And The Winner Is … John Boehner And The GOP
With Speech-Gate over and Prime Minister Netanyahu back in Israel, it’s still premature for either Netanyahu or President Obama to claim victory. Netanyahu delivered an excellent address to Congress, outlining the dangers of present-day Iran, the even greater danger of a nuclear Iran, the pitfalls of the administration’s approach, and his preferred alternative course of action. It remains to be seen, however, whether Congress will be able to override a Presidential veto on either of the measures currently being discussed, the Corker bill or the Kirk-Menendez bill. With Netanyahu and Obama still in the ring, one clear winner has emerged: House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican party.
The 2014 midterm elections saw the beginnings of a break between the Democratic party and one of its previously most reliable demographic groups, with a full third of American Jews voting Republican last November. A poll released in January showed that, although 61% of American Jews still identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic in 2014, this number was down from 71% in 2008, before Obama took office. A conspiracy-minded person might wonder whether Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu was an intentional trap for the President, seeking to exploit and enlarge this crack.
Although Boehner admitted that he had intentionally neglected to inform the White House of his plans to invite Netanyahu for the address, he doesn’t seem any worse off for having done so. Whether or not Boehner’s invitation to the Prime Minister was extended with the primary or secondary intention of turning the small fissure between American Jewish voters and Democrats into a rupture, looking at the events of the past month, it would appear that the President played right into the Speaker’s hands. In his wildest dreams, Boehner probably could not have imagined the scope or intensity of Obama’s month-long temper tantrum. President Obama’s juvenile treatment of Netanyahu has almost certainly caused some amount of further alienation among a once-reliable constituency.
This is not to say that all or even most Jewish voters demand that Obama agree with Netanyahu, or that he pursue the course of action that Netanyahu recommends. It is Obama’s refusal to listen, his demand that members of Congress refuse to listen, his overreaction to a perceived slight when the issues being discussed are so grave, the anonymous administration insults, John Kerry’s post hoc scapegoating of Netanyahu for a decision made by Congress (a decision that was based on Iraqi information sources), Susan Rice’s comments on television calling Netanyahu “destructive,” that shows this entire Democratic administration’s disdain for the Jewish state and its elected leader, and that many people will interpret as based in anti-Semitism. It is the support for this behavior from a significant segment of the Democratic party, and not the disagreement with Netanyahu over a matter of policy, that many Jewish voters are not likely to forget, and that will have John Boehner laughing all the way to 2016.