Friday afternoon I called and spoke with an aide to Congressman Mark Pocan concerning Tuesday’s upcoming speech from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to a joint session of congress. I requested that Pocan not sit in the chamber for the speech, and outlined in brief fashion why I think it best to be skipped.
I stated to the aide I was sure my call was on a topic that few had weighed in on, and even told him he did not have to say if others had called. But all the same if he could I would be interested in knowing how much this topic had resonated with Pocan’s constituents. “You would be surprised how many calls we have had on this matter,” was the response. I was heartened to hear that news.
Why this matters so much for me, and why it prompted a call to the congressman’s office, has to do with really one solid foundation that needs to be preserved. World leaders, such as President Obama and Netanyahu, should deal with each other, and must not use opposition political parties to gain traction.
There is nothing other than a huge nasty degree of partisanship about the invitation to Netanyahu to speak. The House Republican leadership has decided to heavily politicize international affairs. Trying in this way to undercut the prerogative of the executive branch to fashion deals and compromises–such as regarding nuclear talks with Iran–is unseemly and not something that should be countenanced by thoughtful members of congress.
There is already a most unhealthy level of partisanship in congress, to the point that brinksmanship is the way even one of the most important federal agencies is funded. To expand partisanship to the degree of allowing foreign heads of state to use the podium in the House must never be allowed to get a toehold.
I fully understand there are competing reasons as to why it would be ‘more acceptable’ if members of congress such as Pocan just sat and forced a polite smile through the speech. But in so doing I think it sets a terrible acceptance for yet another slippery step in how partisanship is allowed to govern what in reality should be a very sober-minded and highly contemplative way of dealing with thorny international concerns.
I trust that my congressman gives this matter a great deal of thought, and then refuses to sit for it on Tuesday.
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