Naughty Netanyahu and Dissenting Democrats

Congress is ramping up for the arrival of the Israeli Prime Minister leader Benjamin Netanyahu to its hallowed dome on Tuesday. He is the five time winner of the ‘We Wish You Were A Republican’ award and yet, for the first time in living memory, some senior Democrats are thinking of finding themselves busy when he is due at the lectern.

The speech is likely to contain the Greatest Hits of ‘Iran away because you want to hurt me’ and ‘Existential Threat’ (a 1980s New Romantics number with a killer keyboard solo) but with a hidden track of ‘Being Here: My Election Boost’. The reason for anger stems from Netanyahu’s combination of performing the Tel Aviv sidestep by snubbing Obama and using Israel’s most powerful ally as a pawn in his election campaign.

Netanyahu: The Man with the Frozen Hand.

Netanyahu: The Man with the Frozen Hand.

With the pro-Israeli lobby financially supporting so many members of Congress (see here), those that are dissenting are trying to find cleave a difference where previously there was a solid stone wall and doing so by relying on a nuanced logic that does not typically operate in media. Instead they need to find new excuses for not being at the speech, such as:

  • rumours that Netanyahu is going to read spoilers from House of Cards Season 3. Those busy Congresspeople who haven’t caught up with the travails of Frank Underwood feel it is safer to stay away rather than have the highlight of their televisual year spoiled
  • they were busy trying to finish crocheting an ‘I Love Israeli’ cushion
  • putting an Ikea flatpack desk together
  • inadvertently spending hours trying to craft the perfect off the cuff, snarky tweet
  • got locked in a birdcage
  • became a kitchen porter and spent 8 hours peeling potatoes

We will have to see what the reaction and repercussions to avoiding the speech will be – but with political engagement trending downwardly, can you really blame them?

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The U.S. Election from the other side of The Pond

The site of so much drama and glamour over the years, the US political system is viewed with a certain amount of jealous affection by us in the UK. At their core both American and UK politics are exactly the same: both predominantly feature middle-aged (mostly white) men in nice suits trying to speak as tepidly as possible yet at the same time attempting to stay on the right side of the Accountant Line. But putting British and American politicians side-by-side is like comparing the glamour of Mad Men to the Office; Ricky Gervais to Don Draper.

Yes, they both use balloon arches, but what looks tacky in the UK, looks exciting and innovative over there. Both use words such as: ‘change’ and ‘freedom’ but doesn’t American freedom just seem so much more alluring, more free? British change appears like a political ploy, nigh on impossible in such a staid society.

Maybe that is my British cynicism coming though, maybe I should try to be more wilfully optimistic like Americans.

Barack the Tired and Mitt the Mist slug it out. But why?

Though throughout this election cycle there has definitely been a dampening of spirits amongst the electorate. Both the supporters of the Democrats and the Republicans are trying to get fired up despite the best efforts of the candidates. Barack the Tired looks as if he wants to sleep for the next four years and would happily sit this cycle out and run again in 2016. Whilst Mitt the Mist is a man lacking in substance, someone lacking in a developed emotional range and imagines the middle-ground as a place you can say anything to anyone in the hope that they will vote for you, even if it contradicts a previous stance.

But to me, Romney is not a statesman, he is a local politician who can’t cut it internationally (is it that difficult to turn up to the Olympics and smile?) The Mitt-ster has only enthused his base because Obama must have been solving some logic puzzle during the first debate. The fundamental lack of choice for Americans is not just unfortunate, but more an indictment on the polarised toxicity of politics in recent times.

Even after four years, Obama still oozes charisma and cool; and whilst he has let down his supporters with his penchant for drone strikes, he has had some of the largest obstacles to overcome in recent memory. Namely, a Republican Party willing to roadblock any substantial policies that Obama put forward and then label him an ineffectual President. The move to the right (read ‘crazy’) of the Republican Party seems a vote killer to us over here but apparently a large portion of Americans are happy voting against their best interests (a refutation of Rational Choice Theory if ever there was one) and placing trust in unelected corporations rather than elected officials. And the Party’s oppressive use of the word freedom in every sentence which works at cross-purposes to it’s definition, serving to ensure all Americans conform to one specific, dizzyingly contradictory notion of it (Protect the Constitution (apart from the mentions of Church and State), stop the Government interfering in our lives, apart from the times when it acts as a medical safety net – they have to remain).

So hopefully you can see why we are entranced by American politics not just in Britain but around the world; here is a country with an actual ideological debate (albeit one-sided), where passions frequently erupt and where we can view from afar with a joyous sense of superiority mixed with a tinge of disappointment as the closest thing we in Britain have to a political celebrity is Boris Johnson.

Not So High and Mitt-y

With Mitt Romney lurching ever forward be the presumptive nominee for the Republicans, there seem to be two elephants in the room that no one dares to talk about:

1) he has less chance of winning the Presidency than the Tea Party has of seeing the world in colour. The Right don’t like him, the left prefer him, but why would they be voting Republican? The Evangelical Christians think he is a cult member, regardless of how shiny his teeth are. Actually the whiter the teeth, the more cultish the person. The ‘average’ (pah!) voter distrusts him from his time at Bain Capital, whilst simultaneously championing the further incursion of big business into American culture. From all concerned, Mitt is the second pick, only in this instance there wasn’t a first choice

GOP settle for Jeff Daniels lookalike

2) The GOP know this election is all but over save for Obama spitting on a child, and so will be using this election as a chance to reorganise and sniff out those ‘rising stars’ ready for 2016. Faces like Rubio, Jed Bush and the ever-present spectre of Sarah Palin will be glued to cameras; their names and Vice-President being uttered in the same sentence with growing frequency. They know that with a well shaped message and the traditionally destructive Democratic primary fight, the prize is theirs for the taking.

So for this election year the Republicans will be ‘pouring their heart and soul’ into the fight, but giving more than a half glance at what is down the road.