THE HILL: Netanyahu speech divides Dems.
The fiery takedown of one of Obama’s top foreign policy priorities split leading Democrats, with some hailing the speech as a thoughtful warning from America’s closest ally in the Middle East and others condemning it as an underhanded attack on the White House.
More than 50 Democrats boycotted the speech to protest both Netanyahu’s censure of Obama’s policies and Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to invite the prime minister without first consulting the White House or Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who attended the speech, issued a scathing statement afterward.
“I was near tears throughout the Prime Minister’s speech — saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the [negotiating] nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation,” Pelosi said.
That view wasn’t shared by other top Democrats, who praised Netanyahu’s message as both powerful and necessary amid a time of rising terrorist threats in the Middle East.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said it was “a very strong speech” in defense of Israel’s position.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, called it a “powerful, strong, factual, inspiring” address that “sent a very strong message to the entire world.”
And Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said it was “a brilliant speech” that did “a very effective job” warning Congress of the risks surrounding Obama’s Iran negotiations.
“I was skeptical about the deal going in, I’m just as skeptical after the speech, and I think a significant number of my colleagues are where I am,” Rep. Israel said. “He changed minds. The question is: How many minds did he change?”
I’m not sure it’s just about changed minds. It’s also about stiffened spines.