Littwin: Gazing into political futures after Iran nuclear deal vote

If we’ve learned anything in the Summer of the Donald, it’s that political predictions are for losers, but here goes anyway:

The Iran nuclear deal vote, while incredibly important, is probably not an Obamacare-type vote. It’s probably not an Iraq-war-type vote, either. While it’s a vote that matters very much, it’s probably not a vote that’s going to cost, say, Michael Bennet his Senate seat — and not just because Colorado Republicans haven’t yet found anyone legitimate to run against him.

I know that’s how it’s being played. As I write this, the lead story on the Politico site is that Republicans are promising to make Democrats pay in 2016 for this vote/humiliation.

But to make that happen, the story has to stay in the headlines — and not just on Fox — over the next 14 months. That’s a long time to keep track of how many centrifuges Iran has or has not dismantled — unless, of course, the mullahs are secretly sending Hillary Clinton Instagrams of the nuclear sites.

I don’t know how Republicans get to 14 months when they couldn’t even turn the August recess into a month of Obamacare-like town-hall hell. It’s not even clear that they’ll make it to the end of this month. Oct. 1 is the deadline for a possible shutdown showdown if/when Republicans tie Planned Parenthood defunding to the spending bill, which Obama would threaten to veto. Put a 2015 shutdown on the November 2016 ballot and see how that plays.

Ted Cruz is pushing hard for the showdown, just like he did the last one, because that’s who he is. Republican leaders — trying desperately to avoid a shutdown and, while they’re at it, trying to avoid Cruz — are floating a compromise, which would get a yes vote on the funding bill in exchange for a bill limiting abortions after 20 weeks. You can imagine how much Cory Gardner would be looking forward to either of those votes.

And who knows what else comes from the 17 Republicans running for president? Maybe you watched the Donald at the Cruz/Trump anti-deal rally, saying, “We are led by very, very stupid people – very, very stupid people.” I think it’s fair to note that he didn’t say at the rally that they were very, very ugly people — but it’s early, folks.

Trump’s stupid leaders include Republican leaders, who are smart enough, though, to read the polls, meaning they’ve probably noticed just how badly their fellow professional politicians are doing. And so they’ve got to come up with something.

Mitch McConnell’s plan is to promise another Senate vote, just because he can, so that no one will forget the names of the 42 Democrats who voted for the Iran deal. (Only in the Senate do you lose on a 42-58 vote, but that’s another story.) Over on the House side, John Boehner is threatening to sue Barack Obama, because that’s apparently what Republicans do in the House these days when they lose. They’ll also hold about 12 different kinds of votes in which they win – but still lose. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent called it pulling defeat out of the jaws of defeat.

And, of course, Gardner had his talking points in order, saying it was “shameful” that Democrats had voted for cloture even though Republicans had, of course, turned that into an art form back in the day. If anything was shameful, it was when Gardner joined up with the GOP’s Tehran 47, sending the open letter to the Iran mullahs encouraging them to undercut the deal. I think once the infamous “TRAITORS” headline hit the front page of the New York Daily News, the ending was clear. It was just a matter of getting there.

The truth is that rejecting the deal would have been a catastrophe, as I might have noted before. I suspect most Republicans understand that. Most of those opposing the deal were once in opposition to any negotiation with Iran. Once Obama successfully framed the question as a negotiated deal or the inevitable prospect of war, the opposition switched, Trump-like, to saying the deal was just badly negotiated.

Obama rounded up generals, diplomats and Nobel scientists to say it was tough-minded deal that will make it difficult for Iran to cheat — or at least to cheat and get away with it. Republicans responded by running, uh, Dick Cheney out there to predict disaster. It was suddenly 2003 all over again, and most Democrats, including Bennet, chose to make the right vote this time.

No one knows how it plays out. We won’t know for years. But let’s face it, Obama didn’t risk everything — in a battle with Republicans and the pro-Israel lobby — for a deal he expects to fail. This is not a hard concept to understand. And it’s also an easy prediction to make: The deal works for Obama’s legacy only if it actually works.

Photo credit: Mathew Ragan, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. The Republicans are NOT really considered with issues or winning debates in Congress. The Republicans are organizing for 2016 and the critically important need to get their base out to vote. They are energizing their base and creating “triggers” that will turn out voters. Among those “triggers” that include “baker” “Benghazi, marriage licenses, war on Christianity, migration, emails, unelected judges, they will now add Iran nuclear deal. The conservatives capitalize on losses in Congress by saying they need super majorities in order to get anything done. Losses are great fuel.

  2. Keep in mind that Mr. Littwin is supporting a nuclear agreement with a country he doesn’t trust and one that he admits will continue to fund terrorism.

    You can’t make this stuff up!

    Mr. Littwin’s distrust of Iran is echoed by a majority of Americans. In a recent CNN/ORC poll 60 percent of those polled said Iran is either extremely likely or very likely to violate the deal. And 59 percent disapprove of President Obama’s handling of Iran. Mr. Littwin is somewhere in the other 41 percent.

    Also keep in mind that Mr. Littwin’s modus operandi is to simply ignore facts that fail to support his views or facts that can’t be spun to his advantage. He would probably require a mushroom-cloud over Tel Aviv before admitting the possibility of error.

    Mr. Littwin also elevates some journalists to god-like status only to rescind that status should their views fail to support his. Such is the case with Dexter Filkins who he once described as “brilliant” only to completely ignore his brilliance on the Iran nuclear deal. Here’s what Filkins said:

    “ 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. “

    Apparently, brilliance is a highly perishable commodity in LittwinLand.

    Not surprisingly, Mr. Littwin has managed to discuss the Iran nuclear agreement without once mentioning consequences Iran would face for non-compliance.

    US News and World Report explains why:

    “What are the consequences for Iranian violations? According to my read of the agreement, there is only one penalty for any infraction, big or small – taking Iran to the UN Security Council for the “snapback” of international sanctions. That is like saying that for any crime – whether a misdemeanor or a felony – the punishment is the death penalty. In the real world, that means there will be no punishments for anything less than a capital crime.

    What does “snapback” mean in practice? Let’s say that the UN Security Council does order the reimposition of sanctions. According to my read of the agreement, all contracts signed by Iran up until that point are grandfathered in and immune from sanctions. That means one can expect a stampede of state-to-state and private sector contracts – some real, many hypothetical – all designed to shield Iran from the impact of possible reimposition of sanctions, thereby weakening the impact of the punishment.

    But the problem with snapback gets worse. The agreement includes a statement that Iran considers a reimposition of sanctions as freeing it from all commitments and restrictions under the deal. In other words, the violation would have to be really big for the Security Council to blow up the agreement and reimpose sanctions. That effectively gives Iran a free pass on all manner of small to mid-level violations.”

    And this from Dr. Henry Kissinger:

    “The agreement’s primary enforcement mechanism, the threat of renewed sanctions, emphasizes a broad-based asymmetry, which provides Iran permanent relief from sanctions in exchange for temporary restraints on Iranian conduct. Undertaking the “snap-back” of sanctions is unlikely to be as clear or as automatic as the phrase implies. Iran is in a position to violate the agreement by executive decision. Restoring the most effective sanctions will require coordinated international action. In countries that had reluctantly joined in previous rounds, the demands of public and commercial opinion will militate against automatic or even prompt “snap-back.” If the follow-on process does not unambiguously define the term, an attempt to reimpose sanctions risks primarily isolating America, not Iran.
    The only payment Iran makes for this huge strategic gain is postponement of its nuclear ambitions.”

    Violations of nuclear agreements, like violations of journalistic ethics, apparently carry no consequences.


    “The new (YouGov/CBS News 2016 Battleground Tracker) poll finds Sen. Sanders with 52% support among Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, while former Secretary of State Clinton, long considered the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, receives 30%.”

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

    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

    “’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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