Today I had one of those rare moments of revelation which, admittedly, don’t happen often for an old curmudgeon like myself. It took place when I dragged myself away from staring at my laptop and the work in front of me to turn up the volume on my television and watch Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress. In the run up to this highly debated event, I confess I had been more than cynical. In fact, just to clarify exactly where my thinking had been, I will revisit a column I published in this space last month. In it, I said the following:
And all of this is supposedly being staged to accomplish what, precisely? Does anyone really think that Bibi is going to show up and make some fresh, new announcement which he hasn’t said a hundred times already? The man isn’t going to stand up in front of Congress and say, Oh, by the way… we’ll be bombing Tehran in fifteen minutes. It’s a symbolic gesture at best, and while symbolism is important in both politics and foreign relations, whether this speech took place or not (or where or when for that matter) was never going to change anything.
When the Prime Minister finished speaking today, I realized exactly how wrong I had been in assuming that this was going to be some cheap, catchpenny display. This was, as I said on Twitter in the moments following the address, one of the most powerful speeches which I have seen delivered in that chamber in the modern era. Netanyahu was the essence of many attributes so lacking in American politics today. He was gracious, not only to those who obviously support him, but to those who might disagree with him here on various policy points. (And, as I will cover below, even with those who were simply rude.) He projected wisdom and rational thought, so frequently lacking in the cheap seats of the theater of American politics. He was sincerely grateful for all that he and the nation he represents have received from the United States and for the consanguinity between our nations. He expressed confidence and hope in a lasting relationship which should be a hallmark of civilized relations in the modern world.
Above all, he was not there to be a politician as I had previously supposed. He was there to be a leader, but also a gracious ally, speaking as an equal on the world stage. He did not come with his hat in hand to ask America to save him. He reiterated that Israel could save itself, but that it would not have to stand alone as long as those with common values which embrace basic goodness stood together in sodality. It was, quite simply, one of the most moving speeches I have witnessed in many years.
I was wrong – in the worst way, since I have clearly allowed cynicism to poison the well – when I supposed that this speech was a pointless, partisan, political ploy. I think I’ve spent too long watching American politicians standing up on cable news and barking out the same tired talking points which their minions repeat ad nauseam for the mainstream media complex. I was highly impressed and felt a bit ashamed. I owe the Prime Minister an apology and I do so now.
Sadly, not everyone shared my feelings. I was further embarrassed for our nation when our President eschewed the chance to even watch the event and treated it as some inutile piece of puffery. When did we reach the point where one world leader can not even take a moment and lend their ear to a brief set of remarks on a critical topic from a fellow principal on the world stage, to say nothing of being willing to be generous in recognizing their remarks?
This poor showing was only amplified when Nancy Pelosi layered on insulting comments which served no purpose other than to be offensive. I’m not implying in any way that she had to agree with Benjamin Netanyahu and his position regarding Iran, but doesn’t he deserve better treatment than that simply by virtue of being a guest in our country, not to mention delivering such a heartfelt speech which was so gracious to all of America? It was a sad moment on an already depressing stage of US politicking.
I was wrong about Bibi Netanyahu’s speech. It was an impressive moment in history. I only wish our elected Democrat leaders could have shown the grace to join me in apologizing.