The administration would desperately like to talk about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech. That’s why House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had a public meltdown (“I was near tears throughout the Prime Minister’s speech — saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.”) that was so embarrassing Republican offices emailed it around to the press. And it is why the president snarled that the speech had “nothing new.” For him, that is true since he tends not to listen to anyone else. But the country and many in Congress may have been surprised to hear how much he has departed from his own stated policy.
Rebuffing his leader, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) put out a statement, “I disagree with the House Democratic Leader, whom I hold in high regard. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech was not condescending.” He added, “Every speech contains passages which remind the audience of facts they already know, and conclusions with which they already agree. That is not condescension; that is oratory. The Prime Minister’s speech did contain some new insight that Congress should carefully consider, though it did not contain a clear roadmap of to how to force Iran to accept a reasonable deal.” If Sherman missed it, Netanyahu’s answer was in sync with the U.S. Congress — hold firm and use sanctions to turn up the heat. It is an odd confession of incompetence that the administration no longer believes it has leverage in a face-off with a country supposedly “isolated” by its brilliant policies.
Republicans have begun to blow the whistle on the president. Former Texas governor Rick Perry sent me a statement, which reads: “With this [proposed] agreement, the Obama Administration gives Iran a path to develop nuclear weapons in the future. Susan Rice’s comments at AIPAC yesterday reveal the Obama Administration has already set us down that path and completely capitulated to Iran by calling our ideals unachievable. It’s a reversal of the resolution that Iran halt enrichment activities pushed by the Administration and passed by the U.N. five years ago.” He added, “It threatens the safety of Israel, the stability of the region, and the security of future generations. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said today, ‘This is a bad deal, a very bad deal. We’re better off without it,’ while outlining the dangers of a nuclear Iran. It appears no one from the Administration was there to hear him, but they should heed his advice.”
And Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) pierced through the haze, reminding me, “The Obama Administration has been moving the goal posts since these negotiations began. What started with complete disarmament has turned into a series of endless concessions by the United States, leaving us with the President’s comments yesterday that this deal will only last 10 years.” He continued, “We went down this road in 1994 with North Korea and learned the hard way—after they detonated a nuclear weapon—that they weren’t negotiating in good faith. President Obama shouldn’t make that same mistake with Iran.” Wendy Sherman was the chief negotiator in both deals.
It is bizarre for the administration to concede the point that the concessions described are dangerous and in fact being offered. It is even more bizarre to suggest after saying sanctions worked to bring them to the table and then say sanctions would chase Iran away and that we have no option other than war. Bizarre but not unexpected. Either by design or ineptitude, the president has put himself and the world in a tight spot. I wonder if Hillary Clinton would have made the same mistakes. We will find out where Democrats stand; Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will go ahead next week with the debate on assuring Congress an up or down vote on any final deal.