Thou shall not cross Dear Leader.
With their gutter sniping failing to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned March speech before Congress, White House aides are unloading their full arsenal of bile.
“He spat in our face publicly, and that’s no way to behave,” one Obama aide told an Israeli newspaper. “Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”
It is pointless to say petty threats do not become the Oval Office. Trying to instruct this White House on manners recalls what Mark Twain said about trying to teach a pig to sing: It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
Still, the fury is telling. It reminds, as if we could forget, that everything is always about Obama.
How dare Israel be more concerned with the existential threat of Iranian nukes than with Obama’s feelings? And what do members of Congress think they are, a separate branch of government or something?
Yes, the presidency deserves respect, even when the president doesn’t. Although Obama routinely ignores lawmakers and their role in our constitutional system of checks and balances, there is an argument afoot that Congress should have taken the high road and consulted him before inviting Netanyahu.
The argument has a point — but not a compelling one. To give Obama veto power over the visit would be to put protocol and his pride before the most important issue in the world.
That is Iran’s march to nuclear weapons, and Obama’s foolish complicity. His claim at the State of the Union that “we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material” would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. The claim earned him three Pinocchios, with four being an outright whopper, by The Washington Post.
Outside the president’s yes-men circle, nobody believes the mad mullahs will voluntarily give up their quest for the bomb. International sanctions made life difficult for the regime, especially with oil prices cratering, but Obama relaxed restrictions with nothing to show for it except negotiations where he keeps bidding against himself.
He is desperate for a deal, and the Iranians know it, so they want to keep talking. They are gaining concessions and buying time, which means a reversal of their weapons program becomes much harder to achieve.
The ticking doomsday clock is what led to the remarkable comments by Democrat Robert Menendez. After Obama warned that more sanctions, even if they would not take effect unless the talks collapsed, could scare off the Iranians, the New Jersey senator said Obama was repeating talking points that “come straight out of Tehran.”
That’s a zinger for the ages — and has the added advantage of being true.
Any deal that leaves Iran with a capacity to make a nuke in weeks or months will ignite a regional arms race. As I have noted, American military and intelligence officials believe a nuclear-armed Iran will lead to a nuclear exchange with Israel or Arab countries within five years.
Israel has the most to lose from an Iranian nuke, and Netanyahu can be expected to articulate a forceful argument against Obama’s disastrous course. That’s why House Speaker John Boehner invited him, and it’s why the president is so bent out of shape and refuses to meet with Netanyahu. He doesn’t want Americans to hear the other side.
But we must. And Congress must not shirk from its duty to demand a meaningful agreement with Iran, or none at all.
An extra layer of sanctions waiting in the wings is good backup, but another pending bill is more important. It would demand that any agreement come before the Senate for a vote.
Naturally, Obama opposes it, but that’s all the more reason why it is needed. As Ronald Reagan famously said about Soviet promises, “Trust but verify.”
So must it be with Iran and, sadly, our own president.