Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks Speaker Boehner following his address to a joint meeting of Congress in the Rayburn Room of the US Capitol, May 24, 2011.
(photo credit: SPEAKER.GOV)
‘If you can’t convince ‘em, confuse ‘em.” This political adage was well applied recently by President Barack Obama. Facing the steady weakening of his Iran negotiating policy in the eyes of Congress and the American people, the White House spun a story about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bringing Israeli politics to the floor of congress, or of House Speaker John Boehner breaching an unwritten but apparently sacred protocol.
Some of my colleagues in Congress have indeed become confused.
With the New York Times self-correction, we now know the White House was indeed informed in advance of the invitation. But advance notice or no, the invitation would have stood, so a phone call to the White House changes nothing.
Now we’re trapped in a political blame game. The president and Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet with the prime minister. Vice President Joe Biden’s schedule is too busy.
Other Democrats are considering similar evasions.
America and Israel are facing a regime that is fanatically committed to their destruction, a regime that is inching every day closer to nuclear bomb capabilities.
Rather than owning up to his policy and welcoming honest debate, the president shifts the discussion to petty politics of protocols and manners. It is incomprehensible that some journalists and politicians are playing along.
We don’t know the outcome of the negotiations. The White House would prefer to leave us in the dark. However, experience up until now bodes ill for the future. Every goal stated at the outset of the negotiations has failed by now. The negotiations framework dictated a deadline – we are now beyond two extensions. We were committed to an agreement that would suspend all enrichment – current negotiations allow for enrichment with discussion focusing on the levels to be permitted. If that is not bad enough, even this pathetic agreement that is emerging will have an expiration date and will be temporary.
The long-range missiles being developed by Iran that can deliver nuclear warheads are not even part of the discussion.
Nor is Iran’s support of worldwide terrorism. If this is not a bad deal, what is? With his phone and his pen the president intends to bypass Congress and pass a deal with or without its consent. Rather than worry about Obama’s saving of face, we in Congress should focus on the threat ahead and our responsibility.
That is, our responsibility as a coequal branch under the constitution to make informed and independent decisions for the safety of the American people.
In the face of the media turmoil over this address it is doubtful that Prime Minister Netanyahu will make any political gains back home. It is also irrelevant. Netanyahu is a true authority on the dangers emanating from Iran. He has been for many years. He understands the existential nature of the threat, not only for Israel but for the world. That he brings a different message that our president apparently does not want to hear should not deter us from listening.
However, there is another issue at stake. Congressmen boycotting the prime minister of Israel will send the wrong message to Americans. Many of the millions of Americans who will be following the speech may not think beyond a boycott. They will see a breach between the two sister nations at a time that is most dangerous for both. They won’t hear a timely and critical message on the Iranian threat.
At a time that Israel is repeatedly attacked by the international community, and that anti-Semitism is on the rise, this Congress and America still stand strong with Israel. Don’t let anyone think that precious bond is shaken no matter what some in the administration or in his party in Congress may say. Netanyahu will not be representing an Israeli political party. He represents the people of Israel. His speech to the joint session of Congress will be from one nation to another. No amount of spin should obscure that fact.
President Truman once said, “Intense feelings too often obscure the truth.” In face of threats our two countries are facing, everyone should take a deep breath, put feelings aside, and focus on the essentials. No Congressman or Senator should let petty considerations distract him or her from the truth.The author is a US Congressman from Colorado.