By Monsignor William J. Linder
When it comes to playing politics, House Speaker John Boehner has truly perfected the art of creating division in the nation’s capital.
Why else would he have extended a unilateral invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on March 3, without first consulting the White House?
Boehner’s actions essentially set up a showdown between Netanyahu and the Obama administration, which was reportedly livid over Boehner’s invitation as well as the prime minister’s decision to accept.
The move came after months of wrangling between the White House and Netanyahu over the hot-button issue of Iran’s nuclear program. Instead of using his prominent position to display true leadership, Boehner orchestrated a move that smacks of secrecy and could hamper real progress in nuclear negotiations with Iran by souring U.S. relations with its key ally in the Middle East.
Let me be clear, Boehner has every right to disagree with the President, just as you and I have the right to voice our opinions as citizens of a democratic country. However extending an invitation to Netanyahu, who is fighting for political survival as he seeks an unprecedented fourth term as prime minister in a March 17 election, was clearly a breach of protocol.
While Netanyahu has devoted much of his political career to blocking Iran from developing a nuclear stockpile, the United States Congress should not be his platform for a final campaign speech, especially in defiance of our own President. Netanyahu has repeatedly rebuffed Obama, calling his planned speech to U.S. lawmakers his “duty.”
Whether or not Netanyahu delivers his remarks to Congress is arguably a moot point now. The House Speaker has been plainly unapologetic about snubbing the White House and several members of Congress have said they will not attend the speech.
The damage has been done.