Wrong and rude on Iran and Israel

Wrong and rude on Iran and Israel, Israel Hayom Richard Baehr, July 24, 2016

(Please see also, Clinton VP Pick Tim Kaine’s Islamist Ties. — DM)

The Democrats are out selling Tim Kaine as a solid citizen, experienced politician, and a great choice for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket — someone who could step in quickly as president if needed. The traditional pro-Israel community, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, are undoubtedly preparing to signal their comfort with him as a Clinton running mate, much as they did with the supposedly pro-Israel Barack Obama, twice. Kaine has voted in favor of foreign aid; he has traveled to Israel; he voted in favor of funding some weapons systems for Israel; he has raised a lot of money from liberal Jews (running for governor, senator, and head of the Democratic National Committee). Therefore, he must be a great supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship. So great in fact, that he was happy to take money from the J Street political action committee and accept its endorsement when he ran for Senate. AIPAC, J Street, Kaine, all one big happy family in the pro-Israel club.

Of course, on the Iran nuclear deal, the single most important foreign policy decision since the vote on the Iraq war in 2002, Kaine was not only wrong, but extraordinarily disrespectful to Israel’s prime minister. He chose to boycott Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress on the issue in early 2015, saying that he thought Netanyahu’s aim was mainly to help himself with his own domestic politics in the Israeli elections, held two weeks later.

“There is no reason to schedule this speech [on March 3] before Israeli voters go to the polls on March 17 and choose their own leadership,” Kaine said in a statement, after describing how he’d worked to delay the event. “I am disappointed that, as of now, the speech has not been postponed. For this reason, I will not attend the speech.”

Let us assume for a moment that Netanyahu had two goals in mind for his speech — to make the case for healthy skepticism and opposition within Congress toward the Iran nuclear deal, which was near completion at the time, and help himself politically. This must have come as a shock to Kaine. Imagine a leader concerned both about the security of his country and his own political future. Good thing such considerations never entered the mind of any American president. Certainly Obama must never have allowed domestic political considerations to influence his policymaking or the timing of his decisions. The attempt to bury the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012, presenting it as an event caused by some anti-Muslim message by some obscure American filmmaker was quickly adopted by all the administration spinners — from Susan Rice to then-Secretary of State Clinton. This spin was necessary for Obama to continue running for re-election on the campaign theme he had developed — the fact that he killed Osama bin Laden and saved General Motors. Blaming the filmmaker was of course complete and total nonsense.

And of course, Obama’s recent warning that Britain would be at “the back of the queue” to negotiate a trade agreement with the U.S. if it voted to leave the European Union, was not in any way an act of interference in another country’s politics — the kind of interference that might have drawn Kaine’s ire.

Kaine was one of only eight senators who boycotted Netanyahu’s speech. The others included both Vermont senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, two of the least supportive members of Congress when it comes to Israel. Sanders of course pushed for a new policy on Israel during his campaign for the Democratic nomination this year, and brought up the need for balance in terms of support for Israel and the Palestinians in the Brooklyn debate with Clinton, where his enthusiastic supporters went wild when he chastised Israel and its prime minister. At the moment, this sentiment is where the heart of the Democratic Party lies — on the hard left and hostile toward Israel. Two others who boycotted were Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — two of the most passionate leftists in Congress.

One would not expect to find Kaine siding with Vermont’s two near Marxist senators and the most left-wing members of the House in boycotting Netanyahu. But then again, two Democratic senators who happen to be Jewish — Al Franken and Brian Schatz — also boycotted.

There must have been conversations between the administration and Democratic congressional leaders to ensure a decent sized boycott (in total about 20% of congressional Democrats boycotted the speech), and to provide enough names on the boycott list to protect possible future Democratic national figures, meaning, of course, Kaine.

Kaine is the very definition of a career politician. He served on the city council, then as mayor of Richmond, then as governor of Virginia, then as head of the Democratic National Committee and finally as senator. In 2008, he was on Obama’s short list for vice president. If he were to move up to the only positions he has not yet held — vice president and ultimately president, then his actions on Iran in 2015 might well be seen as a signal to movement Democrats — party activists — that he is not a predictable centrist but is capable of turning leftward on Israel.

This meant diverging from AIPAC, which at this point is a low-risk move since the organization seems never to lose the love regardless of members’ behavior or votes. Has AIPAC punished any Democrat for leading the charge, or applying pressure on other Democrats in the House or Senate, on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?

In fact, for someone who started his political career as something of a social conservative on abortion and gay marriage, Kaine seems to have understood that he needed move leftward on these issues to have a chance at a national future. Republicans are attacked for their disunity, which is real. Democrats enforce their orthodoxy. Kaine’s voting record is 100% liberal on most scorecards, and despite this, some progressives consider him too moderate.

When the JCPOA came up for a vote in Congress, Kaine made up his mind quickly — in the first two weeks . One would have to be pretty gullible to think the senator had carefully weighed the pros and cons of the agreement before deciding.

Kaine’s announced support for the JCPOA likely made it easier for others to also buck AIPAC and support the president. Most remarkably, Kaine voted twice to support a filibuster in the Senate, so that a vote could not even be recorded on the JCPOA. It turns out that 58 senators opposed the agreement (all 54 Republicans, and 4 Democrats), but 60 votes were needed to force a vote in the Senate.

Obama did not want a vote, since he then would have been forced to veto the formal congressional opposition to the agreement since the House had already passed its opposition resolution. Kaine had been a co-sponsor of the Corker bill, therefore it is remarkable cynicism that he was not even willing to allow fellow senators to vote to formally express their opposition to the bill he co-sponsored.

If Kaine becomes vice president, he can be expected to do what is necessary to ensure he has a shot at the final step up the political ladder. Being pro-Israel won’t have much to do with it.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2016 elections, AIPAC, Democrat Party, Hillary Clinton, Iran scam, Israel, Leftists, Tim Kaine

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