Benjamin Netanyahu

A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

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The Framework (Trolling Bibi Edition)

Barack Obama

It is true, the headline is adorable: “White House Trolls Netanyahu Over Iran Agreement With Bomb Cartoon”.

And while it is also true that President Obama seems to have shrugged off a certain range of politicking now that his year-six election is finished, it is furthermore true that the question of trolling really does matter entirely on what we choose to make of it.

Worth sharing: Here's how the #IranDeal would shut down Iran's pathway to a nuclear weapon → go.wh.gov/Iran-dealThis is, after all, politics.

And given Prime Minister Netanyahu’s grotesque stunt, and the House of Representatives that was all too willing to help, and considering that Senate Republicans are working to scuttle the deal, this is already a filthy political fight, and one might suggest President Obama has every right to be pissed off. But at the same time, this is politics. It is, by a loose definition, information warfare. But more than that, it is mere politicking; this image will come up in search engines, side by side with Bibi’s simplistic fearmongering. This is how Bibi wants it, this is how Bibi gets it. In twenty years, one or both of these graphics will be wrong, and a particularly American question is why Republicans are scrambling to make certain it is President Obama.

So it goes. But there really does seem to be something amiss about that.

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Robins-Early, Nick. “White House Trolls Netanyahu Over Iran Agreement With Bomb Cartoon”. The Huffington Post. 8 April 2015.

The White House. “Worth sharing”. Twitter. 8 April 2015.

—————. “A Framework to Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon”. WhiteHouse.gov. 10 April 2015.

A Wartime Prayer?

Editorial cartoon by Stavro Jabra, 6 April 2015, via Cagle Post.Look, there really isn’t a whole lot to say about this one. Netanyahu came to the United States and tried to scuttle the P5+1. And no, we ought not forget the #GOP47, but that’s an awful lot of people to fit in the frame. Besides, it’s probably fair to say that this is the more pressing angle for Stavro Jabra, a bit closer to home for the Lebanese cartoonist.

But, yeah, we’re starting to get a little bit pissed off about Congress, too, over on this side of the Pond. No, seriously, it’s like, “Holy shit! A chance at peace? Quick, we need to change the law so we can find a way to screw this up!”

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Jabra, Stavro. “Deal”. The Cagle Post. 6 April 2015.

Strobel, Warren. “Republicans push demand for a vote on Iran nuclear deal”. Reuters. 5 April 2015.

Some Guy Who Thinks He Can Be President

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

“Satire is tough when some politicians become caricatures of themselves.”

Steve Benen

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has potsherds. Some of the finest-grained potsherds in existence.

Again we reiterate the importance of narrative; the tale sounds silly enough in the straightforward reporting, but the commentary can lend appreciable dimensions:

When reports surfaced last week that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) may face criminal charges as part of a federal corruption probe, it seemed like a possible opportunity for Republicans. Because so many of the recent political scandals have involved GOP officials, I thought Republicans might connect Menendez and Oregon’s John Kitzhaber to make the case there’s something rotten in the Democratic ranks.

But Kasie Hunt reported from Iowa over the weekend that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has a very different attack in mind.

Cruz also suggested pending federal charges against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez were politically motivated – tied to Menendez’s support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition to a U.S. deal with Iran over their nuclear program.

“The timing is curious,” Cruz said .... “It raises a suggestion to other Democrats that if you dare part from the Obama White House, that criminal prosecutions will be used potentially as a political weapon as well,” Cruz said. “That’s a serious concern.”

The Texas Republican added, “This investigation has been going on for over a year and yet the very week they announce a pending indictment comes within hours after Sen. Menendez showing courage to speak out against President Obama’s dangerous foreign policy that is risking the national security of this country.”

Greg Sargent noted the other day that he was planning to joke about the right concocting a conspiracy theory involving Menendez, the White House, and Iran, but the mockery was already too late. “They’re already saying [it],” Greg said.

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An Inevitable Point

Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, 4 March 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.“Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu not only addressed his GOP Congress, but also seems to be an ideal GOP candidate: He loves to bomb the Middle East, he will do anything to win an election, and enjoys meddling in other countries affairs!”

Lalo Alcaraz

Inevitable, yes, but it is also arguable that Congressional Republicans have more respect for the Israeli Prime Minister than their own Speaker.

Just sayin’.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, 4 March 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.

Bibi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu salutes an AIPAC policy conference in March, 2012.  (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ouch.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran, calling it as wrongheaded as the prime minister’s backing of the Iraq War.

“Israel is safer today with the added time we have given and the stoppage of the advances in the nuclear program than they were before we got that agreement, which by the way the prime minister opposed,” Kerry said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “He was wrong” ....

.... “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush,” Kerry replied. “We all know what happened with that decision.”

(Thompson)

No, I mean, like, really. Ouch.

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Image note: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu salutes an AIPAC policy conference in March, 2012. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Thompson, Catherine. “Kerry Blasts Netanyahu: He’s ‘Wrong’ On Iran Deal Like He Was On Iraq War”. Talking Points Memo. 25 February 2015.

Wilful Wrongdoing

Detail: Uncredited photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Today in explanations that just don’t help:

Netanyahu’s speech is set for March 3.

Some Democrats plan to skip it because they consider it a divisive stunt and a breach of protocol that suggests the U.S. is taking sides in coming Israeli elections.

Boehner was asked by “Fox News Sunday” why he told Israel’s ambassador to the United States not to mention the invitation to the White House in advance.

Boehner says he “wanted to make sure that there was no interference.”

(Associated Press)

Look, it’s not exactly a coup or anything, but still, come on, John, give us a fucking break.

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What It Comes To (Bibi-Boehner Mix)

Detail of cartoon by Cameron Cardow (Ottowa Citizen) via Cagle Post, 22 January 2015.

Sometimes we pass on a story not simply for basic matters of will―Do I really want to do this now?―but also because we doubt ourselves in the moment. Never mind. A paragraph from Jodi Rudoren of The New York Times:

The invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress to make the case for new sanctions on Iran came from the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a Republican. Mr. Boehner did not consult either the Obama administration or his Democratic counterparts, something several veteran diplomats described as unprecedented. The White House responded with its own snub, announcing that President Obama, who has promised to veto any new sanctions, would not meet with Mr. Netanyahu while he was in town.

And that, in truth, is where we dropped the story last week, mostly not bothering with it because while this is a fascinating chapter in the continuing Republican denigration of the American political system, it really did seem the sort of obscure thing that would have our neighbors wondering where we got this stuff and why we bother with such minutiae.

To borrow from a great American statesmanα: Oops.

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