Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DEAR MR. SARGEANT

Yesterday I received a letter via e-mail from Michael Sargeant, the Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Mr. Sargeant explained to me how important, indeed, “critical,” it is to elect Democrats in the 2016 election, and he asked me to sign up to support the effort.
Here is the response I sent to Mr. Sargeant:
Dear Mr. Sargeant:
I am writing in response to your e-mail on behalf of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, in which you asked me to sign up to join the fight to elect Democrats in 2016. Unfortunately, I must decline at this time. I would like to explain why.
I voted for President Obama in the 2008 California primaries and in the general election. I was a lifelong Democrat until a few years ago. At that time I re-registered as a Decline-to-State. I did so in protest of President Obama’s actions and policies toward Israel. I felt that he had misrepresented that he would be a strong supporter of Israel. Here is the letter I wrote to the President at the time.
I acknowledge and appreciate the fact that the Administration has supplied key military equipment to Israel (other than when it briefly suspended such shipments in last summer’s war) and that he has been a backstop at the UN and other world bodies. However, in the general diplomatic sphere and in public statements and positions, he has been terrible, blaming Israel and its leadership at every turn. Moreover, his positions have hurt rather than helped advance a process toward a two-state solution, something I have long-favored.
Despite the fact that I re-registered as a Decline-to-State as a protest, I continued to vote and to support mostly Democrats for office. That is now in question, however.
I am deeply disturbed about recent events relating to Iran, U.S. post-war foreign policy, and the behavior and attitude of the Obama Administration and some Democrats. Regarding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, Speaker Boehner reportedly breached protocol in extending the invitation. The Israeli Ambassador may have participated. It was wrong. Express your displeasure and move on.
Instead, the Administration has made a major issue out of it and is basically promoting a boycott of the Prime Minister’s speech. The Administration is using the breach of protocol as a way to discredit the Prime Minister, undermine his efforts to call attention to the threat of a nuclear or near-nuclear Iran, and to stop debate. I find this conduct outrageous.
Any breach of protocol pales in comparison to the issues at stake here: Iran getting a nuclear weapon, Iran becoming a regional and perhaps world power, and, if you believe recent essays, a radical change in the post-war approach to American foreign policy.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

MUCH ADO ABOUT AN INVITATION?

It seems that the controversy over the invitation extended by Speaker John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak before a Joint Session of Congress simply will not diminish.
Yes, it appears that Speaker Boehner breached traditional protocol in not consulting with the White House. Yes, it appears that the Prime Minister may have been wrong in not asking Speaker Boehner whether he had followed tradition. And, yes, Israeli Ambassador Dermer was totally off base if he was the mastermind of a plot to circumvent and embarrass the President.
I used the words “appears” and “may” because it has now been revealed that Speaker Boehner’s invitation stated that this would be a bipartisan event, and because, in a correction of a prior report, the New York Times revealed that the White House was, in fact, informed about the invitation. So, while tradition may have been violated in some respects, it seems that the breach of protocol and the asserted disrespect may not have been quite as egregious as originally characterized.
In any event, the controversy will not die. It appears that we could be approaching “gate” status. As in “Invitegate.”
All of this is bad. Bad for Israel. Bad for the United States. Bad for the U.S.-Israeli relationship. And, most importantly, it is good for Iran and its nuclear ambitions.
The head of a foreign legislature invites you to speak. Do you have every right to expect that the head of the legislature has followed the proper protocol? Is it the invitee’s responsibility to pick up the phone and say something like: “Your counterpart in the other branch of your government has invited me. Did he check with you? Are you o.k. with it?”
Obviously, it is ridiculous to expect the invitee to ask such questions. But that does not mean that this is a good situation. That’s why it would be a great idea for the Prime Minister to plan on coming down with the flu around March 1st.