Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Reuters
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.
Tipping off the enemy
A front-page story in The Wall Street Journal is a stunner — for all the wrong reasons. Under the headline, “US, Iraq Set Sights on Mosul Offensive,” it lays out plans for a summer attack against Islamic State, including the locations and numbers of allied Kurdish fighters and which Iraqi units will lead the charge.
Most shocking, the source is Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top American commander in the Middle East. He told the Journal US ground troops might be involved and that the military “would do what it takes.”
What the hell is going on? Since when does the military give the public, and the enemy, advance notice of battle plans? Has Gen. Austin lost his mind?
This is nuts.
Andy is in one Shel of a mess
Don’t be surprised if Gov. Cuomo looks as if he’s missed a meal or two. Preet Bharara is eating his lunch.
“Wherever corruption is on the rise, that means democracy is on the decline,” Bharara said, calling Albany “a cauldron of corruption.”
The prosecutor also mocked the infamous “three men in a room” phenomenon, asking pointedly, “When did 20 million New Yorkers agree to be ruled like a triumvirate in Roman times?”
The brilliant performance earned a ringing ovation from his law-school audience — and nervous silence in the Capitol. There, legislators huddled quietly in little groups or scurried to the safety of their offices. If there is a “Dump Silver” caucus, nobody has seen it.
Cuomo’s odd behavior is the most troubling. After ducking a reporter’s question Thursday about Silver’s fate, the governor went silent, missing yet another chance to claim the role of honest reformer.
He’s already in Bharara’s sights after abruptly closing the Moreland panel while it was investigating Silver’s outside income. And the prosecutor promises more political cases, each of which will stain Cuomo’s reputation.
As head of the Democratic Party, the least Cuomo should do is demand that Silver step aside as speaker. As governor, he should simply refuse to negotiate with someone so thoroughly disgraced.
He must decide soon: Silver says he will return to work Monday and carry on business as usual.
So which side are you on, Governor: Do you stand with Silver or Bharara?
Blas’ strange bedfellows
Mayor de Blasio’s praise for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as a “man of integrity” after Silver was charged with taking $4 million in payoffs and bribes is raising hackles, but bad taste is par for the de Blasio course.
Remember, he sees Al Sharpton as “a blessing for this city” despite Sharpton being a serial tax scofflaw who owes a reported $4.5 million.
“The more people criticize him, the more I want to hang out with him,” de Blasio said.