NY Times weaves a Netanyahu-Romney conspiracy tale

There it is above the fold on the front page of the Sunday, April 8, New York Times, a tale of a long friendship between GOP presidential aspirant Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with insinuations aplenty that it could become an unprecedented and worrisome Israeli influence conduit reaching directly into the Oval Office.  ("A Friendship Dating to 1976 Resonates in 2012 - Shared Experiences Connect Romney and Netanyahu").

The story, by Michael Barbaro, begins in 1976 when the Boston Consulting Group hired both men as corporate advisers -- the seed of a lasting, personal friendship.  So far, it seems an innocent enough happenstance, but Barbaro is quick to cast it in dark hues, with  innuendoes, inferences and hints that this would give Israel automatic control of U.S. policy in the Middle East.  Or, as Barbaro puts it, "a warm friendship, little known to outsiders, is now rich in political intrigue."

Fleshing out his theme of an extraordinary and potentially problematic bond between Romney and Netanyahu, Barbaro recounts how the relationship was nurtured "over meals in Boston, New York and Jerusalem and heightened by their conservative ideologies."

Having sown his alarms about the two men's dubious ties, Barbaro proceeds to speculate what the history of such friendship actually might portend for life-and-death White House decisions in a Romney presidency -- a "history that could well influence decision-making at a time when the United States may face crucial questions about whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities or support Israel in such action."

In other words, Bibi could end up calling the shots for a complaisant President Romney.  Barbaro notes ominously that Romney has suggested "that he would not make any significant policy decisions about Israel without consulting Mr. Netanyahu."  Wow!  But what's wrong with that?  Doesn't Obama consult with Britain's David Cameron or Germany Chancellor Merkel on NATO decisions affecting them?  Aren't consultations with close allies a perfectly normal part of U.S. diplomacy?  Why, even Winston Churchill slept in the White House during World War 2 without being able to twist FDR around his little finger.  When the chips are down, U.S. presidents act according to their views of U.S. national interests.

Barbaro, however, declares that, when it comes to Israel getting some input on strategic U.S. Mideast decisions, it would amount "to a level of deference that could raise eyebrows given Mr. Netanyahu's polarizing reputation, even as it appeals to the neoconservatives and evangelical Christians who are fiercely protective of Israel."  Raised eyebrows by whom, besides the New York Times?

But thus doth Barbara pump up his conspiracy tale by picturing Bibi as opening the way for neoconservatives and Christian evangelicals to appropriate Mideast decision-making in a Romney White House.

Undaunted,  Barbaro buttresses his view that U.S. consultations with Israel would constitute a dangerous camel's-nose-under-the-U.S.-tent leverage for Israel by quoting Martin Indyk, a U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration.  Indyk, of course, is ready and willing to authenticate his conspiracy theory.  According to Indyk, a readiness by Romney to consult with Netanyahu on matters affecting Israel, "whether intentional or not, implies that Romney would subcontract Middle East policy to Israel (and) that of course, would be inappropriate."

All this because of two years of on-and-off concurrent work by Bibi and Mitt at Boston Consulting in the mid-1970s (the two men never worked together on a project).   Barbaro, however, emphasizes that the friendship continued beyond that.  Later, he notes,  after decamping to Bain & Company, "Romney worked closely with Fleur Cates, Mr. Netanyahu's second wife."  But even after Bibi divorced his second wife,  "Ms. Cates remains in touch with Mr. Romney."

Remember, dear reader, the name of Fleur Cates, a gray eminence navigating somewhere between Bibi and Mitt.  What a conspiratorial tale!  The only thing missing are the graphics to give it even more heft than just splashing it on the front page.

What next in the New York Times -- a piece legitimizing the original bogus Jewish conspiracy tale, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"? 

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspaers