Before it was an international incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress was just a twinkle in Louie Gohmert's eye. The conservative east Texas congressman has been sending letters to colleagues, asking for Netanyahu to be invited to address the people's House, for five years.
"We must provide the world an IMMEDIATE visual image that we still firmly stand with Israel by inviting Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress," Gohmert wrote in 2010. "The symbolism of both sides of the aisle standing together applauding the Israeli Prime Minister would be powerful enough to send the message that friends may have disagreements, but they will still stand strongly with each other."
At that time, Gohmert didn't get much of a hearing from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Last week, when Speaker of the House John Boehner invited Netanyahu and sparked debate about whether he was using a foreign leader to browbeat President Obama over Iran, Gohmert's spadework was not mentioned. On Friday, speaking to Iowa radio host Simon Conway, Representative Steve King praised Boehner while sharing some of the credit. Gohmert, the guy who'd just challenged Boehner for the gavel, had the idea first.
"Louie's been sending letters about this for years," said King.
Whatever Boehner says about Netanyahu, he cannot match the ardor of Gohmert. He's described the prime minister as a new King David, a figure of historical and religious import.
"I told the prime minister," Gohmert recalled this month at a Tea Party convention, "I said, 'I mentioned this to you in 2009'—we met a couple of times since then, but anyway—'I mentioned this to you in 2009 and I want to reiterate it, I think, I’m not a prophet, I know the Old Testament, I know history, I think you’ve got a chance to be one of Israel’s great leaders.'"
But there is no hogging of credit in the House. "A number of Members have suggested inviting the prime minister," wrote Boehner spokesman Michael Steel in an e-mail. "That’s one of many reasons we are glad he is coming."
After Tuesday morning's meeting of the House Republican conference, Gohmert passed up the chance to take full credit for the foreign visit.
"John Boehner deserves all the credit," said Gohmert, before asking me to move away the elevator door so he could leave.