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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It's an Embarrassment

I think it's time to paraphrase Michelle Obama.  For the first time in my life, I am embarrassed by my country.  I'm speaking now of the response to yesterday's address by the prime minister of our ally Israel to a joint session of Congress.  The speech was a sober assessment by the prime minister of Israel's view of the progress (or lack of progress) in the efforts to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  Many agree with prime minister Netanyahu (including me.)  Many disagree with the prime minister's assessment.  That's fine.  Indeed, in a democracy like ours, such disagreement is to be expected.  What's not fine has been the organized response from president Obama and the Democrats.  They have gone out of their way to use personal insults as a response to a serious speech.

Think about the response.  Almost 60 Democrats in Congress and every member of the administration boycotted the speech.  It's one thing to disagree with the leader of an ally.  It's something quite different to say that you refuse to even listen to what he has to say.  Then there was the immediate outpouring of vitriol about the speech, much of which came from the same Democrats who refused to even attend to listen.  Netanyahu was called a "petulant child".  The House Democrat leader said that the speech was "insulting".  Now no one would call Nancy Pelosi a deep thinker, but even for her, calling the speech insulting was terrible.  Netanyahu spent the first third of his speech recounting the reasons why Iran is a bad actor on the international stage, a country that promotes Islamic terrorism and which has the blood of thousands of Americans and many Israelis on its hands.  That is hardly insulting.  Then Netanyahu spoke about the concessions in the latest proposed deal.  The parameters of the proposal were confirmed by secretary of state Kerry before Congress the other day, and they are discussed often in the media, so there is nothing unusual about the subject.  Netanyahu just gave us his view of the proposal.  Once again, this is hardly insulting.  Lastly, Netanyahu spoke of ways that the deal could be improved.  He also discussed some strategies for the negotiations.  Lastly, he told Congress what Israel's reaction would be to Iran's nuclear program.  No insults there, just some extremely serious words.  But nutty Nancy denounced the prime minister for insulting her and this country.  Of course, Pelosi never said what insulted her.  Was it the truth?

Finally we have the response from president Obama.  Obama pointedly scheduled a conference call with leaders of other countries while Netanyahu spoke.  It's Obama's way of telling the Israeli just how insignificant he is.  That is insulting, but nevermind.  Obama went before the press almost immediately after the speech was over to say that although he had not watched it he had read a transcript and there was nothing new in it.  Obama could not bring himself to discuss the substance of what Netanyahu said; instead, he just dismissed this speech from a foreign leader as nothing new.

The only other foreign leader to address Congress three times is Winston Churchill.  Now I don't put Netanyahu in the same league as Churchill; indeed, no world leader today is in Churchill's league.  Nevertheless, consider what would have happened if Churchill had come before Congress to warn about Hitler and Nazi Germany.  Would the Democrats and president Roosevelt have boycotted that speech?  Would they have called Churchill names rather than respond to the substance of his remarks?  Would they have falsely and idiotically claimed that Churchill had insulted the USA?  Would president Roosevelt have dismissed Churchill's words as nothing new and refused to address the substance?  Of course not.  It's called common courtesy.  It's called diplomacy.  It's called good relations with an ally.

So what happened yesterday with the Democrats?  I think I know.  In America's domestic politics the substance has been replace by name calling by the Democrats.  Think of the debate on climate change.  One side puts forth scientific data to demonstrate that the models upon which global warming theory is based are wrong.  The other side focuses on "climate deniers" and "flat earthers".  They don't talk about the science; instead, they focus on the individuals on the other side.  Then there's an issue like Obama's executive action on immigration.  The debate from the Republicans is about limits on presidential power in the Constitution.  The debate from the Democrats is about how Republicans hate Hispanics.  It's a phony line, but the Democrats choose the attacks rather than the substance.  How about Obamacare?  The King v. Burwell case to be argued before the Supreme Court this week could cause a major change in that law.  The Republicans mostly speak about the case in terms of the proper interpretation of the language of the Obamacare statute.  In other words, for the GOP it is an issue of the law.  The Democrats speak of the case as an attempt by evil Republicans to take healthcare away from the poor.  You know, those Republicans not only hate Hispanics, they also hate the poor.  Now it may be that our politics has descended to this level.  I don't like it, but we all have to deal with it.  Hopefully, the angry/nasty wing of the Democrats will be trounced in the next few elections and their tactics will die with their power.  But in dealing with the leader of a foreign country, an American ally, it is beyond the pale to treat him in this manner.

I am ashamed of it.  We all should be ashamed of it.


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