Littwin: Bennet votes for Iran deal after slogging toward a lose-lose decision

Update – September 4, 2015, 10:02

I’ve always thought it was a matter of time — or should I say timing? — before Michael Bennet pledged to support the Iran nuclear deal.

As I put it in an earlier version of this column, it could happen at any moment. And it has.

The other day I joked-Tweeted that I had Bennet as the 38th Democratic senator to commit in my Iran-nuclear-deal pool. The 34th Democrat assured an Obama veto would hold and the agreement would stand. That was Barbara Mikulski, who’s safely retiring. The 41st – if they get that far – would give Democrats enough votes for a successful filibuster, meaning the bill wouldn’t even make it to the Senate floor and Mitch McConnell would have another very bad day.

I figured 38 was a relatively safe slot for Bennet, who was hoping to draw as little attention as possible to his vote. So, it looks like I have a winner. And Bennet? Well, that’s a tougher call. As he knows, it’s basically a lose-lose proposition politically no matter how he voted on this deal in a swing state like Colorado.

But I would have been shocked if Bennet hadn’t supported the plan — and not just because Gary Hart went rogue and leaked to the world that Bennet was leaning toward supporting it.

Here’s what I’ve known for months:

If Congress had rejected the agreement, it would have been a catastrophe, diplomatically, strategically, politically and in a dozen other ways. And even though Bennet is regularly assumed to be the most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent running in 2016 — and Republicans, if they ever get a legitimate candidate, would welcome this chance to frame Bennet as an Obama acolyte — he really had no choice.

Rejection would have meant a betrayal of America’s partners in the deal — Britain, Germany, Russia, China, France. They’re the same partners who stuck out their collective neck first to impose the tough sanctions that forced Iran to negotiate seriously and then to keep up the pressure to make them finish the deal. I’m no expert, but the experts I read have said there is no chance – as in none – that sanctions would be reimposed if the deal goes down. I’ll accept the words of Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, the bipartisan ex-senators who are expert in all things nuclear. Writing in support of the agreement in Politico, they said that to think otherwise is to live “in a dream world.”

But more crucially and in a much worse dream, rejection would have meant a likely showdown with Iran — Iran pushing to create a weapon, America forced to drop bombs on the nuclear sites. The deal is meant to stop Iran from developing a bomb for 15 years. How many rounds of nuclear-site-bombing would that cover?

Yes, Iran will still be a sponsor of terror and, yes, it will have more money to put to bad use. But however many senators Bibi Netanyahu calls, the prospect of war doesn’t change. And neither does the fact that the people calling most forcefully to reject the agreement are dependably those who pushed hardest to go to war in Iraq. And if the agreement does, in fact, keep Iran from developing a bomb for 15 years, who wouldn’t take that chance?

I don’t trust the Iranians. Who would? But imagine if you’re the Iranians and you’re thinking the next president could be Donald “Kurds or Quds” Trump.

When the Bennet people kept saying the senator was “undecided,” it always sounded to me as if he’s only undecided about when to announce his position. Let’s just say there has been time to study the issue. In fact, there’s been enough time for Bennet, a smart guy, to study it and then write a thesis on it. And once the matter was basically decided, Bennet was stuck somewhere between supporting the deal or finding an explanation for how he ended up on the same side as those coming to town for the Cruz/Trump rally. Like I said, he didn’t really have a choice.

We’ve seen how easy it is for a senator to look unserious on Iran. Cory Gardner, you recall, was one of the Senate GOP’s Tehran 47 who sent that letter to the Iranian mullahs advising them that Republicans would undercut any deal Obama made with them. And that was before there was an agreement. Bennet at least gets to say he actually gave some thought to his position.

And the Democrats who have come late to the deal provided Bennet a path. You say the deal is “imperfect” or “flawed” or “deeply flawed,” but still better than no deal. In announcing his support, Cory Booker went for “deeply flawed.” Mark Warner went for “imperfect,” Heidi Heitkamp for “not perfect.”

Bennet went for “flawed,” said the deal was better than no deal and then took it another step and said he was introducing a bill with Ben Cardin (who will presumably be No. 39) to enhance Israel’s security. It was the best he could do. The vote was much too important for him to do anything else.


Photo credit: Mark Warner, Creative Commons, Flickr.


  1. Hmmm…Bennet is still a questionable Democrat…I would rather support a full fledged progressive as Senator, than a wishy-washy Democrat…If, IF the gop comes up with a credible candidate, Mikey could be in trouble…

  2. President Obama was elected on a theme of hope and change and now has made a nuclear deal with Iran based solely on that same theme: hoping Iran will change.

    And if it doesn’t?

    Well, basically nothing. Mr. Littwin, as per usual, is silent on consequences Iran may face for non-compliance but his silence is understandable since should Iran violate the agreement Mr. Littwin will simply ignore it. One consequence Iran will not face is the reimposing of sanctions once they are lifted.

    And, as pointed out in the Daily Beast: “The Iranian leadership’s primary goal in this accord was to get rid of sanctions” and “It’s the cruelest of ironies that Iran is reaping huge rewards for giving up something it wasn’t supposed to be doing in the first place.”

    But that’s not the only or even the most notable irony in the Iran nuclear deal. That distinction belongs to Mr. Littwin who is embracing a deal with a country he admits he doesn’t trust and a country that “will still be a sponsor of terror and….will have more money to put to bad use.”

    You can’t make this stuff up!

    What Mr. Littwin cavalierly describes as “bad use” is a highly sanitized phrase designed to gloss over the very real results of terrorism. Here’s the unsanitary version: With Iranian money terrorist like Hezbollah will continue to maim, kill and torture innocent men, women and children. And Mr. Littwin doesn’t seem too concerned about that.

    You can’t make that stuff up, either!

    Here’s what the great Dexter Filkins said about the Iran nuclear deal:

    “ Why is the United States talking to the Iranian regime about its nuclear-weapons program without seeking to change anything else it does, like sponsoring terrorism abroad or suppressing dissidents at home? At the nuclear discussions now unfolding in Vienna, American and other Western diplomats are asking the Iranians to do many things. But perhaps most interesting is what they are not asking them to do: they are not asking the Iranians to curtail their sponsorship of Hezbollah, or to scale back their aid to Assad, or to release any of the American citizens held in their country’s prisons, including Jason Rezaian, a correspondent for the Washington Post. “

    And this from Matthew Continetti:

    “The Iran deal, then, is good enough for the president because it delays until after the end of his term any reckoning with what he himself describes as an anti-Semitic revisionist troublemaking power.
    The Iran deal isn’t an accomplishment. It required no sacrifice. Both sides wanted a deal: Iran to receive sanctions relief and assert its national pride, Obama to forestall having to take action, to prove diplomacy can work, to entertain the possibility of true détente with a longtime adversary. And both sides got what they wanted: Iran its money, weapons, missiles, and nuclear infrastructure intact, Obama a “legacy” item that allows him to smear Republicans and Israelis as warmongers. Obama says he’s aware of the nature of the Iranian regime, but he chooses to ignore that nature if it wins him plaudits from the international left and breathing room before an Iranian bomb. The deal is a finely wrought escape pod for Obama and Kerry: get out of town in 2017 on your high horse, your sanctimony and idealism unblemished.”

    How does Mr. Littwin reconcile President Obama’s earlier stance that “No deal is better than a bad one”? In typical Littwin fashion he doesn’t, he simply ignores it.

    Mr. Littwin support is understandable since he has always been-–what’s a nice word for gutless?–timid. He understands that all conflicts are avoidable if you’re willing to surrender.

    And he’s always been more than willing.

    “Fear has its use but cowardice has none.” Mahatma Gandhi

    “Courage enlarges, cowardice diminishes resources. In desperate straits the fears of the timid aggravate the dangers that imperil the brave.” – Christian Nestell Bovee

    “The resistance of liberals in the media to new ideas was enormous. Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true! Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers. It’s so simplistic!” – Camille Paglia Salon

    “I support anyone’s right to be who they want to be. My question is: to
    what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?” – Dave Chappelle

    “This new Dream, seeking revolutionary change in how America works, is not only impossible, but based on the faulty assumption that black Americans are the world’s first group who can only excel under ideal conditions. We are perhaps the first people on earth taught to consider it insulting when someone suggests we try to cope with the system as it is—even when that person is black, or even the President.” – John McWhorter, Daily Beast

    “..Bernie(Sanders)is the most benign of summer flings.” Mike Littwin

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Folds of Honor
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2015

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