When the chips are down on a major national security issue like Iran, some Democrats talk tough, but then wilt when the White House balks. We’ve seen for 18 months Democratic senators come up with one excuse and mechanism after another to avoid imposing sanctions conditional on Iran making an acceptable deal. Even when the president plans to bypass the Senate entirely, many Democrats would rather grouse about Republicans who highlight the president’s duplicity than try to stop him from running to the United Nations with a deal that amounts to total capitulation.
Michael Makovsky, CEO of the pro-Israel JINSA think tank, tells me via e-mail that “it’s unjustifiable for the Obama Administration to have the U.N. Security Council effectively approve a deal, which strongly impacts U.S. national security while opposing Congressional approval/disapproval. This is especially galling while the Administration seeks Congressional authorization of military force against ISIS, which is a lesser strategic challenge.” He explains, “The net result would be a huge boost to Iran’s economy and international legitimacy of achieving nuclear weapons capability within a relatively short amount of time. Congress must vote on this deal before the U.N. or other international body does — to give the American people a voice on a fundamental national security issue, and for ensuring continuity in U.S. policy after the Obama Administration.”
The problem, however, is raising a veto-proof majority that can legally interpose the Congress and keep at least U.S. sanctions in place (and potentially increase them). Certainly, simply pointing out the fallacy of the president’s position (i.e. he can deliver on a deal without a ratified treaty) is a worthwhile endeavor — one which frankly both Democrats like Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Republicans like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and the 47 GOP signatories to Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) letter have already done. The president is peddling his “nonbinding” snake oil in hopes of greasing the skids for a deal that can only do harm — lift sanctions for a time — but not bind either side.
The 2-million-member-strong Christians United for Israel has decided to do something about the remarkable turn of events. Last week CUFI issued an action alert that generated more than 71,000 emails to senators in support of the Corker-Menendez Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (S.615) that would seek to guarantee an up or down vote on a final deal. In a news release, CUFI founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee declared, “It is unconscionable that the President would consider signing a deal of this import without Congressional approval. Congress is the voice of the people, and the massive response to this action alert makes clear that on Iran, the people want their voice heard.”
On Monday CUFI placed ads in the New York Post and Billings Gazette (Montana), calling upon Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), respectively, to support this bill. The ads politically called on the pols to “stay strong”:
We appreciate your support for economic sanctions on Iran. This is exactly the kind of strong leadership that brought the Iranians to the negotiating table in the first place. But your work is not yet done. Now you need to ensure that any deal reached at this negotiating table will actually make us more secure. Every major arms-control agreement in recent history has been submitted to Congress for approval. A deal with Iran should be no different. Since the President is seeking to bypass Congress, the time has come for Congress to act.
Today identical ads will run in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and New Jersey’s Star-Ledger calling upon Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), respectively, to do the same. Web ads will also run directed at Booker.
Will this matter? Well, it is noteworthy that when the action alert began, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who will be on the ballot in 2016, became a belated signatory on March 10 to Corker-Menendez. Coincidence? Maybe, but perhaps senators do listen to the public, which remains overwhelmingly opposed to letting Iran get the bomb. The worse the deal sounds, the more precarious the position of Democrats who can’t be bothered even to demand a vote on the measure. CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, argued in a written statement that, “By all accounts the Obama Administration is close to reaching a bad deal with Iran. Congress has a moral and Constitutional obligation to review any nuclear deal that is reached. Any senator that fails to support Corker-Menendez will be called upon to explain why they chose to sit out the most important foreign policy issue of our day.”
I have my doubts Democrats will step up to the plate. But CUFI is doing what very few Jewish pro-Israel or other pro-defense groups are doing: Putting the spotlight on those who talk big and hide in the shadows, too timid to oppose the White House. It really comes down to this: Who do these lawmakers want to be? If they want simply to go along, get left-wing support and hope voters don’t notice their timidity, they can stand idly by. But few if any national politicians (the president excepted — and he did not fully reveal his intentions until after his last election) get far in national politics undermining the security of the United States and of Israel. Nothing enjoys quite so much bipartisan support in American politics as Israel.
If Democrats don’t come out from under their desks to oppose a bad deal, the Iranians buy the president’s promises that an unratified deal can give the mullahs long-term relief and the United Nations dutifully undercuts its own existing tougher sanctions, it will be up to the next president to live with the consequences. Come to think of it, Hillary Clinton should be cheering CUFI’s efforts. I mean, does she want to get stuck with a nuclear-ready Iran on her watch (if she makes it to the Oval office)? Politics makes strange bedfellows, but none I grant you, would be quite so peculiar as a Booker-Warner-Tester-Gillibrand-Clinton-Cotton-CUFI alliance to prevent Hillary’s former boss from sticking her, the Middle East and the West with an Islamic fundamentalist regime in possession of a bomb. Nevertheless, a deal with Iran as awful and unprecedented as the one under consideration would send the Democratic Party that presided over this fiasco into the political wilderness for a generation.