THE BLOG

New Republican Congress Is a Dangerous Failure

02/21/2015 03:12 pm ET | Updated Apr 23, 2015

Give us a majority, and we'll show you what the GOP can do. That was the basic sales premise of the midterm elections. Controlling both chambers of Congress, Republicans would show Americans that their party is a governing party. No longer a chaotic, fragmented political entity in a constant battle between the "establishment" and the radicals, united Republicans would come together for the good of the nation -- and their own 2016 prospects.

Talk about overpromising and alarming underachievement.

Almost two months into the utopia pledged by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the Republican Party's wobbly act on the big stage is looking more like a circus every day.

Take, for example, Boehner's "signing ceremony" for the Keystone XL pipeline bill that will be vetoed by President Obama.

Boehner's ersatz version of a presidential signing ceremony is like a Monty Python sketch. The constitutional officer that cannot sign bills into laws "signs" a bill destined for the dustbin. Who is the audience for this show? Can there possibly be voters in the land who will be persuaded that passing a bill in Congress is equivalent to a law if the Speaker of the House signs it and the president wields his veto pen?

And it's a rare sight when a Speaker usurps the president's constitutional power to conduct foreign affairs by inviting a foreign head of government to address a joint session of Congress without consulting either the president or the opposition.

But that's not all -- this invitation to the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has actually, for the first time in history, driven a wedge between Americans and Israelis. For friends of Israel like me, this blunder posing as clever political warfare is a tragedy. The sacred nature of bipartisan support of Israel, a tradition dating back to President Truman's recognition of the state of Israel and unqualified pledge of protection, has turned one of the last bipartisan issues in America into just another political football -- at the expense of Israel's security.

And why? Because Boehner did not want President Obama to interfere in his seemingly autonomous foreign policy. One likes to think that the leader of the House, the man standing two heartbeats away from the presidency, understands enough about foreign affairs -- and the near unitary role of a president of the United States to conduct them -- so as not to harm American interests. So if this damaging freelancing in the foreign affairs arena by Boehner is not incompetence, what is it? Hubris? Perhaps these are questions best not answered as the U.S. looks increasingly ridiculous on the global diplomatic stage.

Imagine Speaker Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.) inviting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to address Congress without consulting President Reagan. That's right -- it's unimaginable. Or even the one-time revolutionary Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) dissing President Clinton by inviting some European ally that was challenging American policy in a very public and impertinent way? Again, never happened.

But Boehner is not just undermining the America-Israel alliance; he is also threatening to defund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) even as the threat of terrorism inexorably increases. For example, Italy, one the world's largest economies, a NATO ally and key pillar of the European Union, fears an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) invasion after the savage murders of journalists in Paris, the echo attacks in Copenhagen and the slaughter of Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach.

Is it hard to war-game that ISIS leaders are looking at the potential defunding of America's Homeland Security apparatus as a strategic opportunity?

By now, there is probably no one in America who is not aware of the GOP's visceral disgust with undocumented immigrants. From ad hominem attacks, to multiple attempts to defund the Dreamers program so as to deport them, the GOP has employed almost every tactic imaginable to make 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney's auto-deportation vision a reality.

But sometimes our imagination fails us.

One is challenged to find a parallel in Republicans' threat to create a gap in America's defenses by defunding DHS just so that immigrants can be hounded out of the country. Perhaps the last Republican Congress's threat to revoke ObamaCare by forcing the U.S. into a default of its national debt, an act specifically prohibited by Section 4 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, comes close.

Interestingly, both maneuvers -- the attempt at mass deportations by national security crisis and killing ObamaCare by causing a global financial collapse -- share a basic similarity: Republicans have threatened with different versions of Armageddon if they can't get their way.

If "end of days" politics is all the new Republican majority can offer, certainly its days controlling Congress will come to an ignominious end after the 2016 election.