Give the White House some credit here. Their critics have mercilessly shredded Barack Obama and his national-security team for their inability to see the rise of ISIS, the collapse of Libya after their decapitation of the Qaddafi regime, the collapse of Yemen after pressuring the Saleh regime to retire, and the collapse of Iraq after Obama withdrew American forces in 2011. It’s at least a little refreshing to see the White House recognize a threat before it arrives … even it’s just a threat to their own threadbare credibility on foreign policy.
Here’s a question: Is it smart power to plot to undercut the head of state from one of America’s few dependable allies in a volatile region?
In what is becoming an increasingly nasty grudge match, the White House is mulling ways to undercut Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming trip to Washington and blunt his message that a potential nuclear deal with Iran is bad for Israel and the world.
There are limits. Administration officials have discarded the idea of President Barack Obama himself giving an Iran-related address to rebut the two speeches Netanyahu is to deliver during his early March visit.
Ahem. If Obama has a problem with what Netanyahu will say — and this AP story from Matthew Lee and Julie Pace make it clear that the White House is scared spitless at the prospect — then why not have Obama offer his own perspective on the issue of the Iranian negotiations? The President has the bully pulpit, and has a tremendous advantage in prestige on his own home turf. If he’s unwilling to use it, then that speaks very clearly to why the Obama administration is so nervous about Netanyahu’s speech.
So what are they planning to do? Put on the Passive-Aggressive Circus:
But other options remain on the table. Among them: a presidential interview with a prominent journalist known for coverage of the rift between Obama and Netanyahu, multiple Sunday show television appearances by senior national security aides and a pointed snub of America’s leading pro-Israel lobby, which is holding its annual meeting while Netanyahu is in Washington, according to the officials.
The administration has already ruled out meetings between Netanyahu and Obama, saying it would be inappropriate for the two to meet so close to Israel’s March 17 elections. But the White House is now doubling down on a cold-shoulder strategy, including dispatching Cabinet members out of the country and sending a lower-ranking official than normal to represent the administration at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the officials said.
Let me get this straight. The Obama administration is going to show its displeasure with Netanyahu’s address by … running away? Oh, let’s send all of our Cabinet officials out of the country — that’ll show him! Joe Biden will be conspicuously absent, which can only make Sara Netanyahu breathe a sigh of relief. All of this is designed to distract from Netanyahu’s speech rather than offer a cogent and apposite response to it. The trouble to which the White House is putting itself in engineering this Passive-Aggressive Circus makes it pretty clear that they don’t have such a response to offer.
Republicans yesterday blasted the White House over this report. Jeb Bush pronounced himself “very disappointed,” and Ted Cruz stated that America is “stronger when we stand firmly with our allies.” But don’t be too hard on Obama, fellas — it’s the first time in quite a while that we’ve actually seen a strategic plan come together out of the West Wing.