Capehart Dismisses Biden’s Israel Critics: ‘Haven’t Been Paying Attention’

Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart told Friday’s PBS NewsHour that anyone who believes that President Joe Biden is playing politics by withholding aid from Israel hasn’t “been paying attention.” Unfortunately, for both Capehart and Biden, the latter’s previous comments about Israel and its enemies are resurfacing and they put that claim very much in doubt.

Caphart was reacting to The Daily Beast columnist and David Brooks fill-in Matt Lewis, who was asked by host Amna Nawaz, “Matt, is it clear to you where President Biden’s red line is on this?”

After rejecting the premise that the U.S. should be drawing red lines on allies, Lewis pointed out that by trying to appease young progressives, who are probably unappeasable anyway, Biden runs the risk of also alienating not just mainstream, pro-Israel Democrats, but also anti-Trump Republicans, “Keep in mind, Nikki Haley, just this week, got 21 percent of the vote in a Republican primary in Indiana. There are people out there who were open to voting for Joe Biden. And I think they’re less likely today than they were a week ago.”

Nawaz then turned to Capehart and wondered, “On the domestic politics front, Jonathan, was the tough talk for Bibi Netanyahu, the pausing of some weapons deliveries, was that President Biden bending to political pressure here at home?”

Capehart quickly dismissed the idea, “No. No. I mean, Matt, love you to pieces, but anyone who thinks that there are domestic political considerations on the part of the president that’s driving his decisions hasn’t had — you haven’t been paying attention to Joe Biden.”

He recalled, “We have to remember this is a man who’s been on the world stage for 50 years. During — during those years, he was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He knows — he’s known Prime Minister Netanyahu for 50 years.”

Further trying to prove his point, Capehart added, “He is about getting to — he’s about using the power of diplomacy to bring about a resolution. He’s done a lot of things on the world stage that domestically have hurt him, the withdrawal from Kabul and how disastrous that was. But he stood by that decision because it was the right thing to do.”

Afghanistan is a bad analogy. That is a policy decision that Biden has chosen to defend, even if it is unpopular. On Israel, Biden has reversed not just his initial post-October 7 beliefs, but decades of positions about Israel and its enemies.

During the Democratic Primary in 2019, Biden told then-NewsHour host Judy Woodruff that cutting off aid to Israel would be “Absolutely preposterous. It’s just beyond my comprehension why anyone would do that.”

Likewise, in 2006 during the George W. Bush Administration and Israel’s war with Hezbollah, he mused about Hezbollah transporting its missiles in the aisles of commercial aircraft and labeled Hezbollah “cowards” for hiding amidst the civilian population, including in hospitals.

In 1992, Biden angrily attacked George H.W. Bush, “There’s no incentive for the Arabs to compromise if they know they must only wait — for USA will do their bargaining for them.”

Biden has either changed his mind for the worse or he is playing politics. Capehart can deny it all he wants, but the proof is right there.

Here is a transcript for the May 10 show:

PBS NewsHour

5/10/2024

7:35 PM ET

AMNA NAWAZ:  Matt, is it clear to you where President Biden’s red line is on this?

MATT LEWIS: Well, first, I think we should be drawing red lines on our enemies, not our allies, right?

But I think Biden has a problem right now and it is a political problem. It is axiomatic in politics that if you try to please everybody, you will end up pleasing nobody. And, up until now, I think that, domestically, in terms of domestic politics here in America, Joe Biden had a problem certainly with, kind of, young progressives who were unhappy that he was standing firmly with Israel.

I think now that has become muddied. And I think we’re now in a position where, number one, it’s unlikely that these young progressives who are calling him things like Genocide Joe are going to come around to liking Joe Biden and voting for him. He also, though, risks alienating, number two, Democrats who are pro-Israel, kind of the mainstream Democrats.

And the other thing that I think isn’t really being talked about is the impact this may have on never-Trump conservatives. We saw people like Liz Cheney, Nikki Haley, Mitt Romney come out and strongly condemn Joe Biden’s comments about Rafah.

Keep in mind, Nikki Haley, just this week, got 21 percent of the vote in a Republican primary in Indiana. There are people out there who were open to voting for Joe Biden. And I think they’re less likely today than they were a week ago.

NAWAZ:  On the domestic politics front, Jonathan, was the tough talk for Bibi Netanyahu, the pausing of some weapons deliveries, was that President Biden bending to political pressure here at home?

JONATHAN CAPEHART: No. No. I mean, Matt, love you to pieces, but anyone who thinks that there are domestic political considerations on the part of the president that’s driving his decisions hasn’t had — you haven’t been paying attention to Joe Biden.

We have to remember this is a man who’s been on the world stage for 50 years. During — during those years, he was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He knows — he’s known Prime Minister Netanyahu for 50 years.

He is about getting to — he’s about using the power of diplomacy to bring about a resolution. He’s done a lot of things on the world stage that domestically have hurt him, the withdrawal from Kabul and how disastrous that was. But he stood by that decision because it was the right thing to do.

And I think that the president doing what he’s doing, from carrots and sticks with Netanyahu, he is doing it because he’s — for him, the resolution is a cease-fire deal, however he can get it.

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