As the final “undecideds” among Senate Democrats make known their position on the Iran deal, there is the curious spectacle in the presidential race of two candidates — Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — who have declared that simply policing the deal is sufficient for the next commander in chief.

This week, conservatives were praising Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, for rejecting the deal, explaining, “The JCPOA legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program. After 10 to 15 years, it would leave Iran with the option to produce enough enriched fuel for a nuclear weapon in a short time.” In addition, it affords Iran $150 billion, makes no demands of it with regard to human rights and does not require that it cease aggression in the region. It was such a good deal for Iran it could not say no. Cardin’s action brought rare praise from a conservative group. David Brog executive director of Christians United for Israel, says via his spokesman, “Senator Cardin has demonstrated what responsible leadership looks like. His statement opposing the disastrous Iran deal demonstrates that he — unlike so many of his colleagues  — has actually read the text.” While Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) denounced the deal and then said he would vote for it, Cardin, Brog pointed out, “knows that making a speech about the deals’ flaws does not eliminate these flaws. Senator Cardin has chosen to lead, not to cop out.”

You see, saying the deal is terrible is not enough. If the deal cannot be blocked or undone (e.g. Congress passes a bill requiring Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA, which it fails to do) it must be ended by the next president. As many of them have pointed out, an executive agreement designed to get around the requirement for a treaty (ratification by 2/3 of the Senate) can be eviscerated by subsequent presidents.

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Especially given that a veto will be upheld by Democrats, it is critical for any possible GOP nominee to pledge to undo it. It should be front and center in 2016, with Hillary Clinton vowing to keep it and “police it” (in other words let Iran get the bomb in 10 years) and the Republican vowing to get rid of it and return to a policy of credible military threats and severe sanctions.

Not all GOP candidates are definitive on that, however. Trump and Kasich are with Clinton on this one. “What too many fail to understand is that while, yes, Iran may cheat on its deal with Barack Obama, Iran doesn’t need to cheat.  This deal is so good for Iran, and so completely answers its own needs on building up a nuclear arsenal within 10-plus years, that there is no requirement for Tehran to sneak around,” explains Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute. “For goodness’ sakes, the deal even requires countries to help Iran on technical nuclear issues as if the Islamic Republic has never cheated on its NPT obligations.  Policing the deal is just another version of what Hillary Clinton said in the last election, [namely] if they nuke Israel, there will be a retaliatory strike.”

Certainly many lawmakers rejected the deal because the Iranians can so easily cheat. But the problem, which informed critics of the deal including Cardin have been making, is that it is vital for American security and Israel’s existence to end the policy of appeasement and chart a new course. That is not possible with the Iran deal, the pinnacle of appeasement. “All I would ask of the Republican candidates is they live up to the example that Senator Cardin has set,” Brog says. “Talking about tough enforcement of this deal misses the point.  This deal — even if diligently enforced — still legitimizes Iran’s nuclear activities.  This deal — even if followed to the letter — still provides Iran with quick billions that it’s already spending to send missiles into Israel.  This deal is a disaster.  Let’s leave talk of disaster mitigation for after the Congressional debate.”

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Trump and Kasich may toughen or completely reverse their language, but plainly they do not understand the fundamental problem with the deal. (Hugh Hewitt showed Trump understands practically nothing about foreign policy, in case you had any doubt.) That is going to be problematic in a GOP primary in which Republican voters overwhelming oppose the deal and want to get rid of it. Penny Nance, executive director of Concerned Women for America (with 500,000 members), says that just policing the deal “isn’t in line” with the views of most conservatives. She says her members will press the candidates. “Illogical promises can’t go unexamined forever,” she says.

It is not clear how hard opponents will hit Trump and Kasich for their weakness on Iran, or Trump for his demonstrated ignorance of foreign policy. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was one of the few who spoke out on Friday. The Hill reported:

“This should be part of the reason why you are running, because you understand the threats that the world is facing, you have deep understanding and you understand what to do about it,” [Rubio] said without naming Trump.
“And if someone doesn’t, I think it is very concerning,” added Rubio, himself a 2016 candidate for president. . .Rubio said Friday that the outspoken billionaire’s criticism of Hewitt was invalid, given the responsibilities of the presidency.
“No, I don’t,” he responded when asked if Hewitt’s questioning was unfair. “National security is the most important obligation of the federal government.
“If you are going to be a presidential candidate, you need to take this seriously,” Rubio added. “It takes time and dedication and a natural curiosity and interest in these issues.  And I think that’s important.”

It is also critical to get the biggest question right. For most Republicans that means dumping the deal and embarking on a new policy. Candidates who evidence a lack of understanding or commitment may find themselves in serious trouble with voters.

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