President Obama is putting forward his agreement with the Iranians, insisting that it represents the only logical and appropriate course of action in dealing with the fact that Iran is seeking to build nuclear bombs.
He has taken the famous “orphan defense” as his primary advocacy for his case.
Specifically, he claims that if Congress does not sign on to this pact with Iran then the coalition that has created the sanctions, which have so hurt Iran that it has felt the need to negotiate this deal, will fall apart.
Thus Iran will no longer be under the pressure of effective sanctions, since China and Russia will abandon them.
But he makes no mention of that fact that the only reason we face this conundrum in the first place is because he has agreed to the deal.
“I shot my parents but I now ask for clemency because I am an orphan.”
Where does this leave Congress?
Most members will vote to disapprove the deal.
There are five primary reasons why this will occur and none of them goes directly to the terms of the agreement.
First, it is an easy-out vote, politically. A member can vote no, knowing that the president will veto the disapproval resolution and that his veto will not be overridden in the House or probably even in the Senate.
Thus a member gets the safe political vote of “no” — almost always a safer vote than “yes” on controversial issues — yet the president gets his agreement and bears the responsibility for it. The “I told you so” can come later — years later.
Second, the Israeli government has made it very clear that it sees this as a Munich moment, a capitulation to an aggressive power that wants to eliminate them.
Israel has a lot more friends in every district of every member of Congress then Iran has. This is one easy vote for any member of Congress who is thinking about who goes to the polls and who might contribute to their next campaign.
Third, Obama is not running for reelection. He will not be around to bear the burden of his actions. The burden seems fairly predictable: Iran will not get the bomb now but it will likely do so within ten years.
Most of the members of Congress voting on this will be around five or ten years from now, however, when the real effects of the agreement start to be felt.
Fourth, at least for Republicans, there is no love lost for this president, who has spent most of his term vilifying conservatives and the principles for which they stand, and trying to divide the country by class.
In addition, his foreign policy decisions to this point have been muddled, directionless and have produced consistently poor outcomes, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. It is difficult for most Republicans, in light of this history, to give him the benefit of the doubt and think he got this one right.
Fifth, if this is such a good deal then why are we already trying to buy off the Israelis and the Saudis by offering to send them massive new military support?
In the case of the Saudis, it is being reported that we are willing to set up an anti-ballistic missile shield for them. This rather blithely contradicts the administration’s insistence that the deal reduces tensions in the region.
For members of Congress it means more money — a lot more money — will go to the national defense and foreign assistance accounts over a lot of years. This will be occurring at a time when such funds, if they exist, need to be used to bolster our own overstretched defense capabilities.
The president will get his deal, not least because the accord was structured as an agreement, not a treaty, and he can therefore veto a bill disapproving of it.
He will not, however, get a majority or anywhere near it in either House. He will not get “peace in our time,” either.
But he will, most probably, get peace for his last two years in office.
Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.