Tomorrow's message by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Capitol Hill may be one of the most important speeches in modern times. For the first time in more than six years, a leader standing before a joint session of Congress will speak with clarity about the threats in the Middle East and beyond. At the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Prime Minister Netanyahu will argue against a possible nuclear agreement with Iran -- a top priority of the Obama administration and source of enormous tension between the two nations.
The Prime Minister, who, as Quin Hillyer points out, spent more of his formative years on the U.S. mainland than Obama, seems to understand the crisis this President is so eager to ignore. "Yet Obama not only begrudges the Prime Minister the opportunity to make his case against this existential threat to his nation, but he conducts a diplomatic and political assault against Netanyahu of a ferocity rarely seen in the annals of American foreign policy... (The Prime Minister)... has spoken eloquently for decades in praise of the Western heritage of freedom and human rights. He also speaks and acts, quite obviously, to preserve security -- for Israel, of course, but more broadly for the civilized world."
No wonder Netanyahu's American popularity rivals the President's. On issues of national security, the Prime Minister commands more respect than the leader of an administration whose only consistent foreign policy is apologizing for the country it's leading. Unfortunately, though, Netanyahu's touch down in America didn't exactly show the President's hospitable side.
The relationship between the two nations took another bitter turn this weekend, when the administration sent out its diplomatic attack dogs. Secretary of State John Kerry sent a not-so-veiled threat to the Israeli leader about spilling any secrets of the Iranian negotiations. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, meanwhile, didn't bother with subtleties. In a sharp rebuke, she accused Netanyahu of injecting "a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship."
On the contrary, "destructive" is snubbing the Prime Minister in his own country, calling him chicken excrement in a national interview, and mocking him on a hot mic to the French President. If anyone has injected partisanship into the debate, it isn't Israel. Fortunately, the White House's sentiments aren't shared by the U.S. Senate, which unanimously passed a resolution welcoming the Prime Minister to America to speak to Congress -- one the country would echo if they could.
With the White House an unreliable ally of Israel and a miserable failure at foreign policy, Netanyahu had no choice but to go around the President to the American people. And under the conservative leadership of Congress, he has an avenue for exactly that. As an organization, that's especially gratifying, since part of it is the fruit of FRC's work in helping to connect members of Congress with Israeli leaders during some of our recent political trips to Netanyahu's nation.
While groups like FRC try to bolster the relationship between our two countries, the White House continues to undermine it. Reports are swirling that the President had said he would shoot down Israeli planes if they tried to take out the Iranian nuclear facility. Of course, the White House has denied the report, insisting that it's propaganda from Tehran. We'd all like to believe the President, but let's face it: this is the same man who said that if you like your health insurance, you can keep it. The same President who said abortion funding wasn't in ObamaCare, who said there wasn't a "smidgeon" of corruption at the IRS. You can't blame us for being a little skeptical of the White House's denial.
It hasn't always been easy, but the organizers at the annual CPAC conference finally put the "conservative" back in Conservative Political Action Conference. And fortunately for the movement, the more pronounced emphasis on life, marriage, and religious liberty seemed to be contagious. To a man, the GOP's presidential candidates seemed to welcome the discussion on values that past leaders have avoided.
In a refreshing change from past years, Republican hopefuls tried to verify their conservative credentials on the full-portfolio of issues. Leaders like Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisc.), who's been criticized for shunning social issues, put on a full-court press for non-negotiables like life. The shift was so palpable that reporters tried to explain it. The New York Times called it a short-term strategy. Others wondered if it was the genuine conversion that the Governor (who won second place in the straw poll) says it is. "My views have changed," Walker explained.
Others, like Governor Jeb Bush, who I had the opportunity to meet privately with at CPAC, have some work to do persuading social conservatives on issues like marriage and Common Core. That said, the former Florida leader was very willing to listen -- especially on issues like religious liberty and same-sex "marriage." Although social issues may not be his first priority, I sensed he was genuinely interested in learning how to effectively work those themes into his overall messaging.
On Saturday morning, I took my turn on the stage on a panel, "Religious Freedom in America: Would the Pilgrims Still Be Welcome Here?" with Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, and radio host Dana Loesch. In stark contrast to the Obama administration, Neugebauer defended America's freedom of belief in all walks of life. "We want free ability to express our faith as Christians not just one hour on Sunday but the rest of our week as well," he said. "It's freedom of religion, not from religion. It says render unto Caesar, not surrender unto Caesar."
And as FRC's new polling shows, the American people agree. Eighty-one percent think the government should leave people alone to exercise their faith as they see fit. That goal will be made more difficult in June, the panelists recognized, if the U.S. Supreme Court invents a constitutional right to same-sex "marriage."
"The court -- if it tries to impose this on the nation -- will not solve it," Neugebauer warned. "In fact, I believe it would move us into one of the most tumultuous cultural times we have ever seen. We don't have to look back far in history to see how that works out when the court imposes a one-size-fits-all (solution). We go back to 1973 when the court said, 'We're going to solve this issue of abortion.' Forty-two years later, abortion is an issue in every election.
What's surprising about a Christian school espousing Christianity? A whole lot, if the latest controversy at Erskine College is any indication. The South Carolina school is at the center of a ridiculous firestorm this week after its response to the "coming out" of two female volleyball players. The girls, who officially announced they were lesbians on a LGBT website last year, prompted the school to adopt a "Statement of Human Sexuality" in line with the Bible's teachings on the subjects.
"We believe the Bible teaches that monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is God's intended design for humanity and that sexual intimacy has its proper place only within the context of marriage," school officials explained. "We believe the Bible teaches that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful and therefore ultimately destructive to the parties involved. As a Christian academic community, and in light of our institutional mission, members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position."
For reasons unknown, the idea that a Christian college would take a public stand on morality came as a shock to some. Angry liberals unloaded on Erskine on social media accusing the school of discrimination. Others called for the college to be dropped from NCAA sports altogether. For those who still think the drivers of this radical sexual revolution are content with a "live-and-let-live" policy, this is more evidence of how wrong that thinking is. If a Christian institution of higher learning that bases its teachings on biblical truth is attacked, nobody's safe.
And we, as Christians, are partly to blame. Too many churches have all but abandoned the conversation on sexuality -- and not just homosexuality but proper heterosexuality. Very few messages today call Christians (young and old) to pure and holy living of any kind.
** Don't miss my interview with suspended Utah policeman Eric Moutsos from last Friday's "Washington Watch." Hear his side of the story on the gay pride parade controversy that cost him his job.
*** Speaking of the President's National Security Advisor, Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison have an interesting take in their new Townhall.com piece, "Susan Rice: Choking on a Gnat."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.