John Boehner’s outrageous plan to help a foreign leader undermine Obama


When I first saw this headline, I tweeted how some members of America’s body politic love all of these foreign leaders rather than their own President and as they stand compared to Obama, these leaders, Putin and Netanyahu  are losers in the arena of policy vis-a-vis American interests.  That hasn’t stopped Speaker of the House, Joh n Boehner from doing an end round and bringing Netanyahu to town to upstage the American President.  America, love it or move to Israel…

Vox

House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress in February, on the topic of Iran. On the surface, this might seem innocent enough. Israel is a close American ally. Surely he should be welcome in Congress, particularly to discuss an issue that concerns his country.

On the surface, Netanyahu’s speech will be about opposing Obama’s nuclear talks with Iran and supporting Republican-led sanctions meant to blow up those talks.

But there’s more than meets the eye here. Netanyahu is playing a game with US domestic politics to try to undermine and pressure Obama — and thus steer US foreign policy. Boehner wants to help him out. By reaching out to Netanyahu directly and setting up a visit without the knowledge of the White House, he is undermining not just Obama’s policies but his very leadership of US foreign policy. The fact that Netanyahu is once again meddling in American politics, and that a US political party is siding with a foreign country over their own president, is extremely unusual, and a major break with the way that foreign relations usually work.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Throughout Obama’s tenure, he has clashed with Netanyahu. That is no secret, and it’s nothing new for American and Israeli leaders to disagree, sometimes very publicly. But Netanyahu, beginning in May 2011, adopted a new strategy to try to deal with this: using domestic American politics as a way to try to push around Obama.

During a trip that month to Washington, Netanyahu publicly lectured Obama at a press conference and then gave a speech to Congress slamming the president. That speech, also hosted by Republicans, received many standing ovations for Netanyahu’s finger-wagging criticism of Obama.

At first it appeared that Netanyahu was merely trying to steer Obama’s foreign policy in a direction that he, Netanyahu, preferred. Obama wanted Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, for example; Obama has also sought, in his second term, to reach a nuclear deal with Iran that Netanyahu earnestly believes is a bad idea.

Netanyahu’s first responsibility is to Israel’s national interests, not to Obama, so it makes sense that he would push for policies that he thinks are good for Israel.

But in 2011 Netanyahu started going a step further, and appeared to be working to actively remove Obama from power. During the 2012 election cycle, Netanyahu and his government were increasingly critical of Obama and supportive of Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for whom he at times appeared to be actively campaigning. Netanyahu’s criticisms of Obama were so pointed that some of Obama’s opponents cut a campaign ad out of them. It became a joke within Israel that Netanyahu saw himself not as the leader of a sovereign country, but as the Republican senator from Israel.

But trying to unseat a foreign leader is not a joke, especially when that foreign leader is funding your military and guaranteeing your nation’s security.

Netanyahu’s government ramped down this strategy after Obama won; he even gave Obama the world’s most awkward congratulations speech. But throughout Obama’s second term he has once again gradually escalated from trying to influence Obama to actively undermining both the president and his party. The new Israeli ambassador to the US for months would not even bother to meet with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, yet held many meetings with Republican fundraiser Sheldon Adelson. Israel’s foreign policy, in other words, was more focused on undermining the American leadership than working with it.

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

Republicans, aware that Americans are supportive of Israel, have urged on Netanyahu’s anti-Obama campaign since it began in 2011. Inviting him to speak to Congress that year was shrewd domestic politics, and it will be shrewd legislative politics next month when Netanyahu publicly supports the GOP’s sanctions efforts.

This makes sense within the narrow scope of domestic politics — if you can use something to convince voters your party and its policies are a better choice than your opponents, you use it, even if that something is a foreign head of state. But members of Congress are purportedly supposed to put their country before their party, and siding with a foreign leader over your own president doesn’t seem to do that. Neither does cheering a foreign leader when he lambasts the president of the United States.

More to the point, it was a really significant breach when some conservatives supported Netanyahu’s implicit lobbying on behalf of the Romney campaign. If a foreign country wants to unseat your president, that is generally considered an outrageous breach. But Netanyahu has been invited in, and with the 2016 presidential elections ramping up it appears likely he will be invited in once more to implicitly run against the Democrats.

This speaks, in a very real sense, to just how extreme political polarization has become in Washington.

This sort of practice is bad for America’s ability to conduct foreign policy

To be very clear, this is not just a breach of protocol: it’s a very real problem for American foreign policy. The Supreme Court has codified into law the idea that only the president is allowed to make foreign policy, and not Congress, because if there are two branches of government setting foreign policy then America effectively has two foreign policies.

The idea is that the US government needs to be a single unified entity on the world stage in order to conduct effective foreign policy. Letting the president and Congress independently set their own foreign policies would lead to chaos. It would be extremely confusing for foreign leaders, and foreign publics, who don’t always understand how domestic American politics work, and could very easily misread which of the two branches is actually setting the agenda. (This confusion, by the way, is exactly what some Republicans are hoping to create in Iran with new sanctions.)

This could also allow a foreign country to play those two branches off of each other. That’s in part what Netanyahu is attempting to do here, and it’s working. The Obama administration did not even find out about Netanyahu’s planned visit to Washington until Boehner announced it. The Republicans are attempting to run a foreign policy that’s separate from the actual, official US foreign policy.

One more anti-Obama speech from Netanyahu on the floor of Congress is not going to break US foreign policy, of course. But it’s troubling that Republicans are willing to breach such an important principle for some pretty modest short-term gains.

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More Bergdahl news


I should have included this in a previous post but just saw it.  Seems there’s more to the Bergdahl story than meets the eye.  Daily Kos points out several inconsistencies that when brought to light should permanently mute the strings of discord currently being played by the #DemonicGOP.

Bergdahl had left his base without permissions on at least one prior occasion, and had come back! This is according to a report in the Army Times. In fact, his fellow soldiers failed to report it at the time. (The 35 page classified Army report (as reported to the New York Times) that was compiled 2 months after Bergdahl disappeared, concluded that he had left his unit twice, not once. And the Army blamed lax security practices and a lack of discipline. Moreover, the supposed letter he left confessing to everything was not mentioned in the report at all.)

According to the now famous article by Michael Hastings about Bergdahl, his unit was basically a bunch of undisciplined fuck ups who went out on patrol without helmets, lost weapons, totally lacked morale and respect for military authority, etc. At least two commanders were actually demoted! So, you have to take with a grain of salt the accusations being made against Bergdahl by these people. Especially now that we know they failed to report Bergdahl left the base without permission on a prior occasion, and are still telling the media that he is a “deserter” when they know damn well that’s not true.

The New York Times has also reported that it is almost impossible to attribute the losses the unit suffered to Bergdahl, or looking for Bergdahl. Given the lack of unit discipline, etc. One wonders whether Bergdahl is being scapegoated by these people, who were drummed up by GOP political operatives.

Bergdahl’s apparent heroism while in captivity has been almost completely ignored and glossed over. The Daily Beast originally reported that Bergdahl lulled his captors into believing he was sympathetic to them, and when they let their guard down he escaped for 3 days. When they finally found him in a hand-dug trench he covered with leaves, he was nearly naked an exhausted. Yet, it took 5 Taliban to subdue him as he fought back trying to avoid being recaptured.

 

This man deserves his props


Jason R. ThigpenI don’t know him, but I like what he’s written

After discussing it with my wife and family, I’ve decided to run as a Democrat rather than a Republican. I simply cannot stand with a Party where its most extreme element promote hate and division amongst people. Nothing about my platform has, nor will it change. The government shutdown was simply the straw that broke the camels back. I guess being an American just isn’t good enough anymore and I refuse to be part of an extremist movement in the GOP that only appears to thrive on fear and hate mongering of anyone and everyone who doesn’t walk their line. We’ve received some wonderful support by numerous leaders and members within the NC GOP, as the vast majority of Republicans are wonderful, hard-working people that don’t agree with those radical nut-jobs either but unfortunately the extremists in the party, with their ‘burn it all down’ philosophy, appear to be the ones turning out the majority of voters in the primaries and mid-term elections. And I want the people to know there is a choice.

Jason R. Thigpen

You know we can hear you, right?


yelton

Don Yelton was his own self parody during this interview on The Daily Show

and he didn’t much seem to care even following the firestorm his interview created because in today’s Republican Party there are no negative repercussions for saying or doing things that are  racist and have an adverse effect on the public in general, but there are some times rewards and political gain to be had from such behavior.  Yelton himself testified to that doubling down on his remarks by saying that being kicked off the county election board following the Daily Show interview wasn’t the first time that happened to him and implying he’ll be back perhaps even stronger than he is now.

Yelton said he was previously removed from his position as a precinct chair in Buncombe County in 2012, but was re-elected at a three-person meeting by two votes — his own and his wife’s. He said he was previously removed for voicing what the party considered support for an independent candidate.

Yelton said he has been retired since he was fired 16 years ago from a job as a county waste reduction specialist. He was fired, essentially, for doing the job too well, he said.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” he said.

He also noted that local Republicans have long complained that they can’t get enough media coverage, and that he had finally provided some.

There’s no reason to doubt him if you look at the way Republican leadership conducts itself; defeats are labelled victories, positions that are without principle are considered fundamental, basic truths and demagogic leaders are considered those who speak for the will of the people.  Such is the the state of  today’s #DemonicGOP.

Poetic justice, karma, what goes around comes around, call it what you want.


English: Official Congressional portrait of Co...

English: Official Congressional portrait of Congressman Peter King. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is rich….abandoned by his own party Peter King, R.NY takes to the airwaves to make his case against his own colleagues in the #DemonicGOP.

Rep. Peter King said many of his fellow House Republicans made New York representatives feel like “third world beggars” in pushing for the $60.4 billion post Superstorm Sandy relief package.

King, filling in for John Gambling on WOR-AM, said during an interview Gov. Cuomo that he found it “disgraceful” that many of his fellow Republican House members who were trying to block the post Sandy relief package for New York and New Jersey came form states that got emergency funds in the past.

He cited a New Jersey congressman who said on the floor that Congress now needs a “hypocrites conference” for those whose states received funding the past and now sought to deny the New York region what it was seeking.

“Quite frankly it’s going to be difficult going back and working with people you sit next to and whenever they were in need,, we responded immediately,” he said.”Not one member of Congress every voted against or said one word in opposition to aid going to other states  when the money was needed.”

“We were going around like third world beggars. At least they put us in that position.”

I have a lot of scorn for King however, who led hearings in the House of Representatives….at tax payer expense to prove something that actually doesn’t exist to the extent King says it does.  (You know, the Islamist threat) That bit of grandstanding however didn’t do him much good when it came time to rely on help for Hurricane Sandy relief that many of his colleagues scoffed at.  Back at ya’ pal.  Perhaps King should have called on help from some of his Muslim constituents who were on hand to help their fellow Americans, unlike King who chooses to denigrate his.

Is the GOP’s Islamophobia in retreat or is the whole of the GOP screwed?


3711525790_41aac3d736Mother Jones came up with the article, The GOP’s Anti-Muslim Wing Is in Retreat with several anecdotes they say point to such a decline, in which they claim

…after a November election that saw three of the party’s loudest voices on “creeping Shariah” defeated—and the GOP presidential nominee ignore the issue entirely—the anti-Islam movement within the Republican party may have peaked. Wary of further alienating a once-promising conservative constituency, mainstream Republican leaders have sought, publicly and behind closed doors, to distance themselves from the loudest of the Muslim-bashers in their midst.

…Randa Fahmy Hudome, a former Bush administration official, Washington lobbyist, and prominent Muslim Republican, notes: “There is a self-policing factor in the Republican party, when some members get a little off base on some of these issues. That’s the state of play right now.”

However the problem is not that racists are on the wane in the GOP and thus not able to mount an offensive against America’s Muslim population, the issue is one of the GOP’s own inadequacy in dealing with ANYTHING related to policy.  From issues of women’s reproductive rights, where GOP candidates for office put their foot in their mouths regarding rape and abortion, to issues of the economy where a disorganized GOP saw its House Majority Leader vote against a bill that the Speaker of the House voted for, the GOP is to today’s politics the equivalence of the Keystone Cops, bungling over themselves without any design or purpose.  It’s no wonder Islamophobia has escaped them……they can’t agree on anything nor make any effective statement about anything else!  And if you think this is hyperbole, watch how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did what has never been done before in the halls of Congress…filibuster his own motion in the Senate.

Even more recently Speaker of the House John Boehner was reamed a new one by Islamophobe Peter King over Boehner’s refusal to put on the floor of the House for a vote a bill for funds for Hurricane Sandy relief that directly affects King’s constituency.   King went so far as to say, the day after the bill didn’t appear, that he would urge everyone not to make  any financial contributions to his own Party’s coffers.  He’s  since ameliorated his remarks after being called an a$$hole by Boehner and being reasured the House would vote on relief funds; a really strange conflated way of dealing with matters of policy and collegiality if there ever was one. King as you remember was one of the Party’s stalwarts who led House hearings on the “threat” radical Islam posed to the Homeland and it seems almost like poetic justice that he would be snubbed and then insulted in much the same way he did to many of his Muslim constituents.  However, this points to the dysfunction of the Republican party in ways not seen in recent history.

There is still plenty of kindling available on the American landscape for the GOP to ignite as they gather allies in their march towards power.  In fact inciting racial animus has been a mainstay of political ascendancy in America and there’s no reason to think the party, once it gets its act together won’t resort to that tried and true tactic called demagoguery and whether you agree or disagree that hate crimes, i.e. those against Muslims, are on the wane or not, it’s still true that Muslims are targets of hate in America. A brief look at the headlines here, here and here are anecdotal evidence enough to point to the gold mine the GOP can cultivate when they have the presence of mind to get their act together and do so.

 

Is it time for racial profiling?


Group photoIn an era of collective punishment where we’ve seen how the acts of one person are enough to draw calls for punishing everyone that emotionally, physically, religiously, ideologically  identifies with a heinous perpetrator maybe it IS time to profile young white men. David Sirota asks that question then shoots it down because as he points out ‘white men as a subgroup are in such a privileged position in our society that they are the one group that our political system avoids demographically profiling or analytically aggregating in any real way‘ but after the Newton shooting tragedy if we believe in the 2nd amendment instead of assaulting that privilege/right given us by the founding fathers  perhaps we should put aside talk of “gun control” and look at who commits such catastrophic crimes of mass murder that involve guns. Sirota’s column is a thought provoking read

Yesterday, during a cable news discussion of gun violence and the Newtown school shooting, I dared mention a taboo truism. During a conversation on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” I said that because most of the mass shootings in America come at the hands of white men, there would likely be political opposition to initiatives that propose to use those facts to profile the demographic group to which these killers belong. I suggested that’s the case because as opposed to people of color or, say, Muslims, white men as a subgroup are in such a privileged position in our society that they are the one group that our political system avoids demographically profiling or analytically aggregating in any real way. Indeed, unlike other demographic, white guys as a group are never thought to be an acceptable topic for any kind of critical discussion whatsoever, even when there is ample reason to open up such a discussion.

My comment was in response to U.S. Rep. James Langevin (D) floating the idea of employing the Secret Service for such profiling, and I theorized that because the profiling would inherently target white guys, the political response to such an idea might be similar to the Republican response to the 2009 Homeland Security report looking, in part, at the threat of right-wing terrorism. As you might recall, the same GOP that openly supports profiling — and demonizing — Muslims essentially claimed that the DHS report was unacceptable because its focus on white male terrorist groups allegedly stereotyped (read: offensively profiled) conservatives.

For making this point, I quickly became the day’s villain in the right-wing media. From the Daily Caller, to Fox News, to Breitbart, to Glenn Beck’s the Blaze, to all the right-wing blogs and Twitter feeds that echo those outlets’ agitprop, I was attacked for “injecting divisive racial politics” into the post-Newtown discussion (this is a particularly ironic attack coming from Breitbart – the same website that manufactured the Shirley Sherrod fiasco).

The conservative response to my statement, though, is the real news here.

Let’s review: Any honest observer should be able to admit that if the gunmen in these mass shootings mostly had, say, Muslim names or were mostly, say, African-American men, the country right now wouldn’t be confused about the causes of the violence, and wouldn’t be asking broad questions. There would probably be few queries or calls for reflection, and mostly definitive declarations blaming the bloodshed squarely on Islamic fundamentalism or black nationalism, respectively. Additionally, we would almost certainly hear demands that the government intensify the extant profiling systems already aimed at those groups.

Yet, because the the perpetrators in question in these shootings are white men and not ethnic or religious minorities, nobody is talking about demographic profiling them as a group. The discussion, instead, revolves around everything from gun control, to mental health services, to violence in entertainment — everything, that is, except trying to understanding why the composite of these killers is so similar across so many different massacres. This, even though there are plenty of reasons for that topic to be at least a part of the conversation.

Recounting the truth of these double standards is, of course, boringly mundane, which means my comment on television summarizing them is an equally boring and mundane statement of the obvious. However, as evidenced by the aggressive attempt to turn those comments into controversial headline-grabbing news over the weekend, the conservative movement has exposed its desperation — specifically, its desperation to preserve its White Victimization Mythology.

In this mythology, the white man as a single demographic subgroup can never be seen as a perpetrator and must always be portrayed as the unfairly persecuted scapegoat. In this mythology, to even reference an undeniable truth about how white privilege operates on a political level (in this case, to prevent a government profiling system of potential security threats even though such a system exists for other groups) is to be guilty of both “injecting divisive racial politics” and somehow painting one’s “opponents as racist” — even when nobody called any individual a racist.

In this mythology, in short, to mention truths about societal double standards — truths that are inconvenient or embarrassing to white people — is to be targeted for attack by the right-wing media machine.

Of course, just as I didn’t make such an argument yesterday on MSNBC, I’m not right now arguing for a system of demographically profiling white guys as a means of stopping mass murderers (that’s right, the headline at Beck’s website, the Blaze, is categorically lying by insisting I did make such an argument, when the MSNBC video proves that’s not even close to true). After all, broad demographic profiling is not only grotesquely bigoted in how it unduly stereotypes whole groups, it also doesn’t actually work as a security measure and runs the risk of becoming yet another Big Brother-ish monster (this is especially true when a lawmaker is forwarding the idea of deploying a quasi-military apparatus like the Secret Service).

Additionally, I’m not saying we should avoid the complex discussion about myriad issues (gun control, mental health, violence in Hollywood products, etc.) that we are having in the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy. On the contrary, I believe it is good news that those nuanced conversations — rather than simplistic calls for punitive measures against a demographic group — are able to happen, and it’s particularly good news that they are persisting in the face of pro-gun extremists’ best effort to polarize the conversation.

But the point here is that those tempered and nuanced conversations are only able to happen because the demographic at the center of it all is white guys. That is the one group in America that gets to avoid being referred to in aggregate negative terms (and gets to avoid being unduly profiled by this nation’s security apparatus), which means we are defaulting to a much more dispassionate and sane conversation — one that treats the perpetrators as deranged individuals, rather than typical and thus stereotype-justifying representatives of an entire demographic.

While such fair treatment should be the norm for all citizens, the double standard at work makes clear it is still a special privilege for a select white few. That’s the issue at the heart of my comment on MSNBC — and it is a pressing problem no matter how much the conservative media machine wants to pretend it isn’t.