly to U.S. foes. He singled out Iran, questioning why a U.S. president would want to talk to someone like Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"It is a serious error on the part of Sen. Obama. It shows naivete and inexperience and lack of judgment to say that he wants to sit down across the table from an individual who leads a country that says that Israel is a stinking corpse (and) that is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel. My question is, what does he want to talk about?" (Reporting by Deborah Charles, Richard Cowan, Caren Bohan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Philip Barbara)