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“Negotiating A Good Iran Deal”: Negotiators Are On The Right Track To Resolve The Iranian Nuclear Crisis Peacefully

The United States, its international partners, and Iran will soon likely reach a final agreement to limit Tehran’s nuclear program. Judging by the framework reached in April in Lausanne, Switzerland, the finalized deal will not only greatly enhance American and regional security by preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon, it will also eliminate a source of great tension between the U.S. and Iran — freeing America’s hand to deal with other undesirable Iranian behavior.

Yet you can be sure that war hawks will be screaming “bad deal” — insisting on a better one.

What they mean by “better deal” is one in which Iran completely capitulates, gives up its entire nuclear program and changes its bad behavior on a wide range of issues outside the scope of the nuclear program, all without the United States having to give up much in return.

But that’s not really how negotiating works. Successful deals involve give and take. Most of the time, all parties walk away with something they like and something they don’t.

Don’t just take my word for it. Some of those closest to the negotiations agree. “[W]e do not live in a perfect world, and the ‘better deal’ proposed by the critics of the Lausanne framework is a fantasy,” said Phillip Gordon, who, until recently worked on the Iran issue in the White House and is now a senior fellow and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Those arguing for a better deal also believe that if only the United States increased sanctions on Iran, Iran would agree to even better terms. But, as former National Security Adviser to President Clinton, Sandy Berger wrote recently, more sanctions would not have their intended impact. Instead, they “would mystify and alarm the rest of the world, isolating and weakening us. Such sanctions would crumble under their own weight — amounting to, as Shakespeare said, “Sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Former national intelligence officer and Middle East expert, Paul Pillar, agrees. “[T]here is nothing in the Iranians’ record to suggest that at some level of economic pain they would cry uncle and capitulate to hardline demands,” he wrote earlier this year. “If this were possible, it would have happened by now after many years of debilitating sanctions.”

While the “better deal” crowd may continue to crow, the reality is that there is an overwhelming consensus among the nuclear and security expert community that the Lausanne Framework is a good deal, a deal that the six powers can be confident will prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. “When implemented,” a statement from 30 leading nuclear nonproliferation specialists reads, the agreement “will put in place an effective, verifiable, enforceable, long-term plan to guard against the possibility of a new nuclear-armed state in the Middle East.”

And it’s not just the experts: Numerous polls show that a majority of Americans support the framework. Moreover, a recent survey done in conjunction with pro-Israel group, J Street, found that 59 percent of American Jews support the framework; a result that can perhaps mitigate concerns that U.S. Jews feel the deal could be bad for Israel. The poll also found that a 78 percent of American Jews support the agreement when additional details of the deal are provided.

It’s rare to have such a large consensus on any particular issue these days. But it’s no fluke that the White House, many in Congress, experts and the American people support diplomacy with Iran over war and will support a good final nuclear deal. I am hopeful that Missouri’s Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt are part of that mix of support.

It is difficult to dispute that Iran is led by a dictatorial regime that oppresses its people, supports terror and wreaks havoc in the region. It is for these reasons that we should prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon and ink a good final agreement that is done on our own terms.

It appears that the six international powers and Iran will get past the finish line, but as the saying goes, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” President Obama has repeatedly stated that he prefers no deal to a bad deal. Fortunately, the negotiators are on the right track to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis peacefully, allowing all sides to walk away knowing that what they’re getting is better than they’re giving up.

 

By: Stacey Newman, Missouri State Representative, The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 5, 2015

July 7, 2015 Posted by | Iran, Nuclear Weapons, War Hawks | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“What The Keystone Vote Tells Us About The Democratic Party”: Republicans Succeeding In Defining What It Means To Be A Liberal

The bill to authorize construction of the Keystone pipeline failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate last night by a single vote. Every Republican voted in favor, since support for the idea of sending Canadian oil to American refineries so it can be processed for sale overseas has become a core value of conservatism. But they were joined by 14 Democrats. And if we look at who those Democrats are, we can learn quite a bit about the state of their party.

Five of those Democrats are red-staters who discovered this year that “distancing” yourself from Barack Obama isn’t enough to win re-election in a year of extremely low turnout. The first is Mary Landrieu, on whose behalf this entire exercise was mounted, on the absurd theory that Louisiana voters will turn out in droves for her runoff in December once they learn how much she loves oil, a fact of which they were supposedly unaware before now. Then we have Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and John Walsh of Montana. The first three lost their seats, and Walsh would have been ousted by voters had he not resigned over a plagiarism scandal.

The next group of Democrats are also from red states: Heidi Heitkamp of South Dakota, John Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Through whatever combination of electoral fear and genuine conviction, these are among the senators who disagree with their colleagues most often. McCaskill is a particularly notable case; lately she has been moving to the right in visible ways, including proclaiming her opposition to Harry Reid remaining leader of the Democrats in the Senate and criticizing President Obama’s proposed actions on immigration. Rumor has it that she’s preparing to run for governor, which could help explain why.

The final group of Democrats who voted in favor of the pipeline may have each had their own reasons, but none could have imagined that voting against the pipeline would be a huge political liability. These were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Tom Carper of Delaware.

So what does this tell us? To a great degree it suggests that Republicans are still succeeding in defining what it means to be a liberal, striking fear into the hearts of any Democrat who wants to win in a red state. Republicans haven’t actually spent too much time arguing the environmental concerns over Keystone, other than to dismiss them out of hand. Instead, they’ve touted the pipeline as a jobs boon that would boost the entire American economy, a claim no sane person believes.

But red-state Democrats still live their lives in a state of perpetual terror that someone might call them a liberal (the only red-state Democrats who voted No were Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, both of whom are retiring).

If these votes don’t change, when Republicans bring the pipeline up again in the new Congress, it will have enough votes to overcome a filibuster — but still fall short of the 67 that would be needed to override a presidential veto. And the Democrats who supported the pipeline will find that it really didn’t help them.

Their red state colleagues who lost their elections have already found out that high-profile breaks with their party don’t keep you politically safe. And indeed, those red-state losses have made the Democratic caucus in the Senate more liberal, and it’s possible that in 2016 the number of red state Democrats will decline even further (even if Democrats gain seats overall). So even if there is still the possibility of Dem divisions on some issues, the fracturing off of red state Dems could matter less and less over time, making the future of Democrats in Congress one of more, not less, unity.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, November 19, 2014

November 22, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, Keystone XL, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Comedy Central”: Grover Norquist Is Wrong About The Tea Party’s Second Coming

This past Sunday, on NBC’s Meet The Press, Grover Norquist had a warning for the president, Democrats, the nation, and perhaps the world: If America ends up going over the “fiscal cliff” there will be a Tea Party revival that will outweigh that of the 2010 midterm elections. “Tea Party two is going to dwarf Tea Party one if Obama pushes us off the cliff.”

I have a question. Has Mr. Norquist resigned as president of Americans for Tax Reform and turned to comedy? If not, maybe he should quit his day job because I laughed so hard at the idea of “Tea Party two” as a warning to our president, my political party, and our nation. Oooh…”Tea Party two.” Scared President Obama? Democrats? You should be, or so Mr. Norquist thinks. Is the “Tea Party two” like Jaws II, or worse yet, Godfather III?

Look, all joking aside, the Tea Party, which isn’t a party at all, had a handful of political victories in 2010. But as I predicted, those “Tea Party candidates,” who are technically Republicans, acted like the red R on their cape dictated when it came time to voting. There was no “T” next to their name when they ran or were elected and when they got to Washington. The GOP schooled them not only on how to behave, but on how to vote. So the faithful lost their religion so to speak. And America wasn’t fooled by a party which was a movement. America also wasn’t fooled by a group that claimed to be nonpartisan, not conservatives, not angry, or not anti-Obama when it turned out to be just that: extremely partisan, very conservative, angry and definitely against the president. In other words, the original plan for the Tea Party either got off track or they lied. Oh, excuse me, let me use political terms: They misspoke.

Another reason I had to laugh at Mr. Norquists’s warning of the second coming of the Tea Party? Polls show since last spring a continuing decline in support for the Tea Party. And there was an analysis done by the Pew Research Center showing that support for the Republican Party has fallen even further in those places that once supported Tea Party candidates than it has in the country as a whole. In the 60 districts represented in Congress by a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, Republicans were viewed about as negatively as Democrats. And the analysis suggests that the Tea Party may be dragging down the Republican Party. That analysis was proven true by the results of the last election. Other polls have shown a decline in support for the Tea Party and its positions, particularly because of its hard line during the debate over the debt ceiling and deficit reduction.

So when Mr. Norquist warns the president about pushing the country over the fiscal cliff, I think he is really speaking to Republicans who are lining up now to walk away from their original pledge to him and his organization not to increase taxes. I think Mr. Norquist is saying, work with the Democrats and we’ll put so much power and money behind a Tea Party candidate to challenge your seat in Congress that you’ll lose your job. So a warning to the president? Or a threat, an unspoken form of bullying to any of the 95 percent of Republicans who signed his pledge?

Some say Democrats should heed Mr. Norquist’s warning. Some say the Tea Party is no longer relevant, they had their 15 minutes of fame and they were a one hit wonder. (This blogger among those of that opinion).

So when Mr Norquist took center stage on NBC’s Meet The Press and David Gregory asked the question “Are you over?” I think it was Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat of Missouri who was in the same segment on Sunday, who said it best: “I just met him for the first time this morning,” McCaskill said. “Nice to meet him. But, you know, who is he?” Or perhaps my two toddlers, who when they hear me mentioning “Grover,” think I’m talking about a furry guy on Sesame Street.

 

By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, December 5, 2012

December 6, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Hatred And Zealotry”: Total Obstructionism Not A Guaranteed Winning Strategy For Republicans

When Lyndon Johnson took power as Minority Leader in the Senate in 1953, he reasoned that the way back to the majority was to accumulate a good record of accomplishment to run on. He made the Senate work at an unprecedented level of efficiency, and supported President Eisenhower to such an extent that he and his allies often accused Senate Republicans of insufficient support of the president. This worked well enough that the Democrats took the Senate majority in the 1954 midterms. Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, is famous for this clip publicly announcing to become perhaps the overtly partisan Senate party leader in modern history: http://youtu.be/2gM-1HbK4qU

Thus the recently smashed historical record for the number of filibusters. McConnell and company decided the percentage was in scorched-earth, nihilistic opposition; to filibuster absolutely everything President Obama proposed, and to further gum up with works wherever possible. The reasoning seemed to be that if nothing happened, ignorant voters would blame the president, and Republicans would win power by default.

That paid off in 2010, apparently, but that kind of extremist absolutism seems on the verge of backfiring. Even though Romney is barely ahead at the moment, Obama is still a slight favorite. If you look at the Senate, which should have been an easy Republican pickup, with Democrats defending way more tough races, the Dems have a probably better-than-even shot to keep control. For example, Claire McCaskill, who should have been doomed, is ahead in the polls due to running against a buffoonish crackpot.

In other words, Mitch McConnell and his brethren may have thrown a wrench into the gears of government for no benefit whatsoever even to their own narrow self-interest.

Johnson’s brand of bipartisan strategy is often cited as an example of a bygone era of cooperation driven by historically idiosyncratic circumstances, something which would be utterly unrealistic these days. But it’s not clear to me that it would actually fail in narrow electoral terms. People seem more than anything desperate for Congress to be efficient and responsive, rather than gridlocked and incapable of action.

I conclude then that Republican strategy is driven by rational calcuation, yes, but also by hatred and zealotry, and these two are increasingly at odds. The Republican party gets much of its power from an extremist base, easily whipped into a frenzy, that is increasingly out of contact with reality. It gives them an organizing edge, but is also driving them to total absolutism (can’t negotiate with socialism!) which at the least isn’t a guaranteed route to electoral victory.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 20, 2012

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Of Hooters, Zombies and Senators”: Attention Must Be Paid To Races In The House And Senate

Today, let’s take a look at debates that do not involve Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. You can thank me later.

I am talking about the races for the United States Senate, people. Attention must be paid! And, as a reward, we can also discuss a new campaign ad featuring zombies.

There are 33 Senate contests this year, although voters in some of the states may not have noticed there’s anything going on. In Texas, for instance, Paul Sadler, a Democrat, has had a tough time getting any attention in his battle against the Tea Party fan favorite Ted Cruz. Except, perhaps, when he called Cruz a “troll” in their first debate.

In Utah, Scott Howell, a Democrat, has been arguing that if the 78-year-old Senator Orrin Hatch wins, he might “die before his term is through.” Suggesting a longtime incumbent is over the hill is a venerable election technique, but you really are supposed to be a little more delicate about it. Howell also proposed having 29 debates. The fact that Hatch agreed to only two was, he claimed, proof of the senator’s fading stamina.

Nobody in Massachusetts could have missed the fact that there’s a Senate race going on. In their last debate, Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren sounded like two angry squirrels trapped in a small closet. A high point came when the candidates were asked to name their ideal Supreme Court justice. “That’s a great question!” said Brown brightly, in what appeared to be a stall for time. He came up with Antonin Scalia. Then, after boos from the audience, Brown added more names, until he had picked about half the current court, from John Roberts to Sonia Sotomayor.

Meanwhile, in Nebraska, the Democrat Bob Kerrey began his debate remarks with: “First of all, let me assure you that I’m still Bob Kerrey.” This seemed to be a bad sign.

There are actually about only a dozen Senate races in which there is serious suspense about who’s going to win. To the Republicans’ dismay, many of them are in states that were supposed to be a lock for the G.O.P.

Tea Party pressure produced several terrible candidates. We have all heard about Todd Akin in Missouri, who claimed after a recent debate that Senator Claire McCaskill wasn’t sufficiently “ladylike.” Since then, Akin has doubled down on a claim that doctors frequently perform abortions on women who aren’t pregnant.

In others, the Republicans found awful candidates without any help from the far right.

Senator Bill Nelson in Florida received the gift of Representative Connie Mack IV as his Republican opponent, and promptly unveiled an ad calling Mack “a promoter for Hooters with a history of barroom brawling, altercation and road rage.” Mack’s fortunes seem to have been sliding ever since. Recently, while he was greeting voters at a Donut Hole cafe, one elderly couple asked him to get them a menu.

Some Democratic candidates are also turning out to be stronger than anticipated — like Arizona’s Richard Carmona, a Hispanic physician who served as surgeon general under President George W. Bush. Carmona is a Vietnam combat veteran who worked as a SWAT team leader for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. “In 1992,” his campaign biography reports, “he rappelled from a helicopter to rescue a paramedic stranded on a mountainside when their medevac helicopter crashed during a snowstorm, inspiring a made-for-TV movie.”

Let that be a lesson. If the Democrats in Texas had just nominated a Hispanic Vietnam combat veteran who saved crash victims and inspired a TV movie, they wouldn’t have to depend on debates to get some attention.

The race where the Democrats are getting a nasty surprise is in Connecticut, where Representative Chris Murphy is having a tough time against the Republican Linda McMahon, the former professional wrestling mogul. McMahon has spent a record $70 million of her own money over the past three years trying to convince voters that what Connecticut really needs is a senator who knows how to create jobs in a simulated sport awash in violence, sexism and steroid abuse.

Improbable candidates who don’t have $70 million to blanket their state in ads can always just cobble something really weird together, put it up on the Web and hope it goes viral.

Last time around, Carly Fiorina, who was running for Senate in California, created a sensation with “Demon Sheep,” featuring an actor wearing a sheep mask with glowing red eyes.

Now John Dennis, the Republican opponent of the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, has a new California sheep-themed conversation-starter. It portrays Pelosi as the leader of a cult of zombies, preparing a lamb for sacrifice. Then Dennis breaks in, saves the lamb, calls one of the zombies “Dude,” and denounces Pelosi for supporting the indefinite detention of American citizens who are suspected of being terrorists.

Not your typical Republican. Dennis ran against Pelosi before and got 15 percent of the vote. But I feel the zombie ad could well push him up into the 20s.

 

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 5, 2012

October 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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