A CNN poll released this week found that 63 percent of Americans think House GOP leaders were wrong to invite Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress without notifying President Obama. Eighty one percent of Democratic respondents agree.
Public disapproval of the circumstances surrounding the Netanyahu speech, however, doesn’t appear to be a very powerful motivator for Democrats in Congress.
Some House Democrats have circulated a letter calling on House Speaker John Boehner to delay the speech, on the grounds that it represents a partisan effort by Republicans to enlist the help of a foreign leader in scuttling one of the President’s chief foreign policy goals, i.e., reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, which Netanyahu bitterly opposes.
All of 23 House Democrats have signed this letter. The office of Rep. Keith Ellison, who is spearheading it, sends over a list of signatories, which will be announced later this morning:
Keith Ellison, Steve Cohen, Maxine Waters, Earl Blumenauer, André Carson, John Conyers, Jr., Danny Davis, Peter DeFazio, Luis Gutiérrez, Henry “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Eddie Bernice Johnson, Barbara Lee, Betty McCollum, James McGovern, Jim McDermott, Beto O’Rourke, Donald Payne, Chellie Pingrie, Mark Pocan, Mark Takano, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, John Yarmuth.
Missing from this list are House Democratic members and leaders whose voices could make a real difference here: Foreign Affairs ranking Dem Eliot Engel; Whip Steny Hoyer; DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
All in all, the failure of more Democrats to sign this letter suggests many still fear the politics of appearing out of sync with whatever Israel wants. It’s true that a number of Democrats have said they will skip the speech. But many of those have clarified that this isn’t due to any organized boycott, and far more are attending. And, really, all the talk of a “boycott” is misdirection. It shouldn’t be all that difficult for Democrats to call for a mere delay in this speech, while rebuffing efforts to portray such a move as “anti-Israel,” given how egregious the circumstances surrounding this event really are.
To be sure, given the aforementioned Democratic skittishness, the fact that two dozen Democrats have signed this letter does suggest that a political space is opening up for Democrats to feel like it might not necessarily be suicidal to occasionally appear at odds with Israel, even if it is a small one.
But still, Congressional Democrats face a problem here: What are they going to do now? The CNN poll I referenced above strongly suggests the Democratic base is not happy with the fact that Netanyahu will be going forward with this speech, which has been portrayed by many commentators as forcing Congressional Democrats to choose between Netanyahu and Obama. If most are not willing to call for a delay in the speech, what will they prove willing to do? If they do nothing, how do they explain that to rank and file Democratic voters?
UPDATE: To clarify, a delay in the speech would simply entail putting it off until after the current round of nuclear talks with Iran wraps up and after the Israeli elections. The question is this: Given that these talks are a top foreign policy priority of the president, why is calling for this delay seen as politically so hard for Democrats to do?
* LEFT-RIGHT COALITION UNITES BEHIND CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM: An interesting scoop from Carl Hulse: The liberal Center for American Progress and the conservative libertarian Koch brothers are collaborating in the creation of a new organization devoted to reforming the criminal justice system:
The coalition plans a multimillion-dollar campaign on behalf of emerging proposals to reduce prison populations, overhaul sentencing, reduce recidivism and take on similar initiatives….Organizers…view the coalition as a way to show lawmakers in gridlocked Washington that factions with widely divergent views can find ways to work together.
This sort of left-right alliance is regularly anticipated on various issues, but it usually fails to get very far. But if there is any area that has the potential to unite the libertarian right and civil liberties left in large enough numbers to get something done, drug law sentencing and hugely expensive mass incarceration might be it.
* JEB BUSH IS NOT A ‘REAL’ CONSERVATIVE, EXCEPT THAT HE IS: The Wall Street Journal does a deep dive into Jeb Bush’s tenure as Florida governor, and finds that he ran the state as “one of the country’s most vaunted conservative champions.”
Mr. Bush delivered $19 billion in tax cuts, vetoed $2 billion in lawmakers’ pet projects and shrank the government payroll. He privatized many state services and pioneered a Medicaid overhaul that moved recipients into private managed-care networks. When the courts threw out his first-in-the-nation, taxpayer-funded school vouchers, he fought to preserve a smaller, privately financed program…Yet some Republicans view Mr. Bush as out of step with the conservative base of his party.
After all, Bush has suggested that the plight of illegal immigrants might be morally complex. He can’t possibly be a real conservative! Seriously, Bush has vowed not to be constrained by the need to pander to base voters upset over immigration and Common Core, but before long, he’ll be stressing the profound conservatism of his record.
* RISING SUPPORT FOR SENDING IN GROUND TROOPS: A new CBS News poll finds:
For the first time, a majority of Americans (57 percent) favor the U.S. sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS…Support for sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS has risen among all partisans, but particularly among Democrats and independents…now 50 percent of Democrats approve and 53 percent of independents favor using ground troops.
It’s perhaps not a coincidence that Democrats are supportive of more war, now that Obama has asked Congress for a new authorization. More broadly, rising support for war may make it less likely that Congress passes any authorization with any meaningful limits.
* WHY HOMELAND SECURITY SHUTDOWN FIGHT MATTERS POLITICALLY: E.J. Dionne’s column asks whether the grown-ups in the GOP will prevail, averting a showdown rooted in the conservative demand that Homeland Security be used as leverage to roll back protections against deportations from millions, and reminds us of this:
[Mitch] McConnell certainly knows that the battle House Speaker John Boehner’s caucus wants to have with President Obama over his executive actions on immigration is doubly counterproductive. Most Republicans realize that one of the biggest obstacles to their building a majority in presidential elections is the fact that Latino Americans have come to feel that the GOP just doesn’t like them very much. As the party’s now much neglected “Growth and Opportunity Project” autopsy after the 2012 election put it, “if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”
Remember that? Sounds pretty quaint now. The key point is that what probably matters most politically for 2016 about the current standoff is the impression left of the two parties among Latinos.
* QUOTE OF THE DAY, DESPERATE-GRAB-FOR-ATTENTION EDITION: Rudy Giuliani is back:
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”…What’s wrong with this man that he can’t stand up and say there’s a part of Islam that’s sick?”
As Billmon put it: “Rudy Giuliani: A little man, still looking for a balcony.”
* AND THE HEADLINE OF THE DAY: The New York Times, reporting on the announcement of 11.4 million new Obamacare sign-ups on the federal exchanges, notes that at least 85 percent of them qualify for subsidies, meaning enormous numbers could lose coverage if the Supreme Court sides with the King challengers. Headline:
As Health Exchange Sign-Ups Rise, So Do Stakes for Supreme Court
Wait, I thought we weren’t allowed to utter a peep about the potential consequences of a ruling against the ACA — millions losing health coverage; disrupted insurance markets across the country — because that’s playing politics! The question, of course, remains whether such consequences will weigh on the Justices.