The dispute centers on a part of Bush's speech to Israel's parliament on May 15. In it, he spoke of the hostility against Israel by the Islamist groups Hamas and Hizballah, and of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
And then came the remark that proved so explosive back home:
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush said. "We've heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of 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 Democratic Party, which hopes to capture the White House in November's election, reacted with outrage. That's because its presidential front-runner, Senator Barack Obama, has said he would be willing to meet with leaders of hostile nations such as Iran.
Obama's fellow senator, Joseph Biden, called Bush's remarks "bull****."
'Politics Of Fear'
In a statement, Obama accused Bush of engaging in the "politics of fear" and of launching a "false political attack." He said he had never supported engagement with terrorists.
And the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, another top Democrat, said Bush's remarks were "beneath the dignity" of his office.
"We have a protocol, a custom, informally around here, that we don't criticize the president when he's on foreign soil," Pelosi said. "One would think that would apply to the president, that he would not criticize Americans when he is on foreign soil. I think what the president did in that regard was beneath the dignity of the office of the president and unworthy of our representation at that observance in Israel. And I would hope that any serious person would disassociate himself from the president's remarks, who aspires to leadership in our country."
That last remark appeared to be aimed at John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate in the November presidential election.
McCain didn't address the "appeasement" comment, instead calling Obama naive for being willing to meet Ahmadinejad.
As for the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush's remarks were general and that the president had not singled out Obama. Sometimes, she said, a candidate running for office mistakenly thinks "the world revolves" around him.
With wire service reports