House Should Leave Politics Out of Iran Deal
oppose the Iranian nuclear agreement, you are increasing the chances of war. And
if you are a Democrat who opposes the agreement, you are also risking your
political career. That's the message the White House and some liberal leaders
are sending -- and they ought to stop now, because they are only hurting their
I have deep
reservations about the Iranian nuclear agreement, but I -- like many Americans
-- am still weighing the evidence for and against it. This is one of the most
important debates of our time, one with huge implications for our future and
security and the stability of the world. Yet instead of attempting to persuade
Americans on the merits, supporters of the deal are resorting to intimidation
and demonization, while also grossly overstating their case.
President Barack Obama said that it was not a difficult decision to endorse the
agreement. I couldn't disagree more. This is an extraordinarily difficult
decision, and the president's case would be more compelling if he stopped
minimizing the agreement's weaknesses and exaggerating its benefits. If he
believes that the deal "permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear
weapon," as he said in his speech at
American University last Wednesday, then he should take another look at the
agreement, whose restrictions end suddenly after 15 years, with some of the
constraints on uranium enrichment melting away after just 10.
the case for the agreement belies the gravity of the issue and does more to
breed distrust than win support. Smearing critics is even less effective. In his
speech, the president suggested that critics of the deal are the same people who
argued for the war in Iraq. The message wasn't very subtle: Those who oppose the
agreement are warmongers. (Of course, those who voted for the Iraq War
resolution in 2002 include Obama's vice president and secretary of state.)
went further, saying: "It's those hardliners chanting 'Death to America'
who have been most opposed to the deal. They're making common cause with the
Republican caucus." From a president who often complains about
hyperpartisanship, and whose stated aim is to elevate the discourse, the public
deserved something better.
of all this -- and what has prompted me to write -- was the treatment of Senator
Chuck Schumer. In his thoughtful statementopposing
the deal, Schumer noted that the best course of action is not clear. Reasonable
people can and do disagree.
than acknowledging a respectful difference of opinion, the president's
spokesperson and others close to the White Housesuggested that
Schumer's decision may cost him the opportunity to become the leader of the
Senate's Democratic caucus. What they should have said is: President Obama
signed legislation that gives Congress a voice on any deal with Iran. This
debate is far bigger than partisan politics, and personal political
considerations should play no role in deciding it.
right that this is a vote of conscience. Each member of Congress, after closely
studying the deal and listening to all arguments on both sides, ought to decide
the matter on the merits -- and the White House should be focused on making the
case on the merits, instead of using campaign-style tactics to pressure
Democrats into standing together.
House's behavior is especially disappointing given the way the negotiations
unfolded. Every negotiation comes with give-and-take. This one was no exception.
Significant concessions were made at the last moment, including on ballistic
missiles and arms. These were surprising changes and they come with large
implications that require careful scrutiny.
speech last week, the president said that Congress must decide "whether to
support this historic diplomatic breakthrough" or to block it "over
the objection of the vast majority of the world."
should not act based on the opinion of the rest of the world, nor the opinion of
the American public, which opposes the agreement by a 2-to-1 margin, according
to a recent poll.
Congress should make its own hard and careful assessment of the agreement --
something it cannot possibly do without seeing the yet-to-be-revealed side
deals. How can you vote on a pact that you haven't been able to read in full?
Once it has
reviewed the full deal, Congress should consider what it means for the
future, and then it should lead, drawing on the facts and leaving the politics
aside. The White House should do the same.