But here’s the question: Once all the procedural smoke clears, do Republicans really want an endgame in which they succeeded in blocking the deal? Do they actually want to scuttle it?
Perhaps many of them genuinely do want that. But here’s a prediction: as this battle develops, some Republicans may privately conclude that it would be better for them politically if they fail to stop it. The Iran debate may come to resemble the one over the anti-Obamacare lawsuit that also recently fell short.
Congressional Republicans and GOP presidential candidates are predicting dire consequences if the Iran deal goes forward. But what’s missing from the discussion is that if Congress does somehow block the deal, that could precipitate a whole different set of consequences. Former Obama administration official Dennis Ross spells out those consequences this way:
Opponents need to explain what happens if the rest of the world accepts this deal, Iran says it is ready to implement it — and Congress blocks it. Will the European Union, which explicitly commits in the agreement to lift sanctions once Iran has fulfilled its main nuclear responsibilities, not do so because Congress says no? Can sanctions really be sustained in these circumstances, particularly if the Iranians don’t increase their enrichment and say they will observe the deal? Could we be faced with a world in which the sanctions regime collapses, Iran gets its windfall and is only two months from breakout, and there is little on-ground visibility into its program?
Some Congressional Republicans are also quietly mulling another possibility: What if our allies blame them for tanking the deal they support? The New York Times points out that GOP repudiation of the deal “was a blow not only to Mr. Obama but also to conservative leaders the party usually backs, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.” And note this telling moment from GOP Senator Bob Corker:
“In the next couple of months, the international community is going to be focused on Congress. I got that,” Mr. Corker said in an interview. “I understand the position we’re in.”
To be clear, it would be folly to predict with certainty how the politics of this will play out. Many Democrats may well decide it’s hard for them to back the deal. And Republicans may be able to use procedural votes to inflict some damage on them.
But even so, Republicans could also conclude that their best outcome is to inflict that damage in the short term while also failing to block the deal in the end. Just as Republicans realized that “winning” the lawsuit against Obamacare could force them to own the consequences of their “victory,” and increase pressure them to specify concrete alternative courses of action, they may conclude it’s a good thing that the Congressional oversight mechanism negotiated by Senator Corker (which they supported, by the way) makes it so hard for them to “win” by scuttling the Iran deal.
* GOP STRATEGISTS CERTAIN IRAN IS WINNER FOR THEM: David Drucker talks to GOP strategists who are professing absolute certainty that the politics of the Iran deal simply must be a political winner for Republicans. One of them, though, has a glimmer of doubt:
David Winston, a Republican pollster, said the debate hinges on whether Americans believe that Obama’s deal prevents Iran from obtaining nukes. If general election voters trust that Tehran has been neutered, advantage Clinton. If they concur with the Republicans, that the Ayatollah pocketed concessions on his way to possessing a bomb, advantage the GOP nominee.
Maybe. It’s also possible that majorities will conclude the deal is worth trying even if Iran did gain concessions and even if there are serious grounds for skepticism that it will work in the long run.
* CONGRESSIONAL DEMS ‘SKEPTICAL’ OF IRAN DEAL: Politico reports that a number of Senate Democrats, including Chris Coons of Delaware, are privately pressing the administration for more details on how the agreement with Iran would preclude nukes:
Coons is among a group of roughly a dozen Democratic senators who constitute President Barack Obama’s firewall on the Iran deal. In interviews with several of them Tuesday, it was clear the White House has its work cut out to shore up a veto-proof foundation: In the Senate, the White House can lose no more than 12 Democrats from the 46-member caucus to keep the deal alive.
It’s hard to imagine Dems ultimately helping Republicans override Obama’s veto. Skepticism is exactly what they should be expressing right now. Also, Dems have another firewall in the House.
* IRAN DEAL SHOWCASES THE ‘OBAMA DOCTRINE’: In an interview with Thomas Friedman, Obama justified the Iran deal this way:
“Part of our goal here has been to show that diplomacy can work. It doesn’t work perfectly. It doesn’t give us everything that we want.” But, he added, “what we can do is shape events in ways where it’s more likely that problems get solved, rather than less likely, and that’s the opportunity we have now.”
As noted yesterday, this doctrine will now be fought over in the presidential race, with Hillary Clinton supporting engagement as an imperfect solution, and the GOP candidates rejecting it in favor of …
* WHY IRAN DEAL IS BETTER THAN NO DEAL: David Ignatius makes the case, running through all the arguments why an imperfect deal is better than nothing. One objection has been that after limits on nuclear development are relaxed, Iran will be a threshold nuclear state:
The danger, argues Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is that after 10 years, Iran will have “a sure path to nuclear weapons.” Iran pledged in the agreement that its nuclear aspirations are perpetually peaceful. But even if you assume (prudently) that the Iranians are lying, the Obama administration makes a good case that it will be easier with the agreement than without it to detect and stop an eventual Iranian breakout.
The counter-argument is that the deal’s inspections regime will continue, and it’s better to have that than not to have it.
* HILLARY TO RUN HARD ON CLIMATE CHANGE? National Journal reports that Clinton told fellow Democrats in closed-door meetings that they should run on combating climate change:
Clinton wants Democrats to grasp the importance of Paris climate negotiations later this year and speak about global warming in a way that resonates with millennials, according to several Senate Democrats. That would be an easy way for Democrats to draw a clear contrast with a GOP presidential field dominated by climate skeptics.
This would be another way the proper extent of international engagement becomes a key point of argument in 2016 — one that appeals to Dem groups like millennials and college educated whites — if a global climate accord is reached later this year.
* TRUMP’S POPULARITY SOARS AMONG REPUBLICANS: A new Washington Post poll finds:
Donald Trump’s popularity has surged among Republicans after dominating several news cycles with his anti-illegal immigration rhetoric…Nearly six in 10 — 57 percent — Republicans now have a favorable view of Trump, compared to 40 percent who have an unfavorable one.
Meanwhile, Trump is now viewed negatively by only 81 percent of Hispanics. Seems like great news for the GOP!
* AND HILLARY’S POPULARITY TICKS UP: Meanwhile, the Post poll also finds that Clinton’s favorability rating has gone up with Americans overall:
Clinton has ticked back up slightly, moving from a net negative position in May of 45-49 favorable-unfavorable to a net positive position of 52-45 favorable-unfavorable.
As liberal tweeter @LOLGOP snarked: “And she didn’t even have to insult millions of immigrants to do it.”