Littwin: Gazing into political futures after Iran nuclear deal vote
Fair and Unbalanced
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 Politico 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 and 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 16 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 an 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 a 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.
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.