From the time that the nuclear deal with Iran (minus the two side deals) was published, I’ve thought that it will receive substantial support from congressional Democrats. Even before the deal was reached, I assumed that Dems, by and large, would likely support it. They march pretty much in lockstep with the administration, especially on issues of vital importance to Obama.
Once the details were made known, it seemed clear that Obama and Kerry had negotiated well enough to meet the low standard of satisfying the Democrats (which was probably their primary goal during the talks). Democrats are trusting souls, as long as they aren’t dealing with Republicans and/or conservatives. In international relations, they put their faith in what’s written on paper, regardless of how untrustworthy, or downright evil, the other signatory is.
The inspection regime negotiated by Team Obama — though far short of the promised “anytime, anywhere” — doesn’t look too bad on paper. The concept of “snap back” sanctions sounds good in theory. Ten or more years in which Iran may be prevented — on paper — from obtaining nukes is a material improvement over the status quo, assuming one overlooks all of the benefits, military and otherwise, that will accrue to the mullahs during that period.
In my view, yesterday’s hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirm that congressional Democrats will buy Obama’s deal for basically the reasons set forth above. As the New York Times reports:
After four and a half hours of contentious questioning, three cabinet secretaries deployed Thursday by President Obama to the Senate to defend his nuclear deal with Iran appeared to keep Democrats largely lined up as a bulwark against Republican opposition.
To be sure, former committee chairman Robert Menendez openly opposed the deal. However, others, like Tim Kaine, were far more supportive:
“This is a deal that produces a dramatically better position for 15 years than the status quo,” Mr. Kaine said, though he did ask pointed questions on what would happen after that period.
There was more of basically the same from other mainstream liberal Democratic members:
Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, said he sided with the experts at the nuclear weapons laboratories in his state, Los Alamos and Sandia, who helped devise the inspection and verification regimes.
Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware and a skeptic of the deal, said, “I do wonder what the alternative is.”
The administration has done an excellent job of loading the question that Coons says he’s weighing. The status quo is less favorable now that (thanks to President Obama) the sanctions regime has started to crumble. And that diminished status quo will be impossible fully to maintain now that our allies and other key powers have signed on to this deal.
Kerry made this point relentlessly yesterday, and to good effect. Nonetheless, what Kerry said during the negotiations remains true — no deal is better than a bad deal.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, a critical mass of Democrats is prepared to conclude that this isn’t such a bad deal.