What do you call it when the (soon-to-be) House Majority Leader sits down with a visiting head of state and assures him that he and his party can be counted on to side with his country against the president of the United States?
This isn't a hypothetical, by the way. It's not like I'm asking what would have happened if Joachim von Ribbentrop had sat down in Sam Rayburn's office in 1939 and received assurances that Rayburn and the Dems could be counted on to support Germany and block anything Roosevelt did to try to force concessions. Because, in a case like that (which did not happen) we know what we would call it. We know what Eric Cantor would call it.
But, there I go again, bringing up Nazis, which is in such bad taste in this case.
Last night, Netanyahu met in New York for over an hour with incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is set to become the highest ranking Jewish member of Congress in history. The meeting took place at New York’s Regency Hotel, and included no other American lawmakers besides Cantor. Also attending on the Israeli side were Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, and Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor Uzi Arad. Israeli sources characterized a one-on-one meeting between an Israeli prime minister and a lone American lawmaker as unusual, if not unheard of.Cantor was understandably feeling delighted with his sense of self-importance and could not help but provide a readout of the meeting for the press. Part of that readout said:
"Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington," the readout continued. "He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other."This isn't boilerplate. The president is trying to facilitate a peace agreement between two parties, only one of which is Israel. In that process, Israel must make concessions. Eric Cantor is promising to undermine that process.
Two questions here for Cantor's defenders:
One, if this was Nancy Pelosi speaking directly to any foreign leader and specifically saying "We will act as a check on the Republican President of the United States in order to get the policies you want" would that be in any way acceptable?
Two, if this was Eric Cantor making the same promise to "check the President's power" to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Russia's Vladimir Putin, China's Wen Jiabao, or Cuba's Raul Castro, would that in any way be acceptable?
So I ask why is Cantor allowed to openly promise to the leader of a foreign country that he will undermine the foreign policy authority of the President? How is that even remotely acceptable?
The answer is clearly that it's not.
Unless that foreign country is Israel. Let's recall how Republicans have responded to that first theoretical question I posed as the excellent Amanda Terkel explains:
In the past, Republicans have been sharply critical of Democratic trips abroad that could be seen as undermining the official foreign policies of the U.S. president. For example, in 2007, both the Bush White House and its Republican supporters lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) for visiting Syria, saying that she was trying to circumvent President Bush (never mind that Republican lawmakers were also in Syria and Pelosi didn't criticize the Bush administration).
"It has long been the established principle of this country that the president of the United States leads our foreign policy," said former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. "And if you don't like the president, then you change him. But you don't have the two parties each conducting foreign policy in the way they think it ought to be conducted."
John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, added, "I would simply hope that people would understand that, under the Constitution, the president conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House."
In 2006, conservatives went after former vice president Al Gore for criticizing "abuses" committed by the U.S. government against Arabs post-9/11 in a speech in Saudi Arabia, with the editorial page of Investor's Business Daily saying he demonstrated "supreme disloyalty to his country."
But in fact, in 1996, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) also tried to signal to a foreign country that it might have better luck working with Congress instead of the president, traveling to Colombia and telling military officials there to "bypass the U.S. executive branch and communicate directly with Congress."
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So does that mean Dennis Hastert and Eric Cantor are "supremely disloyal" too?