Washington, January 28 – Fresh from a triumphant State of the Union address in which he repeatedly invoked his power to veto legislation not to his liking, US President Barack Obama sought to apply his veto over the existence of Israel, only to be told the Constitution does not permit him to do so. The president reportedly expressed confusion at this information.
Obama mentioned the veto a record number of times for such an address, taking the fight to a Republican Congress that has sought to stymie many of the president’s initiatives over the years. Obama has two years left in his final term, but showed no signs of going quietly, locking horns with Congress on matters foreign and domestic. The feisty address left him and fellow Democrats energized, but evidently the president was so swept up in that energy that he failed to realize the limits of his presidential power.
Irked that Congressional leaders had invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Neyanyahu to address lawmakers, but had violated protocol by not notifying the White House, the president voiced frustration that he had to continue reckoning with Israel’s existence and asked an aide to look into the procedure for voiding Israel’s establishment. The aide informed him that no such mechanism existed.
“What do you mean, I can’t veto Israel? I can veto anything,” Obama retorted. “Can’t I?” he asked his staff. The latter gingerly apprised the president of his mistaken assumption, but encountered only denial alternating with bemusement.
Only after almost 40 minutes did the president resign himself to acceptance of the news. “I could have sworn it was in here somewhere,” he muttered, scrolling through a copy of the Constitution. “Presidential powers…OK…well…yeah, knew that one…damn.”
It remains unclear whether the president will directly pursue elimination of Israel if the relatively easy path of a veto remains unavailable. Staffers briefly discussed the notion of a Constitutional amendment to grant the president such power, but the conversation all but ended with the realization that a hostile Congress would never approve such a change.
Scholars note that Obama is not the first president to erroneously believe he had veto power over the existence of Israel or Jews. “Nixon was famously astounded to be told Israel’s existence was beyond his Constitutional purview,” notes historian N. T. Smittek. “Not that the Constitution really bothered Nixon that much, but the information gave him pause.”
Even before Israel’s founding, US presidents had trouble with the Jews and the presidential veto. Franklin Roosevelt was heard to lament his 1938 discovery that the veto was of no use to him in directly eliminating possible Jewish immigrants to the US. “I’d hate to have to leave it to that Kraut,” he said,referring to German leader Adolf Hitler.
Find more of David’s tastelessness at PreOccupied Territory.