In the Emperor’s New Clothes, only the little boy can say that the emperor is naked. The good news about yesterday’s speech by Netanyahu to a joint meeting of Congress is that lots of media are taking on that boy’s role, and pointing out the nudity: exclaiming over the fact that a foreign leader came into our house of government to try and overrule our president on foreign policy. Chris Matthews was especially forceful, describing it as a takeover. While a New York Times article said that Democrats have to choose between “loyalty to the Jewish state” and the president.
But journalists have a bigger job than merely exclaiming. They must explain to readers why this outrage took place. Why did Netanyahu get this platform? The answer is the power of the Israel lobby inside our politics. And while there was some talk about the Christian Zionist component of the lobby compelling Republicans to show up, no one could explain why so many Democrats– about 175 of them– sat still for this insult to the president. They did so because of the importance of the Jewish part of the lobby inside the Democratic Party, epitomized by Alan Dershowitz in the gallery. This was surely obvious to viewers. But the media were silent on that score.
Here is some of the coverage I’m talking about. A piece at the New York Times saying that Netanyahu had issued an effective policy challenge to Obama pointed out the strangeness of the spectacle–
Mr. Netanyahu’s hotly disputed address constituted a remarkable moment in Washington: a foreign leader taking the podium before members of the House and Senate to argue strenuously against the policies of the sitting American president. In doing so, the Israeli leader was essentially urging lawmakers to trust him — not Mr. Obama — when it comes to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon…
Times reporters Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear then openly spoke of Democrats whose “loyalty to the Jewish state” is competitive with their support for the president:
For Democrats who have long viewed themselves as supporters of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s speech sought to impress upon them the likelihood that they will eventually need to make an awkward, painful choice between the president of their country and their loyalty to the Jewish state.
Why is that choice awkward and painful? I would like to hear why those Democrats feel that “loyalty.” Why aren’t we hearing about Haim Saban and other leading funders of the Democratic Party? Why aren’t Chris Matthews, Jon Stewart, Anderson Cooper and Chris Hayes interviewing John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the scholars who wrote the book The Israel Lobby?
Stewart did a lot of Jewish shtik about the Netanyahu speech yesterday. He called it the longest blowjob a Jewish man has ever received. But he tried to put it on the Republicans– “the state of the union speech the Republican wanted.” Hold on. As the Times informed us: “Some Democrats who are strong supporters of Israel praised Mr. Netanyahu’s speech.”
Stewart briefly hinted at the power of the lobby when he played Obama’s rather-restrained response to the insult:
[whispering] That’s how powerful Israel is. Their prime minister comes here, publicly slaps Obama in the face and the president’s response is, That’s OK, in fact, everyone should know, I’m buying him gloves, so when he hits me, it doesn’t hurt his hand as much.
Good that Stewart got in US aid to Israel.
Respecting the Israel-loving climate on the Democratic side, Chris Matthews was very careful about the speech. He praised it lavishly as a masterful performance. And then he blew his top. First yesterday afternoon:
This man from a foreign government walked into the United States legislative chamber and tried to take over foreign policy…. He said you should trust me, not your president on this… I’m the man you should trust, I’m your true leader on this question of U.S. geopolitics….
It was a startling situation… It’s a remarkable day when the leaders of the opposition in Congress allowed this to happen. Think it through, what country in the world would let a foreign leader come in and attempt to wrest from the president control of U.S. foreign policy? And that’s what the applause was about today…. This was a takeover attempt by Netanyahu with his complying American partners to take American foreign policy out of the hands of the president.
Last night on Hardball, Matthews also blew up— and asked the all-important Why? question:
Can you name another time in American history that we have invited someone into the US Congress chamber to criticize a president’s foreign policy? I can’t think of one. I’ve never heard of that done before. Has it ever been done before? Why now?
Why do we break a tradiiton”? Why do we do something all of a sudden for the first time in history let someone from a foreign government come into our governing chamber and tell us the president is wrong?
No answer to his own questions.
The New York Times was also opaque. Its editorial board exclaimed over the spectacle but then had no words to explain it.
With Republicans and most Democrats as his props, he entered the House of Representatives to thunderous applause on Tuesday, waving his hand like a conquering hero and being mobbed by fawning lawmakers as he made his way to the lectern.
Even Washington doesn’t often see this level of exploitative political theater; it was made worse because it was so obviously intended to challenge President Obama’s foreign policy.
I suppose I should be happy that the press is at least exclaiming over the outrage, and that it’s now obvious to Americans. The Democratic lib-left is now taking on the Israel lobby, though not by name. Stewart castigated Netanyahu for pushing the Iraq war 12 years ago, and Matthews went further, saying that Netanyahu had worked with the US neoconservatives:
Let’s be honest here. Bibi Netanyahu would have a chunk more credibility on this peace-and-war issue if he hadn’t been blowing his bugle over the heads of the Bushes and the neo-cons as we rushed into Baghdad.
His complaint about Iran’s grab of other countries would have more blare to it if it hadn’t been that he, Bibi Netanyahu, had not been totally “in” on the war that turned Iraq into an Iranian pawn.
Dana Milbank in the Washington Post called out Netanyahu for all but committing the Congress to go to war.
[Nancy Pelosi’s] agitation was not difficult to comprehend. It’s a rare thing for Congress to declare war — and rarer still to do it at the request of a foreign leader.
It wasn’t literally a war declaration, of course, just symbolic applause from Republicans, and several Democrats, for Netanyahu’s bid to scuttle U.S. negotiations with Iran.
So that’s the plus side of the coverage yesterday. The political dynamics are so obvious that the American people are feeling outraged. A friend writes from abroad:
Yesterday, the US was not only publicly, but globally insulted…. Now that the dual loyalty business is out of the closet, I hope the US won’t return to its usual induced coma.
Commenters on the New York Times editorial are clued in to the whole charade. ScottW:
That is Bibi’s stick and it never changes. Iran is the boogeyman and while Israel has untold numbers of nuclear weapons, has never signed the nuclear nonproliferation agreement, and permits no inspectors in its country, the Iranian’s somehow pose a greater threat. Pure baloney.
The congressmen who gave Bibi an ovation for a speech that offers nothing new, only the old, is disgraceful. Are they trying to placate the Jewish Lobby in hopes of securing hundreds of millions in donations?
Fortunately for the process, neither Bibi nor any of his cheerleading representatives are involved in trying to reach a deal with Iran that will bring us into the 21st Century.
If this doesn’t prove to the world that the United States is nothing more than Israel’s puppet state I don’t know what will. Remember this is the guy who appeared on all the Sunday morning blab fests telling us about Saddam’s WMDs prior to our adventure in Iraq.. The paranoia, ignorance, and xenophobia displayed by the republicans can all be traced to their master “President” Bibi. I’m ashamed of my country today because of this disgrace.
Every Congressman who contributed to Netanyahu’s photo op and campaign rally from within our hallowed hall did a disservice to our nation, our presidency, and our voters. We need their names and we need them held publicly accountable for their choice.
Wow. Looking at that picture, I’m hard pressed to believe Netanyahu is not the American President, and those beaming congressmen are not reprensentatives of the American people.
The NSA should be alarmed at this enormous influence of a foreign country on our legislative body.
Thanks to Susie Kneedler for pointing out all the progress, and to Annie Robbins.