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“Republicans Cry Foul Over Presidential Multi-Tasking”: No, The Iran Deal Is Not A Manufactured Distraction From ObamaCare

Critics of the nuclear accord struck between Iran, the United States, and five other global superpowers are deeply skeptical about the deal’s terms, fearing it is too weak and relies too much on placing trust in a secretive state.

Some Republicans, meanwhile, think the deal is a farce for another reason.

John Cornyn on Twitter: Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care

10:15 PM – 23 Nov 2013 from Austin, TX, United States

Cornyn isn’t just any random Republican either. He’s the Minority Whip, the second-ranking GOPer in the Senate, so his opinion carries more weight than if someone akin to, say, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) unloaded on the administration with a factually-light claim.

The argument gained some credibility Sunday when Bob Schieffer repeated it in question form on Face the Nation to House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) McCarthy, for his part, offered only a semi-dismissal: “I know they need some other type of news, but that would be the biggest mistake any administration could do. I would hope that would never be the case.”

As “distraction” murmurs intensified, Cornyn doubled down on the claim. And come Monday, Fox News’ morning hosts were opining on how Secretary of State John Kerry, amid the ObamaCare debacle, magically “pulls a rabbit out of his hat and changes the subject.”

There’s one huge problem with the augment: The deal was reportedly in the works for at least eight months — or well before ObamaCare went live and exposed glaring problems with the health care website.

Administration and Iranian officials met in Oman back in March for the first of at least five secret meetings, according to the Associated Press. The AP learned of the first meeting soon after it happened, the news agency said, but could not confirm the details and so sat on the story until now.

Going back even further, Secretary of State John Kerry, while still in the Senate in 2011, began forging ties with the Omanis that may have laid the groundwork for the nuclear negotiations.

Certainly, President Obama would like to talk about something other than his administration’s poor handling of the ObamaCare rollout. And indeed, the White House is quietly pushing Democratic lawmakers to shift their focus to the economy.

Yet assuming a historic deal was really a calculated gambit to shift the conversation in Washington from domestic to foreign affairs is, given the many months and rounds of negotiations that resulted in the deal, quite a stretch. You could argue that the administration, anticipating the ObamaCare implosion, started preparing an Iranian smokescreen earlier this year, just in case. But to truly believe that you would have to view the news in a complete vacuum, and be a pretty big cynic to boot.

And as far as distractions go, a nuclear deal with a country a plurality of Americans believe is an “enemy” is not exactly the best shiny object to reach for. So far, the reaction to the deal has been mixed, with even some prominent Democrats panning the accord as too friendly to Iran. So though the deal shifted the news cycle, it did not do so in a way uniformly beneficial to the White House.

Plus, the nuclear pact is only the latest piece of news Republicans have claimed is a manufactured ObamaCare distraction. When Democratic senators last week scrapped centuries-old rules governing filibusters, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused them of “cook[ing] up some fake fight.”

“I’d probably be looking for an exit, too, if I had supported this law,” he said, “I’d be looking to change the subject, just as Senate Democrats have been doing with their threats of going nuclear and changing the Senate rules on nominations.”

Yes, the Senate changed the conversation from ObamaCare to arcane debate rules last week. But McConnell, as with Cornyn, had no proof it was a deliberate, politically motivated calculation.

The administration has so far refused to respond to the allegations. And that may be a good idea: Were they to respond, someone would probably accuse them of again trying to distract from ObamaCare.

 

By: Jon Terbush, The Week, November 25, 2013

November 26, 2013 Posted by | Iran, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The American Ayatollahs”: President Obama Crushes The Neocons

Well, the ayatollah appears to have lent his provisional support to the historic U.S.-Iran accord announced Saturday night. In a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said the deal “can be the basis for further intelligent actions.” Now we just need sign-off from our American ayatollahs. But the early indications are that the Republicans, eager to perform Bibi Netanyahu’s bidding—not that they needed a second reason to oppose something Barack Obama did—will do everything within their power to stop the thing going forward.

We shouldn’t get too carried away in praising this accord just yet. It’s only a six-month arrangement while the longer-term one is worked out. Those talks are going to be harder than these were, and it’s not at all a stretch to envision them collapsing at some point. Iran is going to have to agree to a regular, more-or-less constant inspection regime that would make it awfully hard for Tehran to be undertaking weapons-grade enrichment. It’s easy to see why they agreed to this deal, to buy time and get that $4.2 billion in frozen oil revenues. But whether Iran is going to agree to inspections like that is another question.

Still, it is indeed a historic step. Thirty-four years of not speaking is a long time. So it’s impressive that this got done at all, and even more impressive are some of the inner details, like the fact that Americans and Iranians have been in direct and very secret negotiations for a year. Rouhani’s election does seem to have made a huge positive difference—four of five secret meetings centered in Oman have been held since Rouhani took office, which seems to be a pretty clear indication that he wants a long-term deal to happen.

So this is potentially, I emphasize potentially, a breakthrough that could have numerous positive reverberations in the region—not least among them the virtual elimination of the chance that the United States and Iran would end up at war. And what a refutation of those harrumphing warmongers! I’d love to have had a tap on John Bolton’s phone over the weekend, or Doug Feith’s, or Cheney’s, and heard the combination of perfervid sputtering and haughty head shaking as they lament Obama’s choice.

Well, then, let’s compare choices. They chose war, against a country that never attacked us, had no capability whatsoever to attack us, and had nothing to do with the allegedly precipitating event, 9/11. We fought that war because 9/11 handed the neocons the excuse they needed to dope the public into supporting a unilateral war of hegemony. It has cost us more than $2 trillion now. It’s taken the lives of more than 100,000 people. It has been the author of the trauma of thousands of our soldiers, their limbs left over there, their families sundered. And on the subject of Iran, the war of course did more to strengthen Iran in the region than Obama could dream of doing at his most Machiavellian-Manchurian. Fine, the world is well rid of Saddam Hussein. But these prices were far too steep.

Then along came Obama in 2008, saying he’d negotiate with Iran. I’d love to have a nickel for every time he was called “naive” by John McCain or Sarah Palin (after the differences between Iran and Iraq were explained to her) or any of dozens of others (and yeah, even Hillary Clinton). I’d settle for a penny. I’d still be rich. You might think that watching this past decade unfold, taking an honest measure of where the Bush administration’s hideous decisions have left us, that some of them might allow that maybe negotiation was worth a shot.

Of course that will never happen. Marco Rubio was fast out of the gates Sunday, but he will be joined today by many others. Some will be Democrats, yes, from states with large Jewish votes. Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez have already spoken circumspectly of the deal (although interestingly, Dianne Feinstein, as AIPAC-friendly as they come, spoke strongly in favor of it). There will be a push for new sanctions, and that push will be to some extent bipartisan.

But the difference will be that if the Democrats get the sense that the deal is real and can be had, they won’t do anything to subvert it, whereas for the Republicans, this will all be about what it’s always about with them—the politics of playing to their Obama-hating base. But there’ll be two added motivations besides. There’s the unceasingly short-sighted and tragic view of what constitutes security for Israel, which maintains the conditions of near-catastrophe that keep just enough of the Israeli public fearful of change so that they perpetuate in putting people like Netanyahu in power, thus ensuring that nothing will ever change. And perhaps most important of all in psychic terms to the neocons, there is contemplation of the hideous reality that Obama and the path of negotiation just might work. This is the thing the neocons can’t come to terms with at all. If Obama succeeds here, their entire worldview is discredited. Check that; even more discredited.

Rouhani appears to be moving his right wing a bit. Ours, alas, isn’t nearly so flexible as Iran’s.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 24, 2013

November 26, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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