Just last week, a civilian airliner was shot down over a war zone, killing all 298 people on board. On Tuesday, just five days after the tragedy in Ukraine, a rocket landed Tuesday within a mile of Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In the interest of public safety and fearing a “potentially hazardous security situation,” the Federal Aviation Administration announced a temporary halt to U.S. flights into the Israeli capital. “Safety is the very first priority for DOT, for FAA,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said yesterday. The announcement coincided with suspended flights from Air France and Lufthansa, along with a warning from the European Aviation Safety Agency, which “strongly” recommended against flights into Tel Aviv.
Here in the U.S., many on the right responded to the news with the kind of maturity and restraint we’ve come to expect: “FAA Trutherism” was born. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in a move that was brazen even for him, accused the Obama administration of launching an “economic boycott on Israel.”
“When Secretary Kerry arrived in Cairo this week his first act was to announce $47 million in additional aid to Gaza, which is in effect $47 million for Hamas. In short order, this travel ban was announced by the FAA. Aiding Hamas while simultaneously isolating Israel does two things. One, it helps our enemy. Two, it hurts our ally.“Until these serious questions are answered, the facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands. If so, Congress should demand answers.”
By any fair measure, Cruz’s response was more unhinged than his usual condemnations. The FAA’s security concerns, the far-right Texan said, are “punitive” and a possible attempt at “economic blackmail.” The senator raised the prospect of a presidential conspiracy, demanding information on “specific communications … between the FAA and the White House.”
Keep in mind, the Obama administration also asked Congress this week to “fast-track Israel’s request for an additional $225 million for the Iron Dome anti-missile system.” As Steve M. noted, the Obama administration and other Democrats “are seeking additional funding for Israel’s defense shield while Ted Cruz is alleging an economic boycott of Israel on Obama’s part.”
Cruz either hasn’t kept up on current events or he’s choosing not to see details that contradict his wild-eyed nonsense.
And the senator isn’t alone. Last night, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly told viewers the FAA was prohibiting domestic flights to Tel Aviv, but the FAA hadn’t imposed a similar policy over Ukraine. What Kelly claimed was wrong – the FAA has banned commercial travel over Ukraine since April.
This is what happens when the right gets a little too excited about bashing Obama – they lose sight of reality. The instinct to see presidential conspiracies lurking in every corner has passed the tipping point.
Let’s not brush past just how bizarre this whining really is. At its core, the complaint from Cruz and his allies is that the Obama administration is trying too hard to protect Americans traveling near war zones. If there were a deadly incident at the Tel Aviv airport involving a civilian U.S. passenger plane, it’s easy to imagine conservatives demanding to know why the FAA didn’t do more. This week, Republicans are instead complaining the FAA did too much.
This morning, however, Cruz received the news he wanted to hear: the FAA is now satisfied there are security measures in place and the travel ban is now over. The right can now move safely about the political landscape, looking for new “scandals” in need of conspiracy theories.