Cantor’s unpersuasive walk-back

CANTOR’S UNPERSUASIVE WALK-BACK…. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the incoming House Majority Leader, caused an unexpected stir the other day, boasting about a private meeting he had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Cantor’s office, the Republican assured Netanyahu that the new House GOP majority will “serve as a check” on the Obama administration.

It was rather astounding on multiple levels. The private meeting was itself “unusual, if not unheard of.” But it was even more striking that Cantor would vow directly to a foreign leader to undermine the efforts of a sitting administration, apparently suggesting that he would side with the other government over the American government on a matter of U.S. foreign policy.

Perhaps most importantly, it may have even been illegal. A few years ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syria and met with Bashar al-Assad. At the time, none other than Eric Cantor personally accused Pelosi of possibly violating the Logan Act, “which makes it a felony for any American ‘without authority of the United States’ to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the United States.” By Cantor’s own standard, he seemed to commit a felony last week.

With this in mind, today’s “clarification” was predictable.

Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office on Monday issued a follow-up comment to one made last week, saying that the congressman would serve as a roadblock to the Obama administration approach but not when it comes to issues of Middle East diplomacy.

A spokesman for the likely soon-to-be House Majority Leader said that there was no clarification being offered on a statement that caused a bit of controversy last week. On Monday, simply put, the office was reaffirming that while Cantor told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he planned on serving as “a check on the administration,” he would not be playing that function “in relation to U.S./Israel relations.”

That’s reassuring, I suppose. It’s clearly a problem if Cantor tried to undermine U.S. foreign policy directly with another country’s head of state, but as of today, the current Minority Whip’s office is saying that’s not what happened.

I am curious, though, exactly what Cantor was saying when he vowed to the prime minister that Republicans would serve as “a check on the administration.” Did Cantor think Netanyahu was interested in the American health care system? Was Cantor anxious to talk about cutting off unemployment aid?

In other words, for Cantor’s “clarification” to be credible, we’d have to believe the Republican leader had a private meeting with a foreign leader, vowed to help “check” the administration, but was talking about subjects entirely unrelated to that foreign leader’s country.

If you find that hard to believe, we’re on the same page.