House speaker mounts lame defense

John Boehner must be fantasizing about being president of the United States.

Why else would the speaker of the House of Representatives take it upon himself to buck long-standing diplomatic protocol by inviting a foreign head of government to speak to Congress without consulting first with the White House.

The speaker has defended his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress, saying he didn’t tell the White House because he didn’t want any interference from President Obama, who he thinks might seek to derail the invitation.

Such so-called “logic” simply dodges the real issue, which is whether it is appropriate for a legislative leader to go behind the back of the nation’s head of state — the president — in inviting a foreign dignitary to make a public speech before a joint congressional session.

To my way of thinking — and others as well — the speaker broke a long-held rule of diplomatic decorum.

And why? Because of some so-called tension between the president and the prime minister.

“There’s so secret here in Washington about the animosity that this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the Ohio Republican said. “I, frankly, didn’t want that getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.”

The “real opportunity,” according to Boehner, would be for Netanyahu to argue for stronger sanctions against Iran while the Islamic Republic is in the middle of nuclear disarmament negotiations with the State Department and other foreign governments. Barack Obama doesn’t want to impose any new sanctions while the negotiations are under way.

I agree totally with Boehner that Netanyahu is the “perfect person” to talk about radical Islamic terrorism and about the threat of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. That’s as far as Netanyahu should go, however, when he stands before a joint congressional session.

To lobby publicly for the increased sanctions now undercuts the president — which is another breach of decorum that Boehner has committed.

Mr. Speaker, we’ve got just one president at a time.

And, sir, it isn’t you.


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