If House Speaker John Boehner thought he was pulling a fast one inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak next month on Iran before a joint session of Congress, without first running it by the White House (delighting conservatives everywhere for what appeared to be a sock in the jaw to the President), he’s been foiled again.
The White House was less than pleased; Democrats are threatening to boycott the speech; Vice President Joe Biden just isn’t going to be able to make it, as he’s going to be very busy that day in another country, somewhere, doing Something Very Important (a “something” that has yet to be disclosed); and Bibi Netanyahu, far from cuddling under Boehner’s protective wing and going forward with the Biden-and-Democrat-light speech, folded under pressure, announcing through a spokesperson,
It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one sided move and not a move by both sides.
Boehner’s move was a breach of protocol that had pundits scratching their heads. In a shameless pander to far right conservatives for whom any slight to the President is viewed with glee, Boehner over-reached. There he stands, egg on his face, while the guy he went out on a limb for, Netanyahu, is feigning outrage at the breach of protocol and pleading the 5th. As weeks go, Boehner’s not likely to rate this one in his top five. As Kevin Drum at Mother Jones noted, “You almost feel sorry for the guy sometimes.” Well, maybe . . . or, you know, probably not. After all, when integrity flies out the window, lots of other nice things tend to follow it.
The most likely scenario is that Boehner and Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. (who was a Republican before becoming an Israeli citizen) put their heads together and concluded that this bypassing thing was just the right kick in the teeth to President Obama. Chuckles and snorts over drinks, maybe, and a plan was hatched. This wasn’t, however, a well thought out plan. Neither of them anticipated the extent of the backlash – from Congressional Democrats, to Vice President Biden, to experts on American-Israeli relations. Boehner’s embarrassment – along with Netanyahu’s grumpy attitude – will only intensify next month if Netanyahu is forced to give a speech on an important foreign policy issue to a half-empty Chamber.
Republicans might at present hold both chambers of Congress, which has them feeling spirited. But President Obama’s poll numbers are on the rise, his speeches are rife with scorn toward Republican lawmakers, and he’s clearly not feeling a bit defeated. This makes Republicans very grumpy, as they had visions of sugarplums and a hangdog President following the mid-terms. Although they won’t learn from it – because they never do – Republicans, in the wee hours of the night when all is quiet and they’re alone with their thoughts, are no doubt squirming at failing again and again at the task they thought would be so simple: Humbling President Obama.
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