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The Iran Deal and Congress
Sen. Schumer to Oppose Iran Deal

One of the Senate’s most powerful Democrats has come out against the President’s Iran deal, making a statement that, despite some kind words for the President and the Secretary of State, the White House won’t like. Sen. Schumer (D-NY), the presumptive next Democratic Senate Minority or Majority Leader, wrote earlier tonight:

Using the proponents’ overall standard — which is not whether the agreement is ideal, but whether we are better with or without it — it seems to me, when it comes to the nuclear aspects of the agreement within ten years, we might be slightly better off with it. However, when it comes to the nuclear aspects after ten years and the non-nuclear aspects, we would be better off without it.

Sen. Schumer’s conclusion undermines one of the Administration’s main talking points, that the only choices are this deal or war:

To me, the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great.

Therefore, I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power. Better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.

For all of these reasons, I believe the vote to disapprove is the right one.

This is more than a break with the President’s political position; it is a repudiation of the President’s whole approach to the Iran debate. President Obama has pulled out all the stops to argue that opponents of his Iran deal are aligned with America’s enemies. Now one of the Senate’s most respected Democrats says that the country would be better off if Congress trashes the President’s signature diplomatic accomplishments. Does President Obama think Senator Schumer is in league with the Iran Revolutionary Guard? Or does he think he’s a secret Israeli agent who is disloyal to the United States?

Senator Schumer’s dissent will not, by itself, kill the deal. But it’s not good news for the White House. Schumer’s dissent will give cover to other Democrats; it shows that the core of the party is divided over the deal — and it means that other senators who break with the White House may not face severe punishment by Senate leaders. With over a month left on the Corker-Menendez vote clock, and the August recess ahead, this is not a statement that the White House wanted to see.

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  • wigwag

    Chuck has some cojones after all. Who would have thunk it? He did the right thing so I guess he should be congratulated.

    It’s interesting that he couldn’t bring his protoge, Senator Gillibrand along with him. The real coup would be if Schumer could convince Harry Reid to oppose the deal; accomplish that and I will really be impressed.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Dirty Harry is retiring….I doubt that there is very much that anyone can do to alter his position.
      What might be more interesting is what will happen with some of the other fence-sitters. There are weeks to go before anything comes to a vote, and the news just keeps getting worse from the ME. If I had to bet, I would bet that Obama’s veto will not be overridden, but I must admit that a small glimmer of hope has caught my eye….

  • Fat_Man

    “Or does he think he’s a secret Israeli agent who is disloyal to the United States?”

    That is what he is saying to Valerie Jarrett.

  • Kevin

    He’s pretty low key in his opposition. More like he’s opposed because there are enough Obama supporters to sustain a veto so he’s taking the free pass on this one; maybe he’ll even change his mind in the veto override vote. We’ll see.

  • Blackbeard

    This is just going according to plan. This deal was always going to be disapproved in a Republican controlled Congress. A few Democratic lawmakers who need Jewish votes can vote no knowing that there will never be enough votes to sustain a veto override. If it was ever necessary Shumer and other Obama loyalists would switch back for the override vote.

    • Anthony

      As a matter of fact, the editor of Haaretz on Charlie Rose [8-5-15] stated just that (Sen. Shumer would vote “No” on Iran Deal but would “Not vote to override Presidential veto”).

  • Nevis07

    Meanwhile, it appears Iran may be trying to scrub out evidence of past nuclear experiments. Oh, well – I guess negotiating on not having immediate access for on the spot checks has just backfired…

  • theresanursemom

    People compare Obama with Neville Chamberlain in this deal, but was Hitler openly broadcasting to the world that the British were scum and he was going to annihilate them and their allies from the face of the Earth AT THE SAME TIME as Chamberlain was negotiating with him for his foolish “Peace In Out Time” agreement? History will remember Obama/Kerry in the center ring of its pantheon of fools for this.

    • f1b0nacc1

      It has been said here before, but I will repeat it: Comparing Obama to Chamberlin is grossly unfair…to Chamberlin. Chamberlin loved his country and though deeply wrong, was sincerely committed to the belief that the only way to preserve Britain’s future was through an accommodation with Germany. Obama may love some idea of America, but not the country that exists in the real world…more likely he is more committed to some sort of transnational dream than anything else…

      • Episteme

        The key historical distinction with Chamberlain’s Britain was that the former Entente powers had almost-entirely demobilized after Versailles – when we speak of our current low level of military readiness in America, that’s nothing compared to what England and France looked like in the mid-late 1930s after having scrapped their weaponry and navies post-WWI in a utopian vision – and Germany secret rearmament put Europe on a sudden notice. There’s very legitimate argument over the handover of the Sudetenland (and moreso over the way that the Prime Minister sold the deal); likewise, Britain failed to rearm itself quickly enough upon seeing what Hitler was doing. Nevertheless, that was a situation where negotiations and some sort of deal were valid to get “Peace in [their] Time” until rearmament could lead renegotiations – Hitler of course fairly-literally jumped the gun on Western rearmament.

        One of the core problems of the Iran negotiations and deal is that the dichotomy of strength. Chamberlain erred in the aftermath of his deal and in treating Hitler as more of a rational actor than he was (other European leaders basically interacted with him the way they did with Mussolini, who was a revanchist rather than a wannabe world-conquerer), but he nevertheless was dealing with a leader better prepared for war than Britain. By comparison, even a sequestered United States has assets and options to deter a sanctioned Iran – and myriad non-military ways to freeze out bits and pieces of the Islamic Republic’s political economy and military under the current order. So, following that same post-Versailles notion of trying to bring a chastened state back into the fold by given them what they want is both an error from historical evidence (which, as I note wasn’t quite the case in Chamberlain’s day but is the case looking at the Sudetenland issue through the Iran prism) as well as from current geopolitical circumstances.

        I’m not surprised that Chuck Schumer is opposing this – despite his Gentry Progressive bona fides, even as a conservative I’ve observed that he’s a thinking man on issues of policy and politics (it’s a fun game sometimes to note which partisans in each party are still most likely to reach across the aisle in sponsoring bills and working on plans – it shows a certain recognition of the philosophy behind the opponent’s doctrine, even if one completely opposes it; Schumer’s one of the current high-ranking Democrats who, despite how often one sees him on cable news and such, still works across the aisle versus the likes of a Harry Reid). Especially on the old “politics end at the water’s edge” idea, we sometimes see the seemingly contradictory notion of politicians opposing foreign policy of their own party in situations such as this (especially when the discussion from the Administration gets to be sort that Obama has been using this week or that Wilson used before Versailles was defeated in the Senate).

        • f1b0nacc1

          Lets start with the first observation: despite the depleted state of the Entente militaries at the time of the Sudeten crisis, they were still far more powerful by any rational measure than the Germans, and what is more, they knew this. The Germans also knew it, as we now know from reading their own foreign office cables from the prewar period, not to mention the plethora of memoirs from the postwar period. Manstein is always a bit chancy as source, but Guderian certainly isn’t, and he was in a superb position to know about the relative assets and liabilities of the German military.
          Regarding Iran and our options, deterrence only works if there is a realistic assessment by both sides that it is credible, and that is simply not the case with the US. Our ‘other’ assets and options are limited indeed, particularly because there is very little chance that without sanctions (and with the shameful sell-out that will accompany the collapse of the sanctions regime) that any other powers would be willing to join us. The cost to us of implementing retaliation or to take an overtly threatening posture would be so high that it will be difficult to imagine a future US president willing to do so. Rather than this being different than with Chamberlain, it is in fact almost exactly the same dynamic at work…
          I don’t share your rather sanguine view of Schumer, he is a vain and shallow man (I have met him several times, and there are puddles with more depth and character), and is utterly partisan, though not in the rather crude way Reid is. The Dems haven’t believed in politics ending at the water’s edge in quite some time (GWB could probably tell you many stories about that, but we can go back to his father, Reagan, or Ford for that matter if we wished) unless THEY happen to be in power, in which case dissent is clearly anti-American.

  • Proud Skeptic

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in this…in spite of Schumer’s strong words. I’m sure he opposes it personally, but that is different from putting his full weight against it and trying to persuade other Democrats to join him. I’m sure all the groundwork is in place for the Democrats to stop the Republicans from stopping this bill and Schumer’s vote will be a token that won’t effect the outcome.

  • Ellen

    Schumer has always been a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. I wonder what his stand says about her real views, as opposed to her lukewarm and clearly fake endorsement of the Iran Deal. Is Schumer’s stand going to help Hillary or hurt her? Either way, this deal is bad for her, there’s no doubt about that. If it passes and turns out to be a disaster, her fingerprints will be all over it, as the SOS who helped get it started. This may help to kill her support among independents and conservative democrats in the general election. If it goes down, and her supporters like Schumer helped to sink it – along with Obama’s reputation and legacy, it will be bad for her with the base of the Party. They won’t necessarily torpedo her nomination, but they may not come out and vote in high numbers in the November election, thus dooming her to defeat.

    If you ask me, the Democratic Party is screwed by this issue, anyway you look at it. Read David Brooks’ column today in the NYT. He puts it nicely. The Iranian government is a hate-filled, imperialistic, and murderous regime that is not going to moderate itself because of a few trade deals. They will go on devastating the MidEast and threatening their neighbors, while pocketing all of Obama’s concessions. The people who have supported this surrender to tyranny will look really awful from the perspective of history.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Intriguing analysis. I suspect that many of the Dems are staying on the fence here, waiting to see how the drip, drip, drip of revelations about just how bad this deal really is shakes out with the public.

      • Ellen

        I think you’re right. Most of them are cowards. If public opinion continues to increase against the deal, no matter how the questions are formulated and no matter which polling agency does the survey (in other words, so the results are indisputable), I think you will see a veto-proof margin against this deal, no matter how much pressure Obama puts on. After all, he may be a narcissistic careerist looking for his legacy, but what do you think most of these people are? There are very few principled DP Moyhnihans or Scoop Jacksons left in Congress. They want to survive in politics too. If they vote for this awful deal and it turns out to be as rotten as seems likely, what will happen to their careers, at the hands of the GOP killing machine?

        • f1b0nacc1

          I have little doubt that a veto-proof margin can be produced in the House, but I am less sanguine about the Senate. The longer election cycle means that many there believe that they can ‘fool the rubes’ and are more afraid of the party leadership than they are the voters, which I think will make them less responsive to public disapproval here. Still, this deal is so bad, and Obama is such a poor leader when it comes to dealing with congress one never knows….
          If I had to bet on it, I would say that the deal will be voted down, Obama will veto it, and then the veto will be sustained by a VERY narrow margin in the Senate. With that said, I do see a glimmering of hope on the horizon…perhaps I am wrong here….I pray that I am!

          • Kevin

            My take is the opposite. The surviving Dem’s in the House are in such gerrymandered districts that most of them would pay a far higher electoral price for opposing Obama – their real threats are primaries with a very partisan electorate not general elections. (CA with its weird new top two candidates facing off in the general could be different – here a moderate Dem could challenge an extremist in a partisan district if no GOP candidate can get into the top two – but it’s hard to tell.) Senate seats are much less gerrymandered and their elections tend to be more high profile affairs where attacks on this issue could hurt more. Still I assume Obama can get a veto proof majority in either chamber. If not and it looks like the deal with go down to veto proof margins, I think there’s a decent chance he’ll try to spike the deal rather than get a veto overridden with massive Dem. defections in both chambers.

          • f1b0nacc1

            While I see your point, I don’t think that Obama is synonymous with the party, certainly isn’t perceived as a party leader in any real way (that was always Pelosi in the House), so I am not sure whether or not a lot of the Dems (who would be facing voters within a year) would be willing to walk off the cliff to support this very unpopular proposal. Perhaps, but remember that this particular issue cuts across basic party lines. The Senate only has 1/3 exposed (most Republicans this time around) so they can afford to wait it out.
            As for Obama spiking things, not a chance. This is the whole enchilada for him, no way he can give up on it without looking like a complete fool even to himself. I believe that he is going to roll the dice pretty much irrespective of what the results will be, then treat the result with the same crass ill-will that he does with everything else.

    • Blackbeard

      “From the perspective of history”

      Clinton did nothing while North Korea built its nuclear weapons and he is the adored elder statesman of the Democratic Party. Why should it be any different for Obama?

      • Ellen

        In principal you are right. The difference is, though, that North Korea is a hermit country that built nuclear weapons largely to prevent anyone from trying to invade and overthrow the regime. All the regime wants is to oppress its own people and plunder them without worrying about any human rights busybodies coming and threatening their power.

        Iran is a different kettle of fish altogether. They want to have a Persian/Shiite Empire that rules over the entire Levant and Arabia, and destroys Israel. They are quite active in pursuing this agenda right now, and the Nuclear Deal will benefit them tremendously. The murder and mayhem caused by Obama’s treachery to US allies, as well as the leg up he is giving the Iranian imperialists, will guarantee another 20 years of incredible strife in a large and vital region of the world. This is not the hermit kingdom. This region contains much of the oil supply of the industrial world, and the crossroads of 3 continents, as well as a place of great religious and historical significance. No one will forget Obama’s contribution to the bloodshed, as they forget what happened with Bill Clinton and N. Korea.

      • stan

        Bill Clinton is a likely rapist, definitely guilty of sexual assault, serial sexual harassment, perjury, subornation of perjury, and obstruction of justice. He’s an extraordinary liar and corrupt to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

        That’s why the Democrats love him so much. He’s a role model for them.

    • FriendlyGoat

      The first sentence of your second paragraph is as per GOP strategy because of timing. If they currently had a GOP president who was either actively engaged in a new war with Iran or advocating one during the new campaign season, they too would be “screwed by this issue”. And they know that. But—–ooooh—-timing is everything.

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