Washington Watch: The year 2015 remembered

A round-up of 2015's headlines.

 Bernie Sanders speaking at an event in Phoenix, Arizona. (photo credit: GAGE SKIDMORE)
Bernie Sanders speaking at an event in Phoenix, Arizona.
(photo credit: GAGE SKIDMORE)
The New Bromance: Trumputin.
Bible vs. Constitution: A four-times married court clerk in Kentucky refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because she claimed it offended her religious beliefs. She had no qualms about breaking the law, disobeying a court order or violating her oath, which she did with the support of two Republican presidential candidates who have said they’d put their interpretation of the Bible above the Constitution.
Free at Last. Almost: Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was finally released but can’t leave the country for five years. If after three decades in prison he wouldn’t reveal the co-conspirators the government was looking for, he’s not about to do it now. It’s time to let him go to Israel where he can be the poster boy for the anti-American far Right.
Booted: Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) may have built a solid conservative record over a quarter century in Congress, but it wasn’t conservative enough for the know-nothings and Tea Partiers, who made his dream job a nightmare and drove him from office. Apparently the new speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, isn’t conservative enough for them, either. His brief honeymoon didn’t even make it into the new year before the long knives of talk radio and the Internet started after him for the sin of bipartisan cooperation, even decrying his “Muslim beard.”
Spilling Beans
: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was supposed to succeed Boehner, until he committed the politically fatal offense of truth-telling when he confessed that the Benghazi hearings were just a partisan hit job on Hillary Clinton timed to damage her presidential campaign. As if to prove it, a House committee looked craven in an 11-hour grilling of Clinton, who emerged unscathed.
Saudi Women Drivers: Saudi women finally got to run for office and to vote for the first time; 18 were elected to local councils. But there are still more Israeli women flying F-16s than there are Saudi women driving cars.
Planned Parenthood: The Republican vendetta against Planned Parenthood and abortion rights galloped on while the GOP was simultaneously cutting funding for food stamps, maternal health care and infant health and nutrition funding. They validated former Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-Massachusetts) observation that Republicans believe “life begins at conception and ends at birth,” and after that, you’re on your own.
Does He or Doesn’t He? In an appeal to right-wing voters, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised supporters there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. After his reelection, he changed his tune, but nobody’s buying it.
Tradition: This tradition is not what Tevye sang about in Fiddler. One former president of Israel is in prison for sexual assault, a senior cabinet minister quit politics last week in the face of similar charges (making way for the first openly gay member of Knesset) and a religious Knesset member who preached family values also resigned after being accused of the same thing.
Guns for Terrorists: Members of Congress and their NRA owners blocked any move to deny people on the terrorism list the ability to buy all the assault rifles and guns they want. In the words of Sen. Ted Cruz, that’s their God-given right, even for potential terrorists.
Feel the Bern
: Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut made history in 2000 as the first Jew on a national ticket when he ran for vice president with Democrat Al Gore. A later attempt to run for president fizzled before it even started. But Bernie Sanders, a 74-yearold Brooklyn-born Jewish socialist from Vermont, is mounting the first serious campaign by a Jew. Polls give him a decent chance to win the New Hampshire Democratic primary February 9.
Shattered Myth: Fighting Iran has been AIPAC’s top priority for decades and it expected blocking the Iran nuclear deal would be a cakewalk, judging by all those near-unanimous sanctions votes, but the organization suffered a humiliating defeat when it couldn’t even get the agreement to the floor for an up or down vote. Also going down in flames was Netanyahu, who lost all chances to help shape the deal when he made a dramatic personal appeal to Congress – arranged by his Republican friends eager to embarrass President Barack Obama – to scuttle the agreement; he only succeeded in doing more damage to his relations with the administration.
Calculated insult: After losing the Iran vote, Netanyahu said he wanted to repair relations with the United States. He then appointed as his spokesman someone who had called the US president an anti-Semite.
Profiles in Cowardice: Most Jewish organizations – as did Netanyahu – quickly and emphatically condemned Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering this country, according to round-ups by The Jewish Telegraphic Agency and other publications. But not enough. Leading Orthodox groups were timid in their response – condemning the call but not mentioning Trump or Muslims. Some, by their silence – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union – could be suspected of giving their tacit approval, or maybe it was just extreme cowardice that prevented them from denouncing blatant bigotry.
Shifting Fortunes: While the National Jewish Democratic Council closed its office and contracted out what remains of its mission to a PR firm, the Republican Jewish Coalition soared in the opposite direction. Much credit goes to its prime benefactor, Sheldon Adelson. The promise of upwards of $100 million in campaign contributions by the casino billionaire brought all the GOP presidential contenders to the RJC candidate forums – aka the Adelson primary – as they auditioned for Jewish money. Except for Trump, who said he didn’t need any money from the rich Jews and went on to insult them.
Potty Mouth: A vulgar misogynist thinks women going to the toilet is “disgusting.”
Takes Two to Tango: John Kerry wants nothing more than to be the man who brought peace to the Middle East. He has a few problems: neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian leaders are interested and President Obama has written it off as a lost cause. But look for Kerry to make another vain effort in 2016.
Phobic Year: The presidential campaign so far seems to be defined by the candidates’ phobias: xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, epistemophobia and phronemophobia.
Droves: Netanyahu urged his supporters to rush to the polls because the Arabs were voting in “droves.” He denied there was any racism involved. If you believe him consider this: Can you imagine if Mitt Romney on the eve of the 2012 election had issued a frantic call for Republicans to turn out because African Americans were voting in droves? Same thing.
Deflategate: Now if only someone could do to politicians what the New England Patriots did to their footballs.