House Speaker John Boehner on Sunday tried to fend off a perception that his upcoming trip to Israel is either a "victory lap" to celebrate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's re-election or is another attempt to thwart the White House’s foreign-policy agenda. During an interview on CNN's “State of the Union,” Boehner said the trip had been planned months before the recent Israeli elections and noted its timeliness given the increasing violence in the Middle East.
"There are serious issues and activities going on in the Middle East and I think it's critically important for members of Congress to hear from foreign leaders, other governments, other parts of their government, to get a real handle on the challenges that we face there," Boehner said. He also blasted President Barack Obama for his critiques of Netanyahu in recent months. "I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible," the speaker said. "And I think that the pressure that they've put on him over the last four or five years have frankly pushed him to the point where he had to speak up."
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, isn’t the only high-profile member of the GOP visiting the region during the two-week congressional recess. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky visited with Netanyahu on Sunday, CNN reported. Members of Congress will return to Capitol Hill on April 13.
Boehner also defended Netanyahu’s pre-election remark that a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians was not possible, saying the Israeli leader “doesn’t have a partner” on the Palestinian side.
Later Sunday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to Boehner’s criticism that the Obama administration’s pending nuclear deal with Iran and its stance on recent violence in Yemen were straining relationships in the Middle East, especially the one with Netanyahu. “If John Boehner thinks U.S. troops should be on the ground in Yemen, fighting, or that we should reoccupy Iraq, or that the United States should bomb Iran to keep them from having a nuclear weapon -- if he feels that way, he should have the courage of his convictions to say so,” Earnest said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Also dominating the discussions on Sunday talk shows were the 2016 presidential race and the simmering scandal over emails from presumed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Another potential Democratic candidate, Martin O'Malley, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the country should be spared the prospect of another Clinton or Bush in the White House. “The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families," the former Maryland governor said. “I think that our country always benefits from new leadership and new perspectives."
On NBC’s "Meet The Press," a discussion of emails that Clinton sent from a personal account and backed up on nongovernment servers when she was the secretary of state devolved into a shouting match between MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and Clinton representative Neera Tanden. Scarborough, a Republican, scoffed at Tanden’s assertion that he and his party are “obsessed” with attacking Clinton over the emails. “We’re not obsessed about it, we’re just asking a question,” Scarborough replied. Host Chuck Todd seemed to lose control of the panel, as Scarborough and Tanden shouted at each other during the end-of-show roundtable segment.