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“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

“Phony Hawkery”: Paul Ryan Is A Conservative Ideologue Who Couches “Right Wing Social Engineering”

This is something that other people have mentioned, and Jamelle brings up in his extremely helpful post about Paul Ryan, but it really needs to be emphasized: Paul Ryan is not a “deficit hawk.” No matter how many times the news media tell us, it doesn’t make it true. As I’ve said before, you can’t call yourself a deficit hawk if the only programs you want to cut are the ones you don’t like anyway. Show me someone who’s willing to cut programs he favors (Ryan isn’t), and would actually take potentially painful measures to balance the budget (Ryan wouldn’t), and that’s a deficit hawk. Ryan, on the other hand, is a conservative ideologue who couches what Newt Gingrich appropriately called “right-wing social engineering” in a lot of talk about making tough choices. But I’ve never actually seen Paul Ryan make a “tough” choice, at least one that was tough for him. There’s nothing “tough” about a conservative Republican who tells you he wants to slash Medicare and Medicaid, increase defense spending, and cut taxes for the wealthy. That’s like Homer Simpson telling you he’s making the tough choice to skip the salad and eat three dozen donuts instead.

But oh boy, have the media ever bought into the idea of Ryan as the courageous budget-cutter. “A Beltway Budget Hawk Gets a Chance to Sell Vision” says The Wall Street Journal. “Paul Ryan: Hawk on Budget and Tea Party Darling” says the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We know Paul Ryan is a budget hawk. But what about other issues?” says the Christian Science Monitor. And that’s just a few headlines; there are hundreds of stories referring to Ryan as a “fiscal hawk,” a “budget hawk,” and a “deficit hawk.”

So why does he get described this way so often? I think it’s because the establishment media have become devoted to a particular narrative, which says that the country is deeply threatened by the future growth of Social Security and Medicare, and anyone who has the “courage” to propose cuts to those programs is a hero (Time‘s Michael Grunwald did an excellent examination last year of all kinds of people weirdly praising Ryan’s courage). And even if, like Ryan, you also want to slash taxes and increase the deficit, you’re still a hero.

It’s strange how you never see the members of the congressional Progressive Caucus, who want to cut defense spending and bring in more tax revenues than Ryan does, described as “deficit hawks,” or, heaven forbid, “courageous.” Representative Jan Schakowsky, for instance, put out a plan that balances the budget in a much shorter amount of time than Paul Ryan’s plan, but does so primarily through a combination of tax increases and defense cuts. Nobody calls Schakowsky a “deficit hawk” or praises her “courage” on fiscal issues, even though her proposal is far more realistic and less cruel than Ryan’s. Could it have something to do with the fact that your average Washington 1 percenter actually thinks slashing programs for the poor and cutting taxes for the wealthy is a smashing idea?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 13, 2012

August 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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