Mr President, Whatever Happened to the People’s Right to Know?

Mr President, Whatever Happened to the People’s Right to Know? March 10, 2015

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful and inspiring speech before a joint session of the United States Congress last week.

The single most compelling thing about this speech was his commitment to Israel. I would give anything if American elected officials actually cared about America the way that he so obviously cares about Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu came before Congress to speak on behalf of Israeli interests. He told us that Israel would stand alone if it had to, but that the days when Jews silently and obediently marched into the gas chambers were over. Jews would defend themselves. He underscored this by bringing Elie Wiesel, the well-known survivor of the Holocaust, to sit in the gallery while he spoke.

The primary concern he raised during his speech was about a possible agreement between the United States and Iran concerning nuclear development in Iran. He is opposed to this agreement on the grounds that it not only will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it actually facilitates them in doing this.

President Obama went nuts in a public way in his opposition to the invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He felt — rightfully so — that the invitation was a partisan jibe at the White House by a Republican Congress. What he forgot is that he doesn’t have a vote in Congress. Congress can invite whomever they want to address them. The prez has nothing to say about it.

There was the usual tut-tutting in the press, most of it appearing to have been fed to it by the White House. Several members of the Obama Administration gave interviews trying to cast the speech as oh-so-damaging to America’s interests. Then the prez got 50 members of Congress to boycott the speech, making themselves look like party hacks in the process.

I believed at the time and I still believe that the reason the White House was so upset was that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech could very well have served the purpose of drawing the American people into the debate. I don’t think the prez cares all that much what Congress thinks, since Congress has consistently proven itself to be completely indifferent to matters of governance.

I think the president of the United States was upset because there was a possibility that the people of the United States might become informed about this potential agreement and voice opinions of their own. I also think that much of the press were his allies in trying to keep the people from hearing this speech. In other words, I don’t think his objective was Prime Minster Netanyahu talking to Congress. I think the president — and his hacks in the press and Congress — objected to the fact that the American people would hear him do it.

Think about that for a moment. The press is allied with the government to keep the people uninformed, because the President doesn’t want the American people meddling in their own government. That’s what I’m saying.

I’m going to stop this analysis at this point and take it up again tomorrow. I think the comments I’ve made about the run-up to the speech itself and the situation in Washington are enough for us to chew on today. They strike to the heart of the American malaise.

What are you feelings about this?

1. Has Congress abdicated its responsibility and allowed the president to govern as an elected dictator?

2. Do you wish that American elected officials cared as passionately about America as Prime Minister Netanyahu cares about Israel?

3. Was the president angry about the speech because he didn’t want the American people to hear a viewpoint that opposes his plans for this agreement with Iran?

4. Is the press colluding with the White House in keeping the American people in the dark about the agreement?

Those are serious questions. I want you to think them over before we move to the questions raised by the speech itself. We’ll talk about what Prime Minister Netanyahu said tomorrow.


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12 responses to “Mr President, Whatever Happened to the People’s Right to Know?”

  1. Congress served as a watergate to control flow of disagreement and protect Pres Obama from any unpleasantness or disagreement for 6 years. Starting in 2010, with the majority in the House being R, the Senate and administration could blame everything on them, including not having a budget for 6 years, one of the things Congress must do.

    I do wish that our elected officials, all of them, cared at least as much about the country as they care about getting re-elected or as much as they care about embarrassing the other party.

    The president was mad because he does not like to be challenged on anything. Ever. Because he is the president with a phone and a pen.

    One only has to look at the choice of headlines, choices of photos and phrasing of questions to see how biased the press are. After Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 there was a discussion by several press people who were very amused at how easy it was to fool everybody about Clinton. The press loves their power and is left.
    Finally, I think the House and Senate leadership invited Natanyahu to speak because they knew that they would be killed in the press trying to stop an Iran deal. Bibi made their case for them.

  2. 1. Has Congress abdicated its responsibility and allowed the president to govern as an elected dictator?

    Considering that Congress has opposed every proposal by the president to the point of self-parody, one could argue that they haven’t allowed him to govern at all, much less as a dictator of any kind.

    2. Do you wish that American elected officials cared as passionately about America as Prime Minister Netanyahu cares about Israel?

    I think many do, which is the problem. By this, I mean they wrap themselves in patriotic demagoguery and perform theater in order to further their own political ambitions.

    3. Was the president angry about the speech because he didn’t want the American people to hear a viewpoint that opposes his plans for this agreement with Iran?

    I think he’s angry that Netanyahu and Congress went out of their way to sabotage his negotiation efforts just to play politics. To add insult to injury, the open letter Congress sent to Iran undermining the president could be considered borderline treason.

    4. Is the press colluding with the White House in keeping the American people in the dark about the agreement?

    I haven’t heard of such efforts. Besides, if you are referring to the mainstream media, many people nowadays get their news from online sources. The speech and reactions to it have been trending for a while.

  3. re: #3: IF PM Netanyahu is correct that the president is fostering the development of nuclear weapons by Iran, then it’s the PRESIDENT who should be called to task, and yes, congress should do so. That is not borderline treason.

  4. Finance reform. It is absurdly expensive to become a member of congress or the president. We MUST have finance reform.

  5. 1. Yes.

    2. Care, yes, but not in the way that Netanhayu cares. Netanhayu has been giving his chicken-little speech about Iran’s nuclear weapons for years, and none of his predictions ever pan out. Even if Iran develops nukes, that will merely create a nuclear stand-off with Israel (which is reported to have about 200 nukes), meaning that Iran can no longer be threatened with nuclear destruction. I’m afraid I don’t see what’s wrong with that.

    3. No I think the President was angry because the Netanyahu invitation to speak to Congress, without co-ordinating the visit with the White House, was extremely inappropriate and irresponsible. Responsible officials would strive to get our act together privately, and then present a united front to foreign governments and foreign leaders whose interests inevitably diverge significantly from ours.

    4. No.

  6. Here’s the thing, Iran, in accordance to UN resolutions, has the right as a sovereign nation, to acquire, develop and utilize nuclear power as they see fit, as long as its for peaceful purposes, whether we like it or not.

    Naturally, given our history, we don’t trust them implicitly and require verifiable reassurance that they are not using it as a cover to build weapons instead. They refused to comply with our demands so we responded by hitting Iran with a series of crippling economic sanctions. These sanctions have forced Iran to come to the negotiating table to determine the terms under which they can develop and use nuclear power.

    The entire point of the negotiations, and by proxy, the sanctions that led to them, was to ensure that Iran does not and cannot develop nuclear weapons behind our back.

    A blanket ban on the use of nuclear power was never on the table. We have no legal recourse to impose or enforce such a ban. Unless you are advocating for war. Which is exactly what Netanyahu and the Republicans in Congress are doing.

    Besides, even if you don’t trust your president to work for the best interests of the US, there are a total of six countries negotiating the deal: United Kingdom, United States, Russia, China, France and Germany.

    If you don’t trust Obama, then at least trust that all the other world leaders involved have the best interests of their respective countries and the world, in mind.

  7. The sanctions are in force against Iran because they have ignored and abrogated Treaties from the Treaty of Westphalia to current treaties and agreements. They have violated IAEA inspections, hidden stuff and lied to inspectors, despite the fact that they are members. They are not to be trusted.
    Did you forget that they invaded our embassy and took over our diplomats? That is important and not that long ago.
    “Blanket ban on nuclear energy” is a straw man argument. They do not need the equipment they have to make nuclear energy for peaceful uses, that according to inspectors.
    No, I do not trust the Russians or Chinese. Neither the Germans who were violating sanctions any time they could for financial gain. Won’t even mention the French.
    The Iranians know how to negotiate. This administration has proven, yet again, that they do not know how to negotiate and just want to get an agreement to prove how smart they are. This is dangerous.

  8. What about the “borderline treason” statement? That was what I was commenting on, your assertion congress was committing borderline treason. Having someone give a speech to congress simply doesn’t meet that criteria.

    Also, everyone involved is “playing politics.” The Prime Minister, Congress, the president. Everyone. Every. Last. One.

  9. The “borderline treason” comment was in reference to the open letter 47 Congressmen wrote to Iranian leaders, essentially telling them any agreement reached with the president without their say-so, would be ultimately non-binding.

    This has garnered them considerable criticism, even from within their own party.

    PD: Shortly after posting this I realized I mis-attributed the letter as originating from Congress. It was about Congress but it was authored and signed by Republican Senators.

    About “playing politics”, you know what? You’re right, this whole thing is just political theater: The PM wants to secure his reelection, the opposing factions within Iran are trying to secure their power, the President wants to secure his legacy and the Republicans are trying to establish and secure their relevance and leverage regarding foreign policy.

  10. A president who resorts to ruling by decree – something I can’t see the constitution allowing him to do – has forfeited any right to complain about treason.

  11. That would be every president since Lyndon Johnson. They all have done it. It gets worse with each succeeding president because Congress has passed laws that allow it and because Congress refuses to do their jobs.