Merkel met with Obama weeks before Democrat primary in 2008

by Kay B. Day

PM Netanyahu

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee shortly before Purim in 2012. (Snip: YouTube video/AIPAC)

President Barack Obama and a number of leading Democrats are critical of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to speak to the US Congress when he visits our country on March 3.  An Internet tabloid tweeted on February 10, “Patrick Leahy: Netanyahu’s address to Congress is ‘a tawdry and high-handed stunt.’”

Is it, or is there a precedent? 

On Feb. 9, Obama told media he wouldn’t be meeting with Netanyahu because of “protocols” and the fact Israel’s election is weeks away (March 17). The president said he didn’t want to be “coy,” and he acknowledged differences with Netanyahu regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

While those explanations are, on the surface, adequate, there is a complicated history regarding Israel, Iran, Netanyahu, Obama, and even Hillary Clinton. Toss in actions by another country’s prime minister and protocols get a little murky.

For instance, in 2008 a protest was organized by Jewish groups when Iran’s president spoke at the United Nations in New York. Democrats learned then-GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin would speak at the Stop Iran Rally, and leftist groups managed to get Palin’s invite canceled, claiming it would be too political. Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton canceled her own plans to appear, and the Democrats’ nominee then-Sen. Barack Obama nixed an opportunity to speak, offering to send a congressman who is no longer in office.

While Democrats may be justified in not meeting with heads of state or officials from other countries whose elections are pending, the opposite doesn’t seem to apply. Towards the end of July, 2008, four weeks before the Democrats’ national convention, presumptive nominee Obama made an epic appearance, speaking to the German public in Berlin. Democrats were channeling John F. Kennedy’s historic speech in the summer, 1963.

What US media seem to have forgotten is that Obama actually met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his trip to Berlin. The US presidential election—Republicans handed the election over with barely a whimper—was roughly three months away. The Democrats’ primary was held in late August of that year—an intra-party election, but still that represented a 4 week gap between the speech and the primary.

Some German media took a dim view of Obama’s visit. Spiegel Online posited:

“For a moment, it was plausible to think that he wanted to quickly launch a global transformation through this crowd of 200,000 listeners. But the speech wasn’t truly aimed at the audience assembled at the Siegessäule.

While Obama shouted the last few lines of his speech into the crowd, his handlers were already escorting the members of the press that travel with him down from the guest stands. The journalists would be given a few moments to speak with Obama. They were all Americans, all 40 of them. CNN, the New York Times, Newsweek, the Chicago Sun-Times. Members of the foreign press were explicitly unwelcome. The target audience was America. Sorry, Berlin.”

In the aftermath of his visit to Berlin, US media exploded. No politician can buy the equivalent of that much advertising. In a word, it was a stroke of genius on the Obama campaign’s part.

Segue to the elections in Israel in March. As legacy media cover the kerfuffle over Democrats’ boycott of Netanyahu’s speech, media omit background information critical to forming opinions about the same.

The group Victory 15 (V15 for short), according to the wire service JTA,  “hired 270 Strategies, an American political consulting group headed by Jeremy Bird, who worked on President Barack Obama’s two victorious presidential campaigns.” The intent of the group is to unseat Netanyahu and put a liberal (self-described as centrist) government in charge. The same approach worked for Obama who projected himself as a centrist and has governed solidly left of center as president.

CNN reported that same consulting group is working on Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 efforts:

“The grassroots organizing group geared towards a Clinton run, Ready for Hillary, has signed on 270 Strategies, the firm launched by top Obama campaign aides Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird.”

There’s more.

Americans were suprised recently at statements made by another government’s leader. CBS reported a rather astonishing twist in protocol:

“’I have contacted a couple of senators this morning, and I may speak to one or two more this afternoon,’ Cameron said during a joint press conference with President Obama at the White House Friday. The prime minister arrived in Washington Thursday to meet with the president and his administration to discuss a range of issues.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is appealing directly to some senators in the U.S. Congress to reconsider a bill that would open up the possibility of new sanctions against Iran.”

Netanyahu’s visit comes just ahead of the Jewish observance of Purim, described by Chabad.org as a time that “celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the wicked Haman in the days of Queen Esther of Persia.”

Netanyahu also addressed a major Jewish group in 2012, shortly before Purim, making a point that resonated with many Americans:

“A nuclear-armed Iran would dramatically increase terrorism by giving terrorists a nuclear umbrella. Let me try to explain what that means, a nuclear umbrella. It means that Iran’s terror proxies like Hizbullah, Hamas will be emboldened to attack the United States, Israel, and other countries because they will be backed by a power that has atomic bombs. So the terrorism could grow tenfold.”

On Monday, Obama told media German chancellor Merkel wouldn’t have scheduled a meeting “similar” to Netanyahu’s visit, just ahead of an election. She did, in 2008, with then-candidate Sen. Obama.

For those who may not be aware, Persia was part of what is now Iran and many expatriates (I know some personally) still call their country Persia.

Featured Image: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee shortly before Purim in 2012. (Snip: YouTube video/AIPAC)

(February 10, 2015)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.

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