The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check USA + Readers Responses
Where There Is No There...There
The Perfect Political Storm Rolls In and Out of Washington
The dubious but utterly entertaining Washington news this week centered on a speech Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered to the United States Congress. Sold as some kind of diplomatic mission of great import between unwavering allies with undertones of disrespect for normal international and domestic protocol, the event was entirely political in every way, shape and form. It is anything but rare to have pure political theater transpire in D.C. – that’s pretty much the point of it – but for those of us enamored with such shameless showboating this one had a singular quality. It was the Hope Diamond of political theater, an aurora borealis moment, a political junkie’s Woodstock, if you’ll allow.
In a nutshell this baby was Shakespeare’s yummy “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” In this case we had three idiots; heads of state butting over diplomatic policies starring a lame-duck president reconfiguring a foreign policy legacy, a lesser party of power using the legislative branch of the U.S. government as a backdrop for another country’s national election, and a prime minister desperately trying to use this unabashedly staged affair as a campaign cudgel.
But remember, this is all political melodrama that means less than nothing beyond the massive egos involved. Like most playacting, whether by children on a sugar jag or dogs rolling on their backs soliciting belly rubs, this is pure grandstanding for grandstanding sake.
What Netanyahu claimed to be accomplishing with this maneuver was to stress his county’s concerns over an ongoing diplomatic deal being hammered out by the Obama Administration and Iran to halt its alleged nuclear weapons development. On the shiny surface, considering the madness that is Iran, this seems like a reasonable gesture if one ignores the history of Netanyahu as a fervent veteran of the Israel Defense Force during Israel’s most triumphant military moment, 1968’s Six Day War, and serving fanatically in the special forces unit, Sayeret Matkal during its most aggressive period of raids in the late 60s, early 70s.
Simply put, Netanyahu, the first ever state-born secularist Israeli to become prime minster, is, has been, and will always be embarrassingly unaware of anything approaching the concept of diplomacy. He is a military man and has made no bones about it since he emerged on Israel’s political scene in the 1990s. I was in Jerusalem in the spring of 1996 the day he was handed the gig, standing within a stone’s throw of the Western Wall amongst a weirdly agitated and euphoric crowd bellowing erratically in both Arabic and Hebrew. His election was immediately divisive and he served his first term with unapologetic intransigence rarely seen in his position, which is the power arm of America’s interest in the Middle East.
Granted, the argument for Netanyahu’s heralded trip here among those who are not the Israeli prime minster is that Iran has spent decades shouting this and that about obliterating the Satan that is Israel. Yes, and the sun comes up tomorrow. Netanyahu, whose only plan is military force, was already laughed out of the United Nations for telling the world Iran was weeks from having a nuclear weapon in 2012. Nothing new here, except that it includes one key factor; the prime minster is up for a heavily challenged re-election two weeks to the day he delivers said speech. His country is mired in economic and housing crises due to his apparently abysmal domestic policies and he’s being investigated for some kind of tax fraud.
Shit, it was never hard to figure Netanyahu out, which is an enviable trait. He is as transparent as they come, unwaveringly patriotic and fervently paranoid, a dangerous combination in the region in which he plies his trade. But he is also a pathetic megalomaniac with no compunction about using any method available to him in order to increase his bloated sense of personal destiny; in other words, excellent D.C. material.
I remember lying in bed in my hotel room at the Galei Kinneret on the banks of the Sea of Galilee watching Netanyahu during the first prime minister debate ever to be internationally broadcast and conducted entirely in English, and this is what I wrote in Trailing Jesus, the book I was researching in May of ’96: “I am enamored by the slick movements and sharp quips of a tanned and silver-maned Bibi (his nickname), tossing aside notions that he will ignore all but Jewish Israelis if elected. He is articulate and funny, and does not hesitate to confront any issue with aplomb. The more calculated and efficient (Shimon) Peres is insightful and poignant, thinking out his answers before replying, but he barely talks above a whisper and does not possess a single dramatic hand movement to accentuate his points. Peres, I decide before drifting off to sleep, is doomed.”
So you have a bold, Teddy Roosevelt character working out a deal with the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives when he was denied access to the Capital by the White House due, according to the Obama Administration, to an unwritten bullshit rule that heads of state not interact when one is embroiled in an election season. The rule is bullshit because it happens all the time, too many to note here. Simply, both the president and the prime minster were engaging in competing political grandstands. The former teetering on the final stages of either a triumphant, groundbreaking deal with one of the great enemies of the Middle East to cease its supposed march to nuclear capabilities or a disastrous appeasement of a rogue nation, and the latter strategically using its most powerful and influential ally to appear vaingloriously imperial.
For his part, House Speaker John Boehner used this opportunity to stick it to the president. Once again, on the shiny surface, Boehner, and his place as the national face of the Republican Party, appears to side with the tough-talking Netanyahu and his dire-speak of siding with terrorists being the bane of the free world. The move, proffering this unprecedented invitation to a prime minister during an election campaign against the will of a sitting president, gains him much needed political points with the core of his party, who has recently made him once again look like a feckless tool of obstruction. After spending days condescendingly assuring the national press that he had a deal in place to fund Homeland Security, his constituency jobbed him by voting it down. He is weak and ineffectual and needs this bad.
Of course, for his part in this passion play, the president could have avoided all this by ignoring the unwritten bullshit rule to quickly and quietly meet with Netanyahu and send him on his way. However, in another calculated maneuver, Obama’s snubbing of a prime minister had less to do with avoiding the influencing of an election and more to do with Netanyahu screwing around with his precious Iranian deal by yammering jingoistic nonsense in his nation’s capital building.
For all intents and purposed, a foreign primes minister suckered the United States Congress into hosting his campaign shenanigans, a U.S. president looks completely inconsequential on the world stage, and Benjamin Netanyahu continues his unchecked public buffoonery. This was the political equivalent of a perfect storm, something you might find once or twice in a lifetime outside an outlandish Hollywood script. But none of it, none, was news. Showbiz rarely is.
READERS RESPONSES March 20th
There are two reasons I read Reality Check religiously each week. For starters it is always hilariously on-point. I may not agree with the point but it is usually not far from the center of what is going on and it is always a very humorous slant on it that it leaves you thinking deeper about what you have already pre-determined. This is why Reality Check is absolutely the perfect title for this column. And second if not more important is what you accomplished this week (THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE MIDDLE CLASS – Issue: 2/11/15), a much needed summary of events that lead up to whatever news story you are covering.
I learned a great deal (and some of it was a reminder of what I already suspected) about the creation of the American Middle Class and how unique it is in recent human history. There was a huge hand of the federal government involved, some of it questionable, but there is no arguing with the results. And also more effectively there was a greater burden on the upper classes to chip in to create a consumer class that still exists in some form today.
However, where I disagree is your dire sense of the outcome. I think a return to these core American values to eradicate income inequality that I think both of our political parties have lent lip service to is so important to helping as many people as we can to realize the American Dream. I think once we abandon that we abandon the idea of a democratic society and one ruled only by the one to two percent. Growth then is impossible.
And while I do not believe in a nanny state or propping up a zero sum game, there has to be a strong effort to return our economic system to a fairer construct that can provide enough relief to those struggling to help us be a better nation through work and ingenuity. The government and the people can work together to achieve this. It did so after World War II that featured the Greatest Generation. Why not now?
Here's another article I'm not reading passed the opening ignorant salvo. Too many people on the planet? Are you fucking serious?! For a guy who thinks the Tea Party is full of ignorant backwoods suckers I'm surprised and a little bit shocked by your absolute lack of embarrassment for thinking, no less putting in print, such dumb ass pseudoscience. Who did you get this bullshit from? Did any of these sources of colossal retardation tell you exactly how many people are just right for the planet? Really. I want to know. I would think a smart person would want that insanely simple follow-up question satisfied before jumping ass-first into the PT Barnum suckers line. And just because you live next to one of the most populated cities on the planet is not considered "evidence." Without even looking I can bet whomever you got this ridiculous bullshit from are willfully ignorant of history and/or purposefully peddling Progressive propaganda for Government grants/paychecks.
The sky is made of pudding! Jon Stewart said so!
Ooooooooohhhhh! I can see the religious crazy people getting all up in your grill about this opening line. I wonder how many Bible thumpers will misinterpret the “too many people on this planet” line as an apocalyptic call to arms. I can hear them now screaming about how you are advocating abortion. And the people on the left will assume you mean this as a racist statement, like too many immigrants, because everything is racist to them. So somewhere this one line will be a cross between right-wing fundamentalists accusing you of sweeping pro-government godless nonchalance and the lefties accusing you of genocide.
How do you sucker these idiots time and again to be pissed at this shit?
You are either a genius or a total asshole. Or maybe people are just stupid? Maybe it is a weird combination of these thing.
Either way, man you do get them going.
Who goes first, Himmler? My family? Your family? Why even have a middle class if there are too many people? Maybe we should just have more wars and welcome more diseases? What the hell is that? Can you get more nihilistic in this column? I am so insulted by this I cannot even believe I am wasting my time writing you other than to say, FUCK YOU!
While it is undeniably true that the American middle class, the entire reason why this country triumphed in the Cold War and not some pie-in-the-sky bedtime story of an arms race and JFK and Ronald Reagan and all those stupid covert wars that cost us money and men and finally face in the world stage, was the manipulation of the American economy by the federal government, it important that we also come to grips with the fact that it is the ONLY way to create a false, consumer-based, debt-struggling, stuck-in-the-drudgery propping up of the rich scheme. Period. The sooner we understand this and not these American Exceptionalism speeches by obvious dunderheads completely unaware of recent history, then we will all be better for it.
Here’s the deal…this president for all of the attacks and/or praise he receives as some kind of liberal socialist food-stamper has done nothing to correct this glaring problem, this gaping hole in the American economic system that is controlled completely by a small number of Wall Street goons who use out future and our children’s future as a gambling chip. Lord knows you’ll get nothing from congress, the mass of which was elected to take down the very government needed to keep us all fat and happy. All you need to do if you disagree with this assessment is look at the fallout from the worst financial crisis that anyone alive now has endured. None of these people or their giant banks (remember that corporations and banks are people too) went to jail for this. Not one. Believe me, people, if Obama was a socialist then someone if not everyone would have ended up on the wrong end of one of these drones he’s so proud of and has no compunction about killing Americans with.
The right and for that matter the left has to stop making this guy out to be a demon or a hero, he is neither. He is feeding the monster that is destroying any chance of a truly recovering this economy. I figure you are probably correct that in a generation or so he will be propped up by liberals as the savior Reagan is for the right, everyone conveniently forgetting the ulta-liberal maneuvers by Reagan to effect the U.S economy through his pen and that ridiculous deal he struck with congress to “save” Social Security instead of fixing it.
Hey people it is time to wake up to the real reality check, we are the suckers and we are going to pay not for actions of our government but inaction, the kind that dooms nations.
Demand that your congress and your president do something, not keep the other from doing it.
© James Campion 3.20.15
Do yourself no favors and “like” this idiot at www.facebook.com/jc.author
James Campion is the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, "Midnight For Cinderella" and “Y”.
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+ Readers Responses
let’s face it, trustworthy is such a thorny concept that it’s hard to fathom