These two were made for each other. Yiddish describes them best. Netanyahu is a schnorrer, the perpetually uninvited guest that always wants more. Boehner is a schnook, the not-so-bright dupe. Skulking around in the shadows for six weeks, Boehner and Netanyahu hit upon a scheme to benefit each other individually and undermine American foreign policy.
The vehicle: an invitation from Boehner to Netanyahu to address a Joint Session of Congress on February 11. Netanyahu said, “Make it March 3.” Boehner, the perfect schnook, dutifully complied. No heads up was given to the Democratic leadership in Congress or to the White House. Legal? Yes, but absolutely unprecedented.
Netanyahu has an election in Israel on March 17. It’s going to be close. A high-profile speech and a poke in Obama’s eye helps him with his base back home. Why not weasel an invitation out of Boehner to address a Joint Session of Congress where he can insert himself into American foreign policy and try to queer any possibility of peace breaking out with Iran? Plus, the timing is elegant … two weeks before the election back home.
In Netanyahu’s mind, isn’t that what people like Boehner are supposed to do for people like him. Serve Netanyahu’s needs as directed. No need to worry about Obama. He’s already given Netanyahu all he could and, he’s so yesterday. Right, Bibi?
Boehner is a completely incompetent Speaker of the House. Last week, with 200,000 people in Washington for a pro-life march on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Boehner couldn’t hold his totally pro-life caucus together to pass a totally pro-life bill.
Boehner knew the exact day the bill was supposed to go to the floor for a vote. He had a full year to work out the language and get all his people on board. That’s what a Speaker does.
It was too much for him. Everything fell apart. The bill was pulled. That’s incompetent. Boehner holds his caucus together with symbolic votes (repeal Obamacare), never asking anybody to take a difficult stand and muttering, “Hell no” every now and then.
For Boehner, making the House Chamber available to Netanyahu to speak before a Joint Session of Congress was right in his wheelhouse. It will help with fundraising. (Will Boehner give up his chair behind the rostrum to Sheldon Adelson?) It will give his caucus the impression that he’s actually doing something. And, most of all, it requires no heavy lifting on his part.
So far, the most forceful opponent of this sleazebag stunt has been Democrat Minority Leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi was a great Speaker … tough and fair. When policy was decided in the Democratic caucus, she brought enacting legislation to the floor, and it passed. Always.
Plus she had too much respect for the House of Representatives as an institution to bestow the high honor of an address to a Joint Session of Congress without consultation with the opposition party and the executive branch.
This is a developing story. At first glance, it looks like typical inside Washington bickering and jockeying for position. There’s more to it than meets the eye. Much more to it than meets the eye. Consider:
1. Addressing a Joint Session of Congress is a distinct honor. The only foreign leader or dignitary to do so three times is Winston Churchill. Nelson Mandela spoke twice, and the Queen of England, once. Martin Luther King was never accorded that honor. This will be Netanyahu’s third appearance. That stinks.
2. The US and Israel have different positions with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. The US position is that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. The Israeli position is that Iran will not achieve the capacity to ever get a nuclear weapon. In furtherance of their goal, they want whatever nuclear capacity Iran has dismantled.
3. There are some in Congress who believe, as Mitt Romney said in 2012, that, “There should never be any daylight” between the United States and Israel on foreign policy and national security matters. Really. That’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.
4. Israel’s most ferocious supporters in Congress want to pass legislation imposing additional sanctions on Iran if an agreement on their nuclear program is not reached within a specified time. This will have the effect of blowing up the negotiations and increasing the likelihood of war … a result Israel would not find displeasing as long as the United States does the fighting.
5. If a sanction bill passes Congress, Obama will veto it. And when Congress seeks to override his veto, Obama will campaign throughout the country to have his veto upheld. That could result in a bare-knuckled brawl in public, pitting Barack Obama against the Adelson/Netanyahu wing of the Israel lobby.
6. I have to believe that cooler heads in the greater Israel support community will conclude, as we get closer to March 3, that Netanyahu has overreached, and a face-saving way will be found to “reschedule” his appearance.
I will post again on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 (or before, if the news flow dictates) and, for the time being, I will try to post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.