Barack Obama sat down with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg to discuss U.S. policy towards Israel, and for the first 95% of the interview, Obama offered a solid, uncontroversial position, which included effusive praise for the Jewish state.
Asked if he perceived Israel as "a drag on America’s reputation overseas," Obama said:
"No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that ... I want to solve the problem."
Describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a source of instability in the region, and a dispute in need of a resolution, hardly seems controversial.
So, House Republican leaders changed Obama’s words to make him say what they wanted to hear. By any reasonable definition of the word, they lied.
Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the first and third highest ranking Republicans in the House, issued written statements. First Boehner…
“Israel is a critical American ally and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, not a ‘constant sore’ as Barack Obama claims,” Boehner said. “Obama’s latest remark, and his commitment to ‘opening a dialogue’ with sponsors of terrorism, echoes past statements by Jimmy Carter who once called Israel an ‘apartheid state.’”
…and then Cantor.
“It is truly disappointing that Senator Obama called Israel a ‘constant wound,’ ‘constant sore,’ and that it ‘infect[s] all of our foreign policy.’ These sorts of words and characterizations are the words of a politician with a deep misunderstanding of the Middle East and an innate distrust of Israel,” Cantor said.
Pathetic. House GOP leaders are well past the point of shame, but if there’s even a shred of decency among them, Boehner and Cantor will say their statements were written by overeager staffers and apologize.
(Boehner’s reference to Carter was an especially ridiculous move, given that Obama specifically denounced it in the very same interview: “I strongly reject [Carter’s] characterization. Israel is a vibrant democracy, the only one in the Middle East, and there’s no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn’t advance that goal. It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe.”)
Jake Tapper concluded:
…Boehner et al are falsely accusing Obama of besmirching a nation and a people. They are accusing him of being anti-Israel, even anti-Semitic. It is false.
This kind of twisting is unbecoming a party that claims to have superior ideas to Obama’s fairly orthodox liberal record. Voters may conclude that Republicans think they have to make things up to beat Obama. Which they don’t.
Actually, they might. If clowns like Boehner and Cantor had any confidence at all in the merits of the Republican agenda or the value of ideas, they wouldn’t perceive lies like these as necessary for electoral success.
Update: The Atlantic’s Goldberg, who is a conservative, also blasted Boehner, calling the Minority Leader’s attack on Obama “mendacious, duplicitous, gross, and comically refutable.” Goldberg called on Boehner to “do the right thing, and correct the record.”