It is somewhat unfathomable that, after four weeks, people are still talking about the pros and cons of, of all things, a speech that has yet to be given. To put it in perspective, Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Netanyhau was delivered only one day after a speech that has already actually been given — a rather important one — but one that has long since faded from public memory, obscured by Speech-Gate.
As I wrote two weeks ago — two weeks ago! — it seems like the steady drip of attacks on Netanyahu are designed intentionally to keep this issue in the news. The Israel-obsessed media, of course, is more than happy to oblige these efforts, while mostly ignoring an actual scandal.
As Varda has written, President Obama is simply scared of what Netanyahu has to say. Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes has already made clear that striking a nuclear deal with Iran is just as important to the President as was passing the 2010 healthcare law. It seems that Obama is pulling out all the stops to make sure his plans for Iran don’t get derailed.
Of 535 individuals serving in the House and Senate combined, Obama seems to have convinced about a dozen to go on record saying that they will refuse to attend. This illustrious list includes as “As-A-Jew” anti-Semite John Yarmuth, a previously obscure Representative from Kentucky who is suddenly getting tons of publicity from far-away places like Lebanon for his actions. Some are even attempting to twist this into a racial issue. Such people are only demonstrating, however, that they have prejudged the matter. Missing the speech will show that those individuals plan to make their decisions about an issue as serious as a nuclear deal with Iran based on politics, rather than based on actual facts and judgment. What could be more illustrative of partisanship than a refusal to even hear arguments from an opposing viewpoint?
Josh Rogin in Bloomberg View writes about recent poll results indicating that more Americans want Netanyahu to deliver his speech than not, and that members of the public want their representatives to attend. The Israel Project’s Omri Ceren told Rogin that
Even Americans who may be ambivalent about how the Netanyahu speech came together … would be less likely to vote for a congressperson who boycotted.
This is because, whatever the President thinks or says, the American people understand that this issue is much, much bigger than a real or perceived breach of protocol. The American public seems to understand, as well, that the making of a speech is simply not the huge deal that it is being made out to be. If Netanyahu is unable to convince Congress of the merits of his position, then The Speech will end up amounting to nothing. If a large enough number of members of Congress are convinced, then that will be all the more proof, in the end, that it was necessary.
I truly hope that the news that most Americans want Netanyahu to deliver the speech will be the end of this matter, and that the discussion can turn now to the substance of the arguments about Iran, from which we have been distracted for too long.