Caligula’s Horse

Be proud, America! You have the very best Congress that money can buy.

It’s no secret that many in the House and Senate have long been  corrupted by money and special interests. The constant need to advertise on TV makes all politicians slaves of the money lenders and other big donors.

The great Mark Twain called Congress “America’s only native criminal class.” Nothing much has changed.

Members of Congress are held in even lower public esteem than murderers, lawyers and…journalists. It’s often cheaper to buy a legislator than a second-hand car.

One of the biggest outrages has been the way Wall Street money lenders swindled the public and wiped out the nation’s retirement savings – yet escaped all punishment thanks to their huge political contributions to Congress and the White House

But then came the triumphant visit to Congress by Israel’s rightwing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Congress put on a truly revolting display of sycophancy, servility and brownnosing for Bibi that included 23 rapturous standing ovations.

This for a foreign leader who had come to insult and humiliate America’s president and drive the US into war with Iran.

Not since a groveling Roman Senate voted to approve Emperor Caligula’s favorite horse, Incitatus, as imperial consul has there been such a embarrassing  spectacle.

Like the Roman senators, members of the US Congress were motivated by fear and greed. They know that basic truth of US politics: failure to follow instructions of the mighty Israel lobby means certain loss of your next election,  attacks by the media, and the end of your political career.

Former Rep. Paul Findley’s book, “They Dare To Speak Out” is a textbook for what happens to politicians and journalists who put America’s interests first. I keep a copy near my desk.

Just as Caligula reportedly watched the Senate vote from behind a screen, so America’s political Golem, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, watched the Senate proceeds from a

balcony perch.Adelson, one of America’s richest men, made his fortune through gambling, something Dr. Johnson aptly called “a tax on fools.”

Gambling preys on the poor and addicted just as much as do drugs. Thanks to his huge profits, Adelson has managed to buy most of the Republican Party. Its presidential candidates flock to his palace in Las Vegas to kiss his feet and vow eternal allegiance to Israel.

Adelson, who has reportedly called for nuking Iran,  is also Bibi Netanyahu’s primary political and financial sponsor. So Adelson can say he owns the US Congress and Israel. Some Israelis, who will vote next week in a very tight election, are uneasy that Netanyahu is “owned” by the American gambling mogul Adelson. Is this the Zionist dream of a state built on morality, social fairness, and honesty?

Democrats are now largely owned by Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban who calls himself somewhere to the right of the late Ariel Sharon. Saban, a media mogul, recently gave $5-10 million to the Clinton Library and is Hillary’s principal backer.

Bibi’s visit to Congress was clearly intended as pre-election political grandstanding. Marketing fear of Islam, Iran, ISIS, Hezbollah, Syria, al-Shebab and Boko Haram are now the stock in trade for embattled politicians in Israel, Canada, Australia and France.

Fear sells.  Moderation does not. But cash always talks.  Forty-seven Republican senators clapped like trained seals when urged to send a nasty letter to Iran asserting the next president would veto any nuclear deal with Tehran. The letter was widely condemned as dumb in the US. Iran rightly termed it an example of the moral decline of American politics. Sen. John McCain allowed he should have read the draft letter more carefully but was in a rush to leave due to an impending snow storm. On such stuff hangs the fate of the Mideast.

Many Israelis are more concerned by their economic and social problems than the bogeyman of Iran. So there’s a possibility that the opposition Zionist Union (formerly Labour Party), led by Isaac Herzog,  may win more votes than Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud Party and its further right allies.

But forming a coalition in Israel’s ever fractious politics will be very difficult. A handy, last-minute “crisis” with one of Israel’s neighbors might tip the election to Likud. A few rockets from Gaza could swing the election.

Herzog says he favors creation of a viable Palestinian state on the Israel-occupied West Bank after some border rectifications. Netanyahu came out last week and finally admitted he totally opposes a Palestinian state and is determined to hold on to most of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, and Syria’s former Golan.

Israel’s right, led by Likud, is not only determined to continue colonizing the West Bank and Golan, but many of its members harbor expansionist impulses. Syria is in turmoil and largely destroyed. Some Israeli rightists look at Syria as a  tempting target for Israeli expansion. Now that Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are increasingly tacit allies, and the subservient US Republicans almost in power, why not create Greater Israel-Adelsonia.