President Obama doesn’t so much conduct public diplomacy as he organizes one hissy fit after another in defense of his imperiled plan to appease Iran. In response to a letter from 47 GOP senators reminding the mullahs that they might take Obama to the cleaners but they get no permanent deal, the president accuses the senators of intending to wreck negotiations and teaming up with Iranian “hard-liners.” That would amount to treason, if we take him seriously. How revealing — of Obama.
To begin with, it seems Obama is now peddling the canard (that has transfixed liberals for 40 years) that there are good moderates and bad hard-liners in Iran. He is aligning with the moderates (spouting “Tehran’s talking points,” as Sen. Robert Menendez put it, a few weeks before it was leaked that Obama’s Justice Department may be indicting him), but the moderates are the ones building the bomb, supporting terrorism, arming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, stepping up executions and repression at home, seeking to subvert their neighbors and responsible for the improvised explosive devices that killed thousands of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, Obama swallowed the Iranian propaganda hook, line and sinker. Boy, was Menendez right.
Obama’s remarks are also telling because, like his attack on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, he never quite argues on the merits; he simply launches vicious attacks (advocates of sanctions were previously called “warmongers”) on opponents. In doing so, he tries to rally his Democratic allies, presumably to prevent an override of vetoes on bills to require an up-or-down deal in Congress and to provide for conditional sanctions in the event there is no March “political framework” and final deal. The press, obsessively interested in political conflict and notoriously oblivious to foreign policy and legal issues, fails to ask Obama a hard question: Why don’t you use congressional skepticism to pressure Iran for better terms? When challenged with unpleasant facts (e.g. the sunset clause, Iran’s hegemonic aspirations), Obama behaves unpleasantly. To accuse lawmakers who are merely describing constitutional realities as intending to torpedo the deal speaks volumes about how shaky are the assumptions under which Obama operates.
It is also noteworthy that he intends, he said, to make the deal first and then explain it to the American people. This is akin to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s admonition that Congress had to pass Obamacare to find out what is in it. (Americans found out and didn’t like it, but in that case, the hide-the-ball routine did not put a nuclear weapons capability in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.) It does make one wonder whether Obama believes he has some power to bind a future Congress and/or president with simply a handshake between himself and the Iranian regime. (Oddly, he never considered himself bound by an exchange of letters on settlements between President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.) Is Obama telling the Iranians otherwise? What happened to his administration’s statements that any deal would need Congress to approve lifting of sanctions?
Perhaps the senators should have written the open letter to Obama and his Democratic rubber stamps. He to needs to hear, as the letter put it, about “features of our Constitution” that give Congress a key role in approving international deals. The letter might not have enriched his “knowledge of our constitutional system” — for he is indifferent to opposing views or constitutional restraints — but it certainly got his attention. And if Vice President Joe Biden is aggrieved as he says he is by the senators’ letter and so “reveres” the institution in which he previously served, he should join in insisting Congress gets an up-or-down vote. (It is rich that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who prevented votes on sanctions supported by more than 70 senators, should excoriate Republicans for not playing their proper role.)
The president’s real problem is not the senators’ letter but his own inept negotiations, bipartisan opposition to a “bad deal,” his new insistence that any deal is better than no deal and, most important, the American people’s distrust. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll says 71 percent of respondents said Obama’s deal would not “make a real difference in preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons; 24% said it will make a difference.” The report on the poll continued, “The skeptical finding comes at a time of great political controversy over the emerging deal between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group of nations, which are aimed not at halting Iran’s nuclear program but at delaying its ability to produce enough materials to make weapons. In return, the U.S. and its allies would ease economic sanctions on Iran. . . .The new poll found that the public was even more skeptical of the impact of talks with Iran than it was in March 2007 when the poll asked about a U.S. deal to suspend curb North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. In that poll, 62% said the deal would not make a real difference in ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program; 30% said it would make a difference.” Well, unlike Obama, the American people may have learned from that experience (in which negotiations were conducted by the very same Wendy Sherman in charge of Iran talks), namely the folly of unenforceable deals with rogue regimes.
No wonder Obama simply rushes from one meltdown to another, trying desperately to distract the public and our allies from the root problem: his dangerous appeasement of Iran and determination to secure his legacy through an awful deal that will allow Iran to go nuclear.