This is a story about John Boehner and Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, current partners in a brazen plot to embarrass the U.S. president and undercut U.S. foreign policy. But to put this sordid tale in proper perspective, I first need to reference an incident that occurred in 2007.
When new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syria and met with Syrian government officials, Republicans back home went ballistic. They said that Pelosi was messing with the Bush administration’s Middle East policy, that only the president can make such policy, that Pelosi may have violated the federal Logan Act, which makes it a felony for any American “without authority of the United States” to negotiate with a foreign government “in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States.”
But hey, that was then. Today, the Republican mind is so befouled by Obama hatred that undercutting the president and American foreign policy actually seems like a bright idea.
Hence, the House GOP’s decision to go behind the president’s back and invite the hawkish neoconservative Israeli prime minister to address Congress, in the hopes of scuttling the president’s efforts to forge a nuclear arms deal with Iran.
Plus, it’s a way for Republicans to trade political favors. Bibi openly supported Mitt Romney in 2012, Bibi is tight with neoconservative casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, and Bibi has a tough election in mid-March – which makes Bibi’s March 3 House speech all the more timely. What a great deal for him! He gets a forum to embarass the president on U.S. soil, while Republicans sit there as compliant props in a campaign ad for Bibi’s Likud party. (The deal for Republicans is that maybe they can pick up the votes of another six or seven Jewish voters in 2016.)
Fortunately, the GOP’s craven political stunt has triggered vehement, broad-based opposition. Not that the Republicans care.
Michael Oren, Bibi’s former ambassador to the U.S., views Boehner’s booking of Bibi as “a cynical political move.” Lisa Goldman, a Middle East expert at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, says that “when a foreign power, even a favorite ally, shows a lack of respect for U.S. institutions, a red line has been crossed.” Nahum Barnea, a columnist at Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper, says that the GOP side-deal with Bibi “is dangerous, it’s toxic.” Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president, says it’s wrong for Bibi and the GOP to undermine U.S. government policy: “There are rules and norms….All of us have to look – including our prime minister – to go back to the basic rules and respect.”
Heck, even some of the Fox News talking heads are outraged. Chris Wallace calls the Bibi booking – and Bibi’s refusal to warn the president in advance – “wicked…I have to say I’m shocked.” And Shep Smith says the Bibi regime apparently thinks “that we’re just a bunch of complete morons.”
Indeed, anyone who’s less than a complete moron can see what’s wrong with the Bibi booking:
House Republicans seem to believe that they have a mandate to conduct their own foreign policy, at variance with official U.S. foreign policy – which, right now, is focused on defusing tensions with Iran via a verifiable arms deal. House Republicans seem to believe that, in realm of foreign policy, it’s perfectly fine to play off one branch of government against another. But the flaw in the GOP’s thinking, if we can call it thinking, is that it violates a core U.S. principle dating back to 1800.
That’s when John Marshall, former secretary of state and future chief justice the U.S. Supreme Court, contended that “the president is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations.” Meaning that when the U.S. made policy abroad, it needed to speak with one voice. And Marshall’s “sole organ” doctrine has since been cited by the high court, which ruled in 1936 that the president has the lead role on the world stage. A lopsided majority said that “the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation.”
Generations of Republicans were fine with that concept – at least until Obama came along. Funny how hatred can trump one’s respect for protocol and the rule of law.