White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Sunday defended the full range of administration policies, including its relationship with Israel, following a tough week in which President Obama was sharply criticized on economic policy and snubbed on foreign policy.
McDonough spoke days after Obama announced a plan to increase taxes on America’s highest wage-earners to help the middle class and after House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress without consulting the White House.
McDonough, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” dismissed criticism that Obama has a dysfunctional relationship with Israel, the United States’ closest Middle East ally, particularly over Iran’s nuclear program.
“The president’s view is that this relationship is in the national interest and should be treated as non-partisan,” McDonough said. “It’s a relationship base on shared interests.”
McDonough, who appeared on all the major Sunday morning talk shows and five days after Obama’s State of the Union address, told Fox News that the U.S. economy has roared back under Obama but that middle-class wages still need to improve.
"It's time for us to focus on the middle class," McDonough said. "The president will not trim his sails on that."
He also argued that Obama is nevertheless open to compromise with the GOP-controlled Congress on such issues as infrastructure, trade and research and development.
McDonough also defended the president’s foreign policy on terrorism, particularly in Yemen.
Just four months ago, Obama called his efforts to work with the Yemeni government to fight terrorism a “model of success,” only to see the government collapse last week.
McDonough said the administration will “continue to do” what it is already doing in Yemen, which includes helping train military forces there to fight terrorism.
He acknowledged that rooting out and destroying terror groups in that region is difficult but that the United States will move quickly to protect Americans.
“This is what we know about al Qaeda,” McDonough said. “They are going to go into the dark corners where it’s difficult to get them. … When we need to, we’ll take action to protect ourselves.”