Former New Republic Editor: Dems risk another “McGovernite legacy”
In an essay for August issue of The Tower Magazine, former longtime editor of The New Republic, Martin Peretz calls on Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer to save the Democratic Party by leading the fight against the nuclear deal with Iran otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Two of the most powerful members of the Democratic Party, former and current senators from New York, now hold the fate of the putative deal with Iran in their hands. Because they alone can overturn it, this means that presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and presumptive Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer carry a heavy burden that will deeply affect their personal reputations and, most probably, the trustworthiness of the Democrats in foreign policy for at least a generation.
Clinton, for her part, has expressed support of the deal.
For Peretz, opposing the JCPOA is essential for the Democrats. Noting that Iran re-opened negotiations over the conventional and ballistic arms embargoes at the last minute, Peretz urges Schumer and Hillary to force the administration to go back and re-open the deal improving some of its terms.
Obama the star negotiator has told us that the only other alternative to this treaty is to resolve the Iranian issue “through force, through war.” But, of course, there are other alternatives to war than deficient deals that damage our interests. Fortunately, America is full of talented, responsible, creative negotiators who can improve on the woefully low bar set by Obama, Biden, and Kerry in this catastrophic bargaining process.
There is no reason Senator Schumer, with Secretary Clinton’s backing, cannot lead a consensus in Congress to tie a set of focused, reasonable conditions to their support for the existing deal. Since Iran was happy to trade and re-trade right up to the negotiators’ self-imposed deadline, and then extend the deadline, there is no reason Congress cannot exercise its constitutional prerogative and send the administration back to the table with some improvements.
For starters: Cancel the automatic removal of the conventional arms embargo in five years and the ballistic-missile ban in eight years and link them to a future vote in Congress, which will depend crucially on concrete Iranian behavior; release immediately all American hostages held in Iran; insist that Iran come clean immediately about prior illegal military nuclear activities; and enhance the verification procedure to ensure quick inspector access to any suspect Iranian site upon demand within a week. If those four conditions are incorporated in the deal, the U.S. Congress will then lift American sanctions.
Obama and Kerry will naturally protest, as will the allies, that we are re-opening the so-called agreement. The “awe” reported by Bloomberg might dissipate. But Iran happily reneged upon the April agreement, so why do Americans and the Democratic Party have to be shackled permanently to a poorly conceived and weakly negotiated deal? The outcome will be imperfect. You could anticipate a situation where the Europeans lift sanctions and the U.S. does not.
Such are the consequences of incompetence. But U.S. sanctions do matter, and their continuation (in the absence of reasonable satisfaction of congressional conditions) will affect Iranian calculations. Moreover, the uncertainty created in the Iranian leadership will restore some leverage to the next American president. If Schumer and Clinton instead passively capitulate to the flawed approach of the administration, they will bear their full share of responsibility for the substance of the deal and the consequences for their party.
Peretz argues that taking up this fight isn’t just about the JCPOA, it’s about the future of the Democratic Party and whether it will have any credibility on foreign policy issues for the foreseeable future.
About this matter of political consequences: has the Democratic Party forgotten the McGovernite legacy from which it fought for so long, and for a time so successfully, to free itself? The George W. Bush Administration’s post-invasion missteps in Iraq, and their grisly consequences, have given the Democrats a dangerous sense of their own freedom: Americans may oppose aggression without strategy, but history has shown that they also oppose idealism without strength and pragmatism without principle.
What are the chances that either Clinton or Schumer would take up the role of savior of the Democratic Party?
Lee Smith looked at Clinton’s considerations:
The truth is that wherever the Republican candidates profess to stand, none of them has the slightest practical influence over the Iran deal. The one and only presidential candidate who does is Hillary Clinton, who can crash the deal a year and a half before the 2016 election. Sure, she already came out with a statement tentatively praising the deal, but with a vote in Congress due in the fall, she still has time to shape the results. If Clinton comes out against the deal, she will start a chain reaction in her own party, with Democrats on the Hill abandoning President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative like a sinking ship and joining Republicans in an overwhelming No.
If on the other hand Clinton says nothing, stays loyal to the president she served, and maintains party unity, the deal will almost certainly sail through Congress untouched. If Clinton becomes president, she will then inherit an agreement nearly guaranteeing that a terrorist-supporting, anti-American, anti-Semitic ruling clique in Iran will continue to spread chaos throughout the Middle East and will likely acquire a nuclear bomb on her watch. Whether Clinton decides to speak out or stay quiet is perhaps the most important decision of a Clinton 45 Administration—a decision that will powerfully shape her own foreign policy legacy and determine what sort of world she will hand off to the future. …
After several years of secret talks with Iran starting in 2009, and nearly two years of public negotiations, the Obama Administration is all in on a deal that they are promoting as the centerpiece of the president’s foreign policy legacy. They don’t care that the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have no real inspection and verification regime to make sure that Iran is abiding by the deal because, they say, it is the best possible deal that they could get. John Kerry and his staff don’t mind saying that they were lying about making sure that the agreement would ensure anytime/anywhere inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities.
The way they see it, any deal is better than no deal. Sure, the president says his name is on the deal, but he understands better than anyone that the attention span of the American public is no longer than a 12-hour Twitter cycle. He’s confident that someone else will be holding the bag if and when Iran gets the bomb.
As for Schumer, he has his own considerations. Taking on the administration could cost him his long sought goal of succeeding Harry Reid as the Democratic Senate leader.
Last week Page Six of The New York Post reported that Schumer’s non-stand against the deal is earning him some negativity from pro-Israel donors. Still it might be that he is choosing ambition over principle as the next day he skipped the rally against an Iranian nuclear bomb in Times Square, preferring instead to mull over some bagels.
The Democratic Party is at a crossroads and it’s not at all clear that its most influential members are willing to take on the President.
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