Obama’s Secret Weapon
The GOP helped convince Democrats to support the president’s Iran deal.
This was a great week for the White House.
A month ago Democrats were working to stop a GOP-penned resolution of disapproval against President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. No, the resolution wouldn’t preclude the president’s authority to enter the deal, nor would it keep him from enforcing the agreement and its terms. But it would restrict his ability to lift sanctions on Iran, and potentially threaten the deal itself, as allies questioned U.S. commitment to the agreement.
To succeed, Democrats would need to sustain a presidential veto. And by the end of last week, they had reached their goal: President Obama had 34 “no” votes against the Republican resolution, protecting a White House veto. Still, Republicans would pass the law—with a few Democratic votes—and Obama would take the political blow, even as he won the substance.
On Thursday, however, that changed. When the resolution came for a vote, 42 senators voted to filibuster and keep it from the Senate floor. Democrats didn’t just save the deal; they blocked the GOP altogether. It was a huge win, and the administration wasn’t shy about its success. “This vote is a victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world,” said Obama. “I am heartened that so many senators judged this deal on the merits, and am gratified by the strong support of lawmakers and citizens alike.”
But for as much as the White House can justly gloat over its strategy for securing Senate support, we shouldn’t ignore the extent to which it had a huge ally in persuading Democrats to stand with the deal. Namely, the Republican Party.
When the administration announced the deal in mid-July, it was an open question whether Democrats would sign on. First, there was public opinion. No, Americans might not want another war, but that’s not the same as supporting an agreement with Iran, especially one that lifts sanctions. What’s more, Americans had concerns about Israel—would this open an important ally to danger from an economically emboldened Iran? Sensitive to both concerns, many elected Democrats were wary of the deal, and some—like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer—eventually came out against it.
Republicans could have capitalized on the division, running against the deal while offering an alternative and showing—in word and deed—that this was about the policy, not the president. Schumer is a Democrat, but his final statement on the deal is instructive as a model for how to thread this needle. “Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed. … I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval,” he said. “While we have come to different conclusions, I give tremendous credit to President Obama for his work on this issue.”
No, it’s not red meat. But this kind of considered opposition could have peeled away enough Democrats from the administration to win the legislative battle and jeopardize the deal. Instead, Republicans jumped to hyperbole.
When the deal was still just a negotiation, Republican senators led by Tom Cotton of Arkansas sent an “open letter” to Iran’s leaders urging them to dismiss talks. Shortly afterward, Republican leaders joined with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to slam the negotiation as a deadly threat to Israel. In the following months, Republicans would say the deal was “akin to declaring war on Israel”; that Obama was “march[ing]” Israelis to the “door of the oven”; and that the president was siding with “the oppressors.” The apex of this criticism came Tuesday, when former Vice President Cheney slammed the agreement in the fiercest words possible. “I know of no nation in history that has agreed to guarantee that the means of its own destruction will be in the hands of another nation, particularly one that is hostile,” he said.
None of this scared Democrats into voting against the deal. Instead, it was evidence that this fight was irreducibly partisan, with no chance of a compromise or détente. Cautious Democrats—like Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon or Cory Booker of New Jersey—had two options: They could sign on with Cheney and the GOP, or they could bolster the president. They chose the latter, and handed Obama a victory that wasn’t guaranteed.
All of this should sound familiar. Change a few details, and you have the dynamic of early 2010, when a desperate Democratic Party wanted bipartisan support for a health care bill, and would take any compromise to pass a law. In that moment Republicans were primed to win the substance; they could deny the Democratic goal of universal health insurance and show their concern for the least fortunate with a piecemeal and limited health reform law. Instead, they wouldn’t budge, which forced Democrats into a choice: They could save the Affordable Care Act and pass it as written, or they could end the fight with nothing. They chose the former, and gave Obama the law that may define his legacy. Likewise, if House Republicans could just compromise and accept the presidential “grand bargain,” the party would have won cuts to major retirement programs, entrenching a new, conservative status quo. Now, four years later, it stands against an emerging liberal consensus for expanding Social Security and the welfare state.
Again and again, the GOP’s great obstacle—and Democrats’ great ally—is itself. Its intransigence might win elections—Obamacare helped the GOP win the 2010 midterms, and Republicans hope that Iran will do the same for 2016—but it comes at a cost: policy that’s more liberal than the alternative. And while there’s still time to turn the tide, it’s running out. If Democrats win another four years in the White House, they can turn Obama’s changes into a new and durable status quo.
This week, Senate Republicans failed to reach cloture on a vote to stop the diplomatic deal with Iran, which dooms their efforts to sink the agreement. The vote came after over $20 million of spending from Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, a front group organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main Israel lobby group, demanding that lawmakers reject the agreement.ReplyDelete
The failure by AIPAC to swing votes in its favor marks a low-point in the lobby’s influence; in the end, it retained only four Democratic senators, including three long-time staunch allies: senators Schumer (NY), Cardin (MD) and Menendez (NJ) and the caucus's most conservative lawmaker, Senator Manchin (WV).
A closer look at how the organization spent its money reveals just how desperate it was. According to records filed at the Federal Communications Commission, over the past two and a half months it spent over $220,000 on the Portland-area media market, one of America's most progressive cities. Despite all this spending, all four senators from Oregon and Washington supported the Iran agreement, and every Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives did as well.
The logic behind wasting so much money in a progressive city is likely explained by one of two theories: AIPAC thinks it is much more powerful than it actually is, and believed it could swing some of the country's most anti-war and pro-diplomacy voters to its position; or it knew it could not win but spent so heavily as a ruse to pump dollars out of its donors. Either way, this shows that AIPAC is far from the all-powerful organization many in DC believe it to be. It even outspent its closest competitor, J Street, which reportedly has spent $1.8 million so far. It even lost its long-time ally Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who came out for the deal despite his boast of a strong relationship with AIPAC leader Howard Kohr.
Lawmakers and activists should learn from this failure. When facing off against a president who stands his ground and a progressive community that chooses to oppose its aims, AIPAC just isn’t all that powerful.
According to Jane's Military website, who many feel provides far more expertise on the subject than most of us would have on hand, Israel has already manufactured 840 kg of weapons grade plutonium, which they estimate is distributed among 100-200 nuclear warheads. They are not signatory to the NPT, nor do they allow inspectors. That makes them a rogue nuclear state, by definition.Delete
Why are we calling them an ally?
Iran has ZERO weapons grade plutonium. They are even giving up the material they have that is even close as part of the new treaty.
They are signatory to the NPT and do allow inspectors.
In reality, where the rest of us live, who is the real threat?
Why are we calling Israel an ally? Why are we allowing them to have lobbying access to OUR government?
I will be posting a very interesting review on the Israeli vicious attack on the US Liberty killing and wounding US servicemen and how they got away with it. It is relevant to Aipac and their fellow travelers.Delete
Can anyone name one thing that Israel has ever done for the US that they didn’t get paid for?Delete
The whole thing is a farce because the GOP does own the US Senate at the current time as far as approving treaties is concerned, and this arms control 'agreement' should have been voted on only by the Senate, and need a 2/3rds majority to pass there. The GOP Senators were elected by the American People just as the Donk Senators were, and the GOP has a majority, especially when it comes to treaties.ReplyDelete
The American People are against it.
Many of them are upset by its farcical terms, which has Iran monitoring itself.
IAPAC, the Iranians, and the Neo-Traitor Donks are those at fault, along with very poor judgment by the GOP leadership.
Time to Call Obama and Kerry What They Are: Traitors
We have met the enemy and he is in the White House.
July 14, 2015
The next President is most likely going to be a Republican, especially if Hillary is the Donk nominee.
Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.Delete
Read the bio and draw your own conclusion on David Horowitz. It ain’t pretty.
So what ?Delete
I consider you an Iranian blogger.
I poked back in because I was thinking about bail.
Do you know what it is ?
Do you know who sets the amount ?
It is to try and insure that the defendant will actually show up at trial.
It is generally the Judge who sets the amount, perhaps after listening to arguments pro and con by the prosecuting and defense attorneys.
There can be many complexities to it, some statutory, like no bail at all for certain serious offenses, and repeat offenders,some drug dealers, etc etc
These gentlemen are probably considered extremely high flight risks. After all, they are bikers from all over hell and back in the USA and maybe Mexico and Canada too.
Those that cannot afford an attorney will one appointed to represent them.
These attorneys will represent the bikers who can't afford their own at the bail hearings....
Your hated enemies the Police have very little to do, except possible some testimony, about setting the actual amount of bail.
It is a coverup. They know who killed all those bikers and it wasn’t other bikers. It was a police massacre. They don’t know what to do. The autopsies and eye witness accounts are going to show a massacre by the Texas police against US citizens.Delete
Of course you don’t object to such fascist anti-American techniques. You adore authoritarian IDF style techniques and you have no compassion for human life unless they meet a certain religious, ethnic or lifestyle.