The condemnations of U.S. President Barack Obama's creepy, anti-Semitic characterizations of opponents of the Iran nuclear deal have revealed that even supporters of the president and the deal he is selling have been taken aback by the toxicity of the president's words and campaign. The president's speech at American University, where he delivered his latest defense of the Iran nuclear deal before departing for another vacation, was artfully deconstructed by Dennis Prager. The president's arguments in this speech were wrong on almost every count.
Despite the administration's drumbeat, war is not the only option to the very poor deal Secretary of State John Kerry brought home after conceding pretty much every major negotiating point to his Iranian counterparts in order to give Obama something to sign. In fact, with all the billions in funds to be released to Iran, war initiated by Iran has become more likely as Iran steps up its support of terrorists aiming at Israel and Sunni Arab nations, and others further afield. Certainly, a military action by the United States against Iran has never been a real option in the Obama years, whether before negotiations began, through the negotiation period, and now after them, whether or not a deal had been concluded and whether or not this deal is approved or rejected by Congress. Rejection of a deal by Congress would in no way increase the likelihood that this president will be going to war with Iran. That has been obvious all along to Iran, as they witnessed the world's most powerful nation, come to them begging like a hungry dog looking for food, or at least approval. It was common sense for Iran to continually demand more relief from sanctions, or inspections, knowing the American desperation for a deal meant there was no stick to balance the carrot of concessions. We would never walk away from the talks, and we would never hit their nuclear facilities.
This week came one more revelation of how single-minded this administration has been on turning Iran into its new partner. We now know that then-Senator John Kerry was sent off to woo the Iranians in 2011, when Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still president, rather than the ostensibly more moderate Hassan Rouhani, who followed. So negotiations had nothing to do with Iran showing a new face and opening to the West. Kerry came with an opening offer that Iran could continue its nuclear enrichment even if a deal were struck. In other words, if you like your nuclear program, you keep your nuclear program. There is nothing like giving up everything in the store before the thugs enter to hold you up.
A rejection of the deal by the United States Congress will mean that American sanctions will remain in place, other nations and foreign companies seeking to do business with Iran will have to be careful not to violate these, the $100 billion plus in frozen money Iran expects to receive will not all be released, and the United States will be freer (assuming its president had an iota of interest, maybe the next one), to call out and act upon Iranian aggression wherever it next occurs.
Sadly, none of this may matter to loyal Democrats in the House and Senate, who have concluded that opposing a president of their party on an issue he considers important requires a lot more courage than they ever signed up for. The president who ran on being a uniter, not a divider, has succeeded in making everything a Democratic versus Republican issue, and has worked to make Israel a similar wedge issue. But now the battle is among Democrats -- with the president showing his pique at Democrats who dare to defy him, including New York Senator Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate. The president is working the phones from Martha's Vineyard to make sure the Schumer opposition, carefully explained in a detailed letter, does not metastasize to something that threatens the deal. Press secretary Josh Earnest all but admitted that the White House would not be surprised (and might welcome?) opposition to Schumer becoming the lead Democrat in the Senate after Harry Reid retires. Another Earnest throwaway line was that Schumer and Obama have had their differences for over 10 years (starting with the Iraq vote presumably), though such differences never stood in the way of Obama offering jobs to Hillary Clinton, Kerry, or Vice President Joe Biden, despite their all voting for the Iraq war resolution.
The ability to mislead, and outright lie, has become a key part of the job for politicians, one reason among many why they are so uniformly unpopular. That Obama is much better at both practices than most politicians is a reason why he has advanced further in his political career than so many of his contemporaries. Consider the real potential now for a collapse of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, that if it occurs, would be attributable to a judgment by a large group of voters that she is a bad liar, and generally untrustworthy. Obama, on the other hand, has mastered the art of demonizing opponents and lining up his supporters to do the same, so that every policy disagreement is viewed instead as a character issue among the opponents.
The campaign against the Iran deal opponents has revealed something else about the president, now well into his seventh year in office. Obama seems to be unable at this point to even accept that some people will challenge his direction and his explanations. If they oppose him, it must be because they are people who are always wrong about policy (hence, less intelligent and thoughtful than the all-knowing seer), traitors (more loyal to the government of Israel than America), racist (reflexively opposed to everything Obama, in large part because of his race), warmongers, or lacking knowledge of what they are talking about (they must not have read the agreement or listened to the deal's defenders in the administration). There is a barely disguised contempt for anyone putting forth a contrary argument. The president is still likely to win at this point -- meaning an override by a 2/3 vote in both houses of Congress will be very difficult to achieve. But winning seems only part of his design. He seems to want to crush opponents -- whether the bipartisan American Israel Public Affairs Committee or Democrats who oppose him. As Bret Stephens has written, the president has supreme certitude that he is right and anyone not on his page, is wrong. There is no self doubt.
"Who is it, according to the president, who supports the deal? It is, he said in his speech last week at American University, the unanimous U.N. Security Council, the majority of 'arms control and nonproliferation experts,' 'over 100 former ambassadors' and 'every nation in the world that has commented publicly' -- with one lone exception.
In sum, the forces of good, the children of light, the 99%.
And who's against the deal? A "virulent" majority of Republicans. Lobbyists funding a multimillion-dollar advertising effort to oppose the deal. Partisans and pundits. Warmongers. The people who were wrong about Iraq. Hard-liners in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. And one stiff-necked nation, Israel, which doesn't have the wit to see how terrific this deal is for them.
In other words, fools or knaves, the benighted or the willfully wicked, fighting a deal whose intrinsic benefits should be as self-evident as Bran Flakes or a good night's rest."
When your goal is to transform your country and the world, nothing can be allowed to interfere with the legacy building.
That Obama may have gone a bit too far in the American University speech, and in the administration's reactions to the announced opposition by Schumer, is evidenced by some of his supporters trying to walk back the ugliest part of his rant. Even liberals become a bit nervous when their president leaves little doubt that he agrees with nativist Pat Buchanan that it is American Jews, serving Israel, who always lead the United States to war, or that the death-to-America chanters in Iran feel the same way about the nuclear deal as Republicans. The death-to-America chanters are of course nothing more than a prop of the Iranian regime, and no Iranian negotiators ever operated outside the mullahs oversight. The death-to-America chanters are in fact on the same page as the president since their bosses just made a deal with Kerry.
Many of the critics of the president's despicable words were careful to try to create "a pox on both your houses" commentary about over-the-top language by both supporters and opponents of the deal. Does the use of apocalyptic language about the Iran deal by Mike Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate currently polling about 4% and with virtually no chance to be nominated, matter in the same way that the words of the president of the United States matter?
A former administration official and new head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, seemed genuinely offended by the anti-Semitic themes in the president's speech: "As the debate over the Iran deal has gone forward, the administration has at times waded into characterizations that in the eyes of many members of the Jewish community recall malicious accusations about Jews. ...
"Moreover, claims that opponents of the proposed agreement are 'the same folks who brought us the war in Iraq' remind many Jewish Americans of tired accusations against the 'Jewish lobby' that has supposedly pushed for every failed policy in the Middle East. Yet there was no unified Jewish community position on the Iraq war, and the community was in no way a major factor in the Bush administration's decision to launch the war. In fact, many Jewish Americans who are concerned about this deal with Iran actually were opposed to the Iraq war and bristle at accusations that imply 'they got it wrong before, don't listen to them now.' ...
"This situation is exacerbated by framing opponents of the deal as simply advocating for war. Opponents of the deal in the Jewish community hear this as a suggestion that Jews are seeking yet again to drag the United States into conflict, possibly against American interests or to serve only Israeli ones. Agree or disagree with the deal, it is unfair to suggest that those who oppose it are advocating for war."
After a bit of doubling down defending the speech, the president has pulled back a bit the last few days, acknowledging that there are arguments on both sides. But any such pullback has one explanation only -- the president may have hurt his effort to persuade some of the Democrats still on the fence, and created new opponents. He still wants to win, and to destroy his opponents. It is the only way he knows how to do things. He spent too much time in Chicago.