The scheme cooked up by Speaker of the House John Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to humiliate President Obama and pressure him on Iran is backfiring, as dozens of congressional Democrats are threatening to not attend Netanyahu’s address to Congress.
Dozens of House Democrats are privately threatening to skip the March 3 address, according to lawmakers and aides, in what’s become the lowest point of a relationship between the Israeli prime minister and President Barack Obama that’s never been good.
The president and his aides won’t tell Democrats to skip the speech. But they aren’t telling Democrats to go, either. “We defer to Democratic members if they’d like to attend or not,” a White House aide said Tuesday.
Though some may abandon the threat, as of Tuesday, many Democrats on the Hill — including several Jewish members — said they’re likely to leave the prime minister looking at some empty seats.
Republicans and the Israeli Prime Minister assumed that the president would be weakened after the midterm election. They thought that they could divide Democrats and humiliate Obama into abandoning talks with Iran over their nuclear program. Boehner and Netanyahu thought that they could bully this president and congressional Democrats, but they were wrong.
Instead of bullying the president and dividing Democrats, Netanyahu may end up addressing a lot of empty seats. The speech may look less like a bipartisan address to Congress, and more like what it really will be a pep rally for hardline conservative foreign policy. Boehner and Netanyahu both grossly misread the political landscape. The Republican Israeli ambassador to the US bought the great delusion that Republicans were going to have their way with the president after they took control of Congress.
The reality has been characterized by President Obama setting the political agenda with congressional Republicans consistently on the defensive.
Speaker Boehner tried to force Democrats to choose between Obama and Netanyahu. For Democratic members of Congress, it was an easy decision. Democrats are standing with their president, as Netanyahu’s may be addressing a lot of empty seats when he speaks to Congress next month.