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“Viva La Incompétence!”: Boehner’s and Bibi’s Blunders ‘Liberate’ U.S. Foreign Policy From NeoCons

It’s all happening because I am completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgment I’ve ever had–George Costanza, “Seinfeld”.

President Dwight Eisenhower warned against the growing power of the military-industrial complex, but even the former 5-star general Supreme Allied Commander in World War II couldn’t do it. The quagmire of Vietnam couldn’t do it. The quicksand of Iraq couldn’t do it. The killing fields of Cambodia couldn’t do it. The Bush/Cheney failure on 9/11 couldn’t do it. Allowing bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora, and then failing to find and capture him, couldn’t do it. Allowing Pakistan to develop the “Islamic bomb” couldn’t do it.

Even the election of the Iraq invasion’s opponent as president couldn’t do it.

But, John Boehner (R-OH) has done it.

He cannot do much else, but he has achieved what no other politician could do for half a century: expose the entire Republican national security “brand” as a fraud.

Remember the pious platitudes about the first function of government to be protecting the American people? Remember the decades of demagoguery skewering Democrats as being lax on security issues, the disgusting draft-dodging Saxby Chambliss leveling that accusation on war hero and triple amputee Max Cleland (D-GA) in the waning days of a senate campaign? Recall the Bush/Cheney 2004 ads showing snarling wolves that would be unleashed against the American people if John Kerry were elected?

Now, thanks to Speaker Boehner, the Republicans have no credibility or standing on national security. None, zero, zorch, nada. The next time you hear a Republican bleating about national security, you can have a good laugh.

They were willing to leave us vulnerable, and took their threats to the brink.

A minimally competent Democratic party should be and would be screaming bloody murder. After all, Republicans are playing political games with our lives and our families’ security. Democrats would be filling the airwaves and the (now-neutral!) net non-stop, spreading the alarm to “every town, middlesex, village and farm” that Republicans will sacrifice our nation’s safety, and raise legitimate issues about their love of country.

[Not hearing that? Well, do not ignore the qualifier “minimally competent”.]

Not to be outdone, however, Bibi’s blunder is even worse for the neoconistas. At least since the Yom Kippur war in 1973, and perhaps earlier as well, it has been virtually impossible for US foreign policy to diverge in meaningful ways (i.e., those that might actually lead to peace) from Israel’s as defined by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Any president, member of Congress, or candidate who criticized Israeli policy, who even spoke about pressuring Israel was immediately pounced upon by AIPAC, carrying with it the threat of political oblivion.

Until Bibi’s blunder, support for Israel was considered to be 100% support for whatever the government of Israel du jour decided to do.

The political price to be paid for deviating from that support was always more of the myth than reality. American Jews, although backing Israel, nevertheless vote more on economic and social issues than they do on competing claims of which candidates are helping Israel more.

Now, that myth is exposed. President Obama and many Democrats are shunning Bibi, but not wavering in their support of Israel. They refuse to be pawns in his political games to win the Israeli election. They refuse to scuttle prematurely the opportunity of avoiding another major armed conflict. They refuse to compromise the moral authority the US will have achieved by going the last mile with Iran if the negotiations fail.

From this day forth, presidents and members of Congress can oppose new settlements on the West Bank as impediments to peace without waiting until their retirements. They can let the Israelis know that our support is strong, but that we have expectations of them, too, that need to be honored.

Thanks to John Boehner (R-OH), Republicans have relinquished their (specious) claim to caring more and fighting harder to perform government’s primary mission, safety and security. Fearmongering 101 is not only no longer available to them, it will be fodder for mockery.

And, thanks to Bibi, liberated from the need to express support for everything any Israeli government does as a measure of how much they support Israel, the US will now become a more effective partner to bring peace and security to Israel and dignity to Palestinians.

Bibi has neglected to realize that Americans, like other people, do not appreciate a foreign leader who deliberately tries to embarrass the President, just like foreign countries tend not to enjoy being invaded and occupied.

There has always been a segment of the population who cannot abide a black man in the White House, especially exercising the powers of his office. The visual images rankle. [Obama is not just the first person of color to be president, he is the first black man ever to rule a white majority nation]. Some of that same segment, however, may find themselves for the first time siding emotionally with him as President when an Israeli (yes, Jewish) leader tries to embarrass him.

By asserting American priorities and not being cowed by Bibi’s influence in the US, the President will gain support among the American people, not just from his own base, but from die-hard opponents as well, exactly the opposite of what Bibi wanted.

Achieving the precise opposite of one’s intended outcome is one definition of incompetence. The US adventures in Vietnam and Iraq spring immediately to mind.

Boehner’s and Bibi’s blunders have liberated US foreign policy from the iron grip of the neoconistas.

Viva la incompétence!

 

By: Paul Abrams, The Blog, The Hufington Post, February 28, 2015

March 1, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, John Boehner, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ham Handed Politics”: Netanyahu Becomes Political Player, So Kerry Treats Him Like One

Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill yesterday, and going into the hearing, it was widely expected that he’d tout the importance of international nuclear talks with Iran. He did exactly that, though he also went a little further in challenging a critic of those talks.

Secretary of State John Kerry reminded Americans on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who is expected to denounce a potential nuclear deal with Iran during an address to Congress next week, also visited Washington in late 2002 to lobby for the invasion of Iraq.

Apparently referring to testimony on the Middle East that Mr. Netanyahu delivered to Congress on Sept. 12, 2002, when he was a private citizen, Mr. Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “The prime minister, as you will recall, was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision.”

In 2002, Netanyahu assured lawmakers that invading Iraq was a great idea. “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region,” he said at the time.

We now know, of course, that Netanyahu’s guarantee was spectacularly wrong, which matters insofar as credibility still counts – the same Israeli leader is now telling lawmakers an international agreement with Iran would be a disaster for the United States and its allies. Kerry’s point wasn’t subtle: those who were this wrong before probably shouldn’t be trusted to be right now.

There’s something almost refreshing about this. Note, there’s nothing personal or even electoral about the administration’s message – Kerry didn’t offer some prolonged complaint about Netanyahu and the Israeli elections, or the unprecedented nature of the prime minister’s partnership with congressional Republicans.

It’s far more straightforward. Netanyahu has positioned himself as a participant in a policy debate and, at the same time, he’s claiming great credibility on the subject matter. The White House is responding in kind, treating Netanyahu as a policy rival.

What’s wrong with this? Actually, nothing.

We’re accustomed to foreign heads of state, at least publicly, approaching these kinds of disagreements with great care and delicacy, but the Israeli leader has forgone the usual route and is engaging in a fight as if he were just another political pugilist.

Netanyahu effectively told Obama and his team, “I’m going to try to derail American foreign policy,” to which administration officials have replied, “And we’re going to try to stop you.”

In yesterday’s case, that meant doing a little research and presenting lawmakers with a reminder about Netanyahu’s track record.

Kerry’s comments came soon after Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) announced he will not attend the Israeli prime minister’s speech next week, calling the event “highly inappropriate.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who is Jewish and represents a district with a large Jewish population, also said yesterday she’ll skip the joint-session of address, criticizing “the ham-handed politics” surrounding the Netanyahu/Republican partnership.

Barring an unexpected change, the Israeli leader will be on the House floor for his speech on Tuesday, March 3. As of yesterday, 25 House Democrats and four members of the Senate Democratic caucus have said they will not be there.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 26, 2015

February 27, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Congress, John Kerry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Rolling Disaster Of John Boehner’s Speakership”: He’s Sure To Be Known As One Of The Weakest Speakers In American History

For years now, John Boehner’s continued occupation of the House speakership has been in doubt. Would the tea partyers evict him in a coup? Would he simply not want this thankless task anymore? The presumption, which I’ve always shared, is that Boehner is in a nearly impossible position. Pressed by a large right flank that sees any compromise as a betrayal, he is constrained from making the deals necessary to pass legislation. While Mitch McConnell can successfully corral his caucus to vote as a unified bloc, the one over which Boehner presides contains so many extremists and cranks that it’s just impossible to hold together.

All of that is true. But might it also be true that Boehner is just terrible at his job?

Look at the two stories about Boehner making the rounds today, both of which were addressed in an appearance he made on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday. The first is the possibility of a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security if Congress can’t pass a bill to fund the department. At a moment when the news is being dominated by terrorism, both in the Middle East and in Europe, a shutdown would be a PR disaster for the GOP (even if, in reality, the key functions of the department would continue with little interruption). The House passed a bill to fund the department, including a provision revoking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Everyone knows that such a bill is going nowhere — it failed to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, and even if it had, Obama has made clear that he’ll veto it.

Asked repeatedly by host Chris Wallace whether the House would revisit the Homeland Security spending bill, Boehner kept repeating that “The House has done its job.” And he couldn’t have been clearer on the possibility of a shutdown:

WALLACE: And what if the Department of Homeland Security funding runs out?

BOEHNER: Well, then, Senate Democrats should be to blame. Very simply.

WALLACE: And you’re prepared to let that happen?

BOEHNER: Certainly. The House has acted. We’ve done our job.

Boehner can say “Senate Democrats should be to blame,” but that won’t make it so. Everyone knows how this is going to end: Both houses are going to pass a “clean” spending bill, which Obama will sign. The only question is whether there’s a department shutdown along the way. If and when that happens, Republicans are going to be blamed, just as they were when they forced a total government shutdown in 2013. His calculation now seems to be the same as it was then: I’ll force a shutdown to show the tea partyers that I’m being tough and standing up to Obama, and then once it becomes clear that we’re getting the blame, that’ll give me the room to end the crisis by giving in and allowing the vote that will bring everything to a close. It’s not exactly a strategy to maximize his party’s political gain.

That brings us to the second ongoing PR catastrophe Boehner has engineered, the upcoming speech to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both here and in Israel, where Netanyahu faces an election next month, the speech has been roundly condemned for politicizing the relationship between the two countries, essentially turning the Israeli prime minister into a partisan Republican coming to the U.S. to campaign against President Obama’s approach to negotiating with Iran about their nuclear program. Worst of all, Boehner invited Netanyahu to make the speech without informing the White House, a bit of foreign policy usurpation that people in both parties find somewhere between inappropriate and outrageous. Here’s how Boehner talked about it yesterday:

BOEHNER: And then when it comes to the threat of Iran having a nuclear weapon — these are important messages that the Congress needs to hear and the American people need to hear. And I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu is the perfect person to deliver the message of how serious this threat is.

WALLACE: But when you talk with [Israeli ambassador] Ron Dermer about inviting Netanyahu, you told him specifically not to tell the White House.

Why would you do that, sir?

BOEHNER: Because I wanted to make sure that there was no interference. There’s no secret here in Washington about the animosity that this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu. And I frankly didn’t want them getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.

WALLACE: But it has created a — if not a firestorm, certainly a controversy here. It has a created a controversy in Israel. And shouldn’t the relationship between the U.S. and Israel be outside of politics?

BOEHNER: It’s an important message that the American people need to hear. I’m glad that he’s coming and I’m looking forward to what he has to say.

It may be that by now Boehner thinks that having come this far, he can’t rescind the invitation without making the whole thing look even worse. That’s possible, but by making the invitation in the first place, and keeping it secret from the administration, he created a truly epic blunder, one that not only makes him look bad but also damages American foreign policy interests.

So on the whole, Boehner is managing to combine legislative incompetence with PR incompetence. He’s already sure to be known as one of the weakest speakers in American history, for at least some reasons that are out of his control. But he might also be known as one of the least effective. Perhaps no one could have done a better job in his place, but since no other Republican seems to want the job, we may never know.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, February 15, 2015

February 17, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Ultimate Slap”: How Obama Can Stick It To Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu says he’s definitely coming to Washington to deliver a speech about Iran to a joint session of Congress. He’ll almost certainly oppose a nuclear deal whose details aren’t public yet. The whole “tawdry and high-handed stunt,” as Senator Patrick Leahy put it, will be correctly read as an insult to the president.

So how best for Obama to make his displeasure known? He’s already denied Netanyahu an audience. But if Obama really wants to stick it to the Israeli prime minister, he should fight to ink a deal with Iran before the March speech on Capitol Hill. That would dare Netanyahu to come and forcefully denounce a major global foreign policy achievement.

Democrats, at least, will be loathe to turn their backs on Obama. The speech already faces stiff opposition from the party—fifteen members of the House and three senators are on board for a boycott. Even some right-leaning pro-Israel groups, if the current rifts among the Israel lobby are any indication, might not openly revolt against a deal.

What Obama has going for him is the ability to correctly cast this an issue of avoiding a confrontation with Iran rather than seeking one. It worked last year when Obama beat back a sanctions bill that would’ve quashed talks, and it will work this time. Imagine Netanyahu declaring, as he did after the interim deal with Iran, that an comprehensive accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program is a “historic mistake” when Obama has half the American body politic at his back.

What’s more, the international community is on Obama’s side, too, and Netanyahu knows it. In his statement yesterday, affirming the trip amid all the pressure, Netanyahu mentioned his “profound disagreement with the United States administration and the rest of the P5+1”—referring to the US’s international partners in Iran talks. Last week, Netanyahu vowed to “stand up to Iran and the international community.”

The most onerous maneuvering for Obama, then, isn’t managing politics, domestic or international, but getting the deal itself. This, however, might not be as difficult as it sounds. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hinted this week at how close the sides came to an agreement when he said at a security conference in Munich that the last extension of talks in November wasn’t “necessary or useful.”

The extension, though, was useful for Obama: whereas in November his party was coming off a beating in midterm elections, today the economy is in better shape and Obama seems to be feeling his oats. The sort of swagger he showed in the State of the Union address will only serve to help the president sell an agreement.

Ironically, the most detailed information the public has about a potential nuclear deal comes through Israeli officials, who are informed by the United States and its negotiating partners about talks, then go leak it to the press. Even if the Israelis are releasing accurate information about the negotiations—something they have a spotty record on—the fear-mongering about the likely outcome doesn’t capture its complexity.

Luckily for Obama, as things are lining up opponents of a deal aren’t themselves much interested in nuance and complexity. Aside from a few hardline pro-Israel Democrats, most of the opposition will come from Republicans and hawks in the Bill Kristol mode—in other words, those who, like Netanyahu himself, have poor records on matters of war and peace.

When the administration comes out and focuses on how opponents of a deal are pushing the United States to war, the hawks will object that they are being labeled warmongers. The administration isn’t quite making the “warmonger” argument, but the salient point is that killing a deal would bring us closer to confrontation. That’s why inking a deal ASAP would be good policy, and why it’s the high road to delivering the ultimate slap to Netanyahu.

 

By: Ali Gharib, The Nation, February 11, 2015

February 14, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Congress, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Boehner We Trusted”: Netanyahu Throws Boehner Under The Bus; Biden To Skip Speech

There’s been scuttlebutt all week about congressional Democrats skipping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech as a way to send a message about the party’s disappointment. The way in which Netanyahu and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) went behind President Obama’s back, and partnered to undermine U.S. foreign policy, does not sit well with many Dems, and even an informal boycott of his congressional address would be a big deal.

Those Democrats inclined to skip the Prime Minister’s remarks will apparently have some cover.

Vice President Joe Biden is expected not to attend a March 3 speech at the Capitol by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because he will be traveling abroad, Biden’s office confirmed to NBC News Friday.

It is not clear yet where Biden will be traveling at the time of Netanyahu’s speech, which has become controversial both because of its proximity to the Israeli elections and because it was planned by Republicans without prior consultation with the White House.

The second part is of particular interest. As the AP’s report notes, the Vice President’s office didn’t point to a specific commitment abroad on March 3, only that Biden is “expected to be traveling.” The office didn’t say where or why.

It’s hardly unreasonable to wonder if this is the diplomatic equivalent of, “I’m washing my hair – somewhere.”

Just as striking, meanwhile, is the degree to which Netanyahu’s administration appears to be throwing the Republican leadership under the bus.

A senior Israeli official suggested on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been misled into thinking an invitation to address the U.S. Congress on Iran next month was fully supported by the Democrats. […]

“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,” Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told 102 FM Tel Aviv Radio on Friday.

Or to put it another way, “We totally trusted Boehner to do this the right way; he didn’t; so blame him for this fiasco.”

We talked the other day about this increasingly messy problem, and the growing debate as to who screwed up more; Boehner or Netanyahu. These latest comments from a senior Israeli official suggest the Prime Minister is eager to tilt the scales in the GOP leader’s direction.

That said, in the same interview Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi suggested Netanyahu’s speech will go forward as planned. The question now is how many Democrats intend to show up.

I’ve generally been skeptical about whether a large-scale boycott would come together – a few House Dems have announced their intention to stay away, though it’s a pretty small group – but the news about Vice President Biden may very well change the entire dynamic for Democrats.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 8, 2015

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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