John Boehner thinks the “world is on fire.” And America isn’t doing nearly enough to stamp it out.
The House speaker’s decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress last month sparked criticism that Boehner was inappropriately injecting himself into foreign affairs and antagonizing President Barack Obama. But just hours after a friendly return visit with Netanyahu on Wednesday, Boehner made clear in an interview with POLITICO here he’s not backing down and will remain firmly engaged in the nation’s foreign policy.
“I wouldn’t have believed that I would be involved in as much foreign policy as I am today,” Boehner said in his hotel near Jerusalem’s Old City. “And it certainly isn’t by choice. It’s just that the world is on fire. And I don’t think enough Americans or enough people in the administration understand how serious the problems that we’re facing in the world are.”
Indeed, with the Middle East in a constant state of upheaval, and the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu at a low point, Boehner has emerged as an unlikely power center in U.S. foreign policy.
Sitting in his hotel suite on a chilly, gray day — after a lunch with Netanyahu in the prime minister’s office complex — the Republican leader said a six-country journey mostly across the Middle East has left him more worried than before. He said his theory that the U.S. doesn’t have a coherent foreign policy has been borne out. He’s concerned about the U.S.-led talks with Iran and has been most surprised by “the boldness of the Iranians” in exerting their influence throughout the region. The “trouble they’re causing,” he said, “raised my eyebrows.”
It’s quite a shift for Boehner, the nation’s top elected Republican, who is second in line to the presidency. He came to power envisioning shrinking government and slashing budgets, but foreign policy has emerged as a central element of his legacy. Boehner hasn’t opposed the White House at every turn on foreign policy — in several instances, he publicly aligned himself with Obama, but at other times he’s vocally challenged the president.
Indeed, instead of shying from the criticism he received after inviting Netanyahu to address Congress, Boehner offered a blistering critique of how the U.S. is dealing with growing uncertainty in the Middle East.
“We’ve got some big, serious problems, and there’s no overarching strategy to deal with it. You’ve heard me say this for two years. I am even more convinced of it today,” Boehner said. He added, “Here’s the essence of what I’ve learned on this trip: The problem is growing faster than what we and our allies are doing to try to stop it.”
Boehner did say that, one way or another, Congress will move to change U.S. policy toward Iran. If there’s no deal, he said, Congress would pass a bill imposing new sanctions. If there is a deal, he said he would have to review it, but he is “sure we’ll have a reaction.” As he watches the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, Boehner said he thinks the Obama administration is too eager to cut a deal.
“What bothers me is it looks like the administration is so hungry for a deal just to have a deal so they can say they have a deal,” Boehner said. “The rest of the world wants something real out of this.”
Boehner said he expects to meet with Obama when he returns to America to discuss, among other topics, foreign policy.
SOURCE: JAKE SHERMAN