Water’s Edge

WATER’S EDGE….Over at American Footprints, Haggai has a comment about President Bush’s speech to the Knesset on Thursday:

While it might be true that Bush just took “the basically unprecedented step of lashing out at his domestic political opponents in a speech to a foreign parliament,” why does it matter where he made the speech? Why should we care about that particular aspect of it?

Let’s surmise this scenario: Obama becomes president and ends up in the circumstance of visiting Israel to advance negotiations on a peace agreement, while simultaneously drawing down American forces from Iraq. Let’s say he gives a speech there talking about both of those things, and he argues for why American withdrawal from Iraq is better for Israel than the policies of the previous administration, including an argument about why invading Iraq in the first place was not beneficial to America or to Israel. Surely Republicans would cry foul about the U.S. president slamming his domestic opposition on foreign soil, but would any of us liberals be against it? I sure wouldn’t be.

I think this business about politics stopping at water’s edge has always been overblown, honored more in the breach than the observance. Regardless, though, I agree with Haggai: if this rule ever made sense, it doesn’t anymore. Travel is too ubiquitous, television and the internet are too global, and audiences are too sophisticated for this to matter much anymore. Everyone in the world already knows how Bush and Obama feel about talking with various international bad actors because they see see it on TV every day. 24/7 cable news has made the distinction of where something is said mostly obsolete and the symbology of showing a united front on foreign soil little more than a quaint relic of an earlier age.

What Bush said was ridiculous, but the fact that he said in Israel didn’t make it any worse. It may have had a good run, but it’s time to officially retire the water’s edge rule.