When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) went off the reservation and invited the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to speak before a joint session of Congress on the dangers of an unchecked Iran – pretty much everyone realized that he was sending a message to the White House.
Boehner was tired of President Obama simply bypassing Congress on important issues and choosing to break protocol by “going it alone.” So Boehner, did what any schoolyard kid would do… he copied the President, and went it “alone.” The invite was a purposeful slap to the Obama White House, but Boehner may have unknowingly created an even bigger PR nightmare than he realized. President Obama’s immediate reaction to the hubbub was to say that he wouldn’t be meeting with Netanyahu in a seeming swipe at both Boehner and the Israeli Prime Minister (who made the President angry by accepting Boehner’s invite). The problem is… now you have to give a reason for not meeting with the leader of one of our nation’s closest allies.
So team Obama came up with a reason… it’s just not a very good one.
Fareed Zakaria: Last week, it was announced that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to come to Washington and do a joint session of Congress at the invitation of the Republican speaker of the House. Many people are saying this is rebuttal of your arguments of negotiations with Iran, or a possible deal with Iran. Do you think it’s appropriate for him to come in this manner at this time to Washington?
President Obama: Well, I’ll let Mr. Boehner answer that and Mr. Netanyahu. I speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. You know, we’re declining to meet with him. I’m declining to meet with him, simply because our general policy is we don’t meet with any world leader two weeks before their election. I think that’s inappropriate.
And that’s true with some of our closest of our allies, David Cameron who’s got an election coming up recently came to visit because we insisted if he wants to come and it’s a very important meeting, he needs to be far away enough from the election so it doesn’t look in some ways we’re meddling or putting our thumbs on the scale.
I guess I could understand if there was a protocol like this in place… but it seems like a pretty arbitrary timeline, doesn’t it. Is it cool to meet with him 2 weeks and 3 days before an election? How about 3 weeks? 2 months?
What is the line we draw to figure out the “appropriateness” of a state visit in an election year?
Also, why is it inappropriate?
Does anyone actually think that Obama meeting with Netanyahu two weeks before an election might sway a few Israeli voters? Are the folks in Israel checking the papers everyday to see if their politicians are meeting with American politicians? Would it matter to you, as an American voter, if a candidate met with some other world leader just before an election? Would it make you more (or less) likely to vote for them?
I seriously doubt it.
There is nothing inappropriate about meeting with Netanyahu in March when he comes to speak to Congress. Iran is one of the most important foreign policy issues on our plate right now, and it makes sense that we get our stuff together with our allies as soon as possible. Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that Israel is facing an existential threat in a nuclear Iran, and he believes that Israel needs America to help them stave off danger. President Obama should man up and do what our President is supposed to be doing… meet with other world leaders. Because whether we like it or not, right now, he’s the face of our nation. (Gross.)
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