In some respects, Congress is a more honest barometer of public opinion than the executive branch. The House and Senate are representative of a majority of voters in every state (the president won the electoral college without the help of many states) and when, even with gerrymandered congressional districts and the benefits of incumbency, lawmakers of both parties in both houses agree on something, their position is unlikely to be at odds with the American people.
So it is with Iran. We’ve seen an unprecedented revolt from liberal congressmen to conservative senators against the president’s Iran deal. A new poll tells us why. Frank Luntz conducted a poll on behalf of Tower.org (a pro-Israel outfit) and Al-Masdar.net. The results are striking and reflect the bipartisan revulsion against the approach President Obama has adopted. The poll tells us:
Just 7% of Americans trust the Iranian claim that their nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and they are not seeking to develop weapons, while … 77% are afraid of Iran’s intentions. The biggest fear from Iran: that they would provide terrorist groups hostile to America and the West access to nuclear weapons. No other concern comes close, and once again, Democrats and Republicans agree. . . .
An overwhelming 86% (78% among Democrats and 95% among Republicans) think Iran will break its promises during the negotiation process, while only 14% say they will keep them.
A staggeringly low 16% believe Iran is “negotiating in good faith and will eventually give up their ability to make nuclear weapons,” while the vast majority of Americans (84%) think Iran is using negotiations “to stall as they continue to develop their ability to make nuclear weapons.”
The American people are remarkably united in rejecting the precise strategy Obama and Kerry are advocating. “Almost 8 out of 10 Americans (77%) – Democrats and Republicans alike – believe the most effective path to eliminating Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons lies firmly in further economic sanctions and financial pressure. On the flip side of the diplomatic coin, only 23% believe continued negotiations coupled with a reduction in financial pressure — is the course to pursue.”
Americans are more united in their opposition to the administration than on any other issue, including Obamacare. And that reaction, in all likelihood, will be confirmed in the 2014 elections. (“Fully 77% of Democrats and a near unanimous 96% of Republicans would rather vote for a Senator who favors increased pressure on Iran until they remove their nuclear capabilities, while only 14% would vote for the Senator who wants to reduce pressure on Iran, trusting them to end their nuclear capabilities as a result of these negotiations.”)
This tells us a few things. First, there is zero upside for lawmakers going against their own judgment and that of voters to support Obama’s give-away. Second, the White House’s attempt to spin opposition as “just Republicans” or “just conservative Democrats” is false; the distaste and distrust of the White House on this one spans party and ideology. Third, left-wing pundits who spin the opposition as tools of the “Israel lobby” should fess up: The Israel lobby is the entire American electorate, and that electorate is concerned with its own safety and security as well as Israel’s. From the poll: “Half (49%) picked Iran as the greatest threat to he United States, more than Iraq (15%), Pakistan (13%), Afghanistan (12%), and Syria (9%) combined.”
It is rare that the Congress trumps a president on foreign policy. For a congressional repudiation as dramatic as this one, you’d have to go back to the 1970s, when Congress cut off all aid to South Vietnam in contravention of a GOP White House hobbled by Watergate and its aftermath. The White House might want to reconsider whether Iran will be the final nail in Obama’s second term, which already is mired by the Obamacare mess, low credibility and agenda inertia. It sure isn’t helping.