Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Yet Another Lost Cause

Charting the GOP's Epic Failure to derail Obama's nuclear deal with Iran actually goes back to before Netanyahu's address to Congress in March of this year, and includes some amazing twists and turns like AIPAC arranging for 50 Congresspersons to personally meet with Netanyahu in Israel this past month in a last ditch effort to block the deal.  The Republicans and their Jewish conservative allies did everything in their power to equate a vote for the Iran nuclear deal as a vote against Israel, spending a huge amount of money on the effort.

In the Republican mind, the only other country that matters is Israel, and more specifically the Netanyahu administration.  They conveniently ignored the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who thought the negotiations were positive, as well as other Israeli leaders who felt that Bibi had grossly overstepped his boundaries.   All we heard were Bibi's objections and that of a handful of conservative Jewish figures saying how bad this deal was for Israel.  The rest of the world be damned, particularly the United Nations Security Council for ratifying the deal unanimously.  The only other major holdout, Saudi Arabia, has since come on board after voicing earlier objections.

Still, the Republicans had the ability to block the agreement if they could convince a dozen Senate Democrats to join them in their latest act of obstruction.  Every effort was made to do so, but in the end GOP Senate leader could only muster four Democrats, not enough to even carry a resolution rejecting the agreement, much less override what most certainly would have been a Presidential veto.

It is a bitter defeat and no doubt one that will resonate this election cycle.  The Republicans were going to have a hard time holding onto their majority in the Senate as it was, with so many Republican seats up for grabs, now they face division within the ranks as they were unable to carry through on their hollow threat to block the president.

This misguided effort was never about the Iran nuclear deal, but rather making President Obama look ineffectual in his last two years in office.  They didn't bargain for a greatly emboldened leader who would use the full power of his executive authority to bypass Congress on major foreign policy issues.  Because of the language of the agreement, the administration didn't need Congressional approval, forcing the Senate to come up with 67 votes to block its efforts, a Herculean task.  The Obama administration used reason, not bellicose rhetoric to convince 40 Democrats and two Independent senators to support the agreement, more than enough to block the Republican majority in the Senate.  In the end, it is the President who looks strong and Congress that looks weak.  Not what you want to have in a Presidential election cycle if the opposing party is tying to get its man in the White House.

This has forced some Republican Presidential candidates to backpedal, saying that they would work with the agreement, as bad as it is in their minds.  Governor John Kasich has the best perspective among the GOP candidates, noting that we have other foreign allies, not just Israel to consider, and that "we've got to get with the program here."

However, I don't imagine the Republican-led Congress will take this defeat lying down, no doubt making its objections heard as loud as possible, so that if any nasty repercussions come from this agrement they can say, "I told you so."

More pressing concerns now await Congress, such as how to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis and its massive spillover into Europe.  The EU is asking the US to take some of the refugees, but given the potential threat of ISIS insurgents hidden within the throng of displaced persons, I doubt Congress will be eager to absorb more than a heavily screened handful of the refugees.  Senate Republicans will no doubt leave it up to the President to deal with the crisis, criticizing him at every turn.

The Obama administration has reached out to Iran and Saudi Arabia to help deal with the Syrian crisis. This was the whole point of the agrement, paving the way for better coordination of international efforts in Syria and Iraq, where ISIS operates.  It is also hoped that the US can better work with Russia to resolve the crisis, as the Kremlin was a major advocate of the Iran nuclear deal and has the most influence with the Assad regime in Syria.  This is what foreign policy is all about, thinking in terms of geographical regions as a whole, not just one entity, such as Israel in this case.  Unfortunately, the Republicans were just too dense to realize it, still harboring past grudges.

I doubt this lesson will be learned by Republicans, except maybe John Kasich.  For them politics is largely about spite, and it is doubtful that GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner will accept this "defeat" gracefully.  They will go after the Obama administration in other ways, forced to have to answer to the ugly underbelly of their political party that brooks no compromise.

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