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“Peace Rather Than War”: If Chuck Schumer Kills The Iran Nuclear Deal, He Should Not Be Senate Minority Leader

The framework for the Iranian nuclear deal is about as good as anyone could reasonably expect. If it were solely up to the negotiators, it would likely be finalized in June. But they are not the only players, and it’s become clear that the biggest danger to the deal are hawks in Iran and the U.S.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) is threatening action that may destroy the bargain, while Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is doing the same. Iran is out of the U.S.’s control — but Democrats can hold Schumer to account. If he destroys the Iran deal, he must not be allowed to become Senate minority leader, a position that was basically bequeathed to him by outgoing Minority Leader Harry Reid.

On the Iranian side, Khamenei said out of the blue this week that any deal must include the immediate lifting of all sanctions and prevent foreign inspectors from visiting military sites, two demands that could blow up the tentative framework negotiated in Lausanne, Switzerland. However, there’s good reason to believe Khamenei is positioning for domestic hardliners. The Lausanne framework provides for the lifting of a big chunk of current sanctions, while keeping others related to Iran’s support for Hezbollah. Khamenei, in other words, could squirrel out of his seemingly tough demands if he wanted.

At any rate, if Khamenei really does want to blow up the deal, there’s no stopping him. Iran will either accept the deal or it won’t. If not, it’s really Khamenei’s loss.

That brings us to Schumer. He has announced his support for a Senate bill sponsored by Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee that would require congressional approval for any final deal with Iran. Since a veto by President Obama is certain, Republicans will need Democratic support to override it. Schumer, as the Senate minority leader heir-apparent, is sending a clear signal to Democrats that betraying the president is fine, while undermining arguments that the Corker bill is a mere exercise in partisanship.

The fact that Schumer is even daring to try this is surely evidence of the continuing weakness of the Democratic Party’s anti-war faction. Even Elizabeth Warren isn’t particularly anti-war.

However, pro-war Democrats have consistently underestimated the long-term political danger behind such casual aggressiveness. Just like Cory Booker, Schumer appears to have forgotten that voting for the Iraq War is the reason Hillary Clinton is not president today.

Many good old liberals were absolutely furious with the whole Democratic establishment for voting for Bush’s war of aggression and getting something like half a million people killed for no reason. They’re not so agitated at the moment, but if Schumer shanks what may be the last best hope at a deal before President Bush III takes the nation on another jolly Middle East crusade, then he will face an enormous backlash. And it should cost him the job he covets so badly.

According to Matt Yglesias, a former Schumer intern, the senator is a “really sincere and committed Israel hawk,” and sees himself as dedicated to protecting Israel’s security. If that is his motivation, it might be possible to convince Schumer that this Iran bargain is actually in Israel’s long-term interests. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thought the Iraq War would be a swell development for Israel, and it turned out to be an epic strategic disaster instead. Chances are that he’s wrong about this one, too, like he is about everything else.

But if Schumer can’t see reason, then someone else should be Senate minority leader — preferably someone who is more interested in peace than war.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 10, 2015

April 12, 2015 Posted by | Chuck Schumer, Foreign Policy, Iran | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitch McConnell’s Muddle”: Leadership Just Isn’t An Option

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has found himself in an awkward position. He’s an unpopular incumbent facing a credible Republican primary challenger and a credible Democratic opponent. His own campaign staff doesn’t really like him, either.

No matter which direction McConnell tries to lead his caucus, the Kentucky Republican risks alienating some key constituency’s support, so he’s left to just bite his tongue, doing nothing.

Last month, for example, when much of his caucus was at odds over a government-shutdown strategy, Senate Republicans needed some leadership. McConnell went out of his way to steer clear of the fight.

This month, Senate Republicans are at odds over U.S. policy in Syria, and once more, McConnell doesn’t want to talk about it.

Only one of the top five members of the bipartisan congressional hierarchy still sits on the fence about launching a punitive strike against Syria: Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader.

The Kentucky Republican emerged from the White House on Monday as the only member of the bicameral leadership group still uncommitted to voting in favor of legislation authorizing military action.

McConnell looks to be taking as much time as he can. He’s weighing his political considerations back home, where an isolationist stance would provide clear short-term benefit, against the pressures of his leadership role at the Capitol, where he’s spent almost three decades as a Republican voice for a hawkish defense posture and an interventionist foreign policy.

This is the point at which congressional leaders try to, you know, lead. But McConnell, now afraid of his own shadow, is struggling to figure out which course will cause him the least amount of trouble. So as literally every other congressional leader takes a side — in this case, in support of using force in Syria — the Senate’s top Republican is left to effectively declare, “I’ll get back to you some other time.”

Perhaps McConnell is waiting to announce a position late on a Friday afternoon when he assumes it’ll make less news? More to the point, perhaps “Senate Minority Leader” is the wrong title for a lawmaker who feels so trapped, leadership isn’t really an option?

Sean Sullivan walked through some of the troubles weighing on McConnell.

For starters, McConnell is facing reelection in 2014 and a primary challenger who has said that the United States should not get involved in Syria. If he argues the opposite view, McConnell would immediately fuel debate and elevate the issue in the campaign.

What’s more, fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has come out in full force against military intervention. If McConnell had come out of the meeting Tuesday as supportive of Obama’s plan, he would instantly be triggering a story about discord over Syria within the Kentucky GOP delegation. And he would risk alienating Paul’s supporters. (Paul has endorsed McConnell’s bid for reelection.)

Third, there is some disagreement among Senate Republicans about which stance the United States should take with Syria, and the fault lines are complex.

No wonder McConnell is struggling. It’s getting to the point that he no longer remembers his positions on key issues.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 4, 2013

September 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Syria | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That’s Why They’re Called Leaders”: Congressional Republicans Need To Do Their Job

One of the more common Republican criticisms of President Obama, at least in the context of the debt-reduction talks, is that he hasn’t shown enough “leadership.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the floor late last week to cry, “Where in the world has the president been for the last month? … He’s the one in charge.”

One of the parts of Obama’s press conference this morning that I especially liked was the president’s pushback against the notion that he’s been a passive observer in this process.

“I’ve got to say, I’m very amused when I start hearing comments about, ‘Well, the president needs to show more leadership on this.’ Let me tell you something. Right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown, averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together. I said we’ve got to get this done. I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process — that, by the way, has made real progress — but these guys have met, worked through all of these issues. I met with every single caucus for an hour to an hour and a half each — Republican senators, Democratic senators; Republican House, Democratic House. I’ve met with the leaders multiple times. At a certain point, they need to do their job.

“And so, this thing, which is just not on the level, where we have meetings and discussions, and we’re working through process, and when they decide they’re not happy with the fact that at some point you’ve got to make a choice, they just all step back and say, ‘Well, you know, the president needs to get this done.’ They need to do their job.

“Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That’s why they’re called leaders…. They’re in one week, they’re out one week. And then they’re saying, ‘Obama has got to step in.’ You need to be here. I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done.”

I’m glad the president pressed this, not just because he sounded a bit like Truman slamming the do-nothing Congress, but because many in the media have bought into the notion that lawmakers have dug in on this, and the president hasn’t. That’s nonsense.

Congressional Republicans haven’t been slaving away, trying to strike a credible deal. They’ve been making threats, drawing lines in the sand, and barking orders about what is and is not allowed to be on the negotiating table.

“They need to do their job.” Part of those responsibilities includes working in good faith to find an equitable compromise with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic White House, and then doing what they must do, but what the president cannot do: passing the damn debt-ceiling increase.

Tick tock.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, June 29, 2011

June 29, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Lawmakers, Media, Politics, President Obama, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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