In a joint press conference in London with Prime Minister David Cameron, Barack Obama tried to persuade Britons to vote in favor of remaining in the European Union in their upcoming referendum. Noting that the British press has unsurprisingly criticized the president for meddling in the country’s affairs, Alan Dershowitz recalls Obama’s similar complaints about a foreign leader inserting himself into U.S. policy discussions:
President Obama defended his actions [in Britain] by suggesting that in a democracy, friends should be able to speak their minds, even when they are visiting another country. . . . [But he did not] stop at merely giving the British voters unsolicited advice, he also issued a not-so-veiled threat. He said that “the UK is going to be in the back of the queue” on trade agreements if it exits the EU. . . .
Recall how outraged the same President Obama was when the prime minister of a friendly country, Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke his mind about the Iran deal.
There are, of course, differences: first, Israel has a far greater stake in the Iran deal than the United States has in whatever decision the British voters make about Brexit [Britain’s possible departure from the EU]; second, Benjamin Netanyahu was representing the nearly unanimous view of his countrymen, whereas there is little evidence of whether Americans favor or oppose Brexit in large numbers. . . .
So what is it Mr. President? Should friends speak their minds about controversial issues when visiting another country, or should they keep their views to themselves? . . .
The president owes . . . Prime Minister Netanyahu an apology, and so do those Democratic members of Congress who rudely stayed away from Netanyahu’s informative address.