Barack Obama has reacted swiftly after President George Bush issued a thinly disguised but emotionally charged attack on him, declaring that talking to "terrorists and radicals" was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis.
Mr Obama, who is on the verge of winning the Democratic nomination, shot back at Mr Bush, accusing him of distorting his position in his address to the Israeli Knesset.
"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," he said.
"George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the President's extraordinary politicisation of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel."
The White House denied that Mr Bush's words were intended for Mr Obama who has said that, as president, he will meet Iran's leaders and those of other regimes on the United States blacklist.
In his remarks, Mr Bush said: "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."
He did not cite Mr Obama by name, but the President's target was clear as he plunged headlong into the history books, using emotionally charged language to compare the Democratic front-runner to Second World War appeasers. "We have heard this foolish delusion before," said Mr Bush. "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."
The White House press secretary Dana Perino added insult to injury while denying that the remarks were aimed at Mr Obama. "I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you," said Ms Perino. "That is not always true. And it is not true in this case."
From ending the war in Iraq to negotiating with the leaders of states the US does not agree with, Mr Obama has made clear that he intends to rip up the eight years of Mr Bush's foreign policy, should he win the White House in November. On yesterday's evidence Mr Bush is prepared to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to do whatever it takes to keep Mr Obama out of the White House.
For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08
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