For Obama, the devil is not in the details

The Washington Post editorial board notices that President Obama’s deal with Iran provides the mullahs with “concessions” that the final deal “needs to balance out.” That’s one way of putting it. The Post puts it better on its main Opinion page where it talks in terms of “where the deal falls short.”

The Post’s critique will be familiar to Power Line readers. First, by virtue of Obama’s deal, the United States and its partners have already agreed that Iranian enrichment activity will continue indefinitely.

Second, the deal provides for what amounts to a sunset clause in the comprehensive agreement. Thus, Iran can “look forward to a time when there would be no sanctions and no special restrictions on its nuclear capacity.” Iran, no doubt, is doing so.

The Post, I think, is missing the point of Obama’s deal, just as the President’s critics miss the point of Obamacare. When it comes to public policy, details don’t matter — it’s direction that counts.

Obama didn’t write the legislation known as Obamacare. As a candidate for president he did not really support the approach embodied therein.

Nonetheless, Obamacare was fine with Obama because (1) it could pass and (2) it moved the country in the direction he prefers.

Had Obama given serious consideration to the details of this legislative monstrosity, he would have understood its manifold problems. But they would not have mattered to him. The leftward thrust of a major piece of legislation that Congress could pass was sufficient reason not just to support it, but to lend it his name.

This is probably what Obama means when he describes himself as not particularly ideological. Most ideologues obsess over details. Obama does not. Most ideologues aren’t cynical enough to find merit in arrangements merely because they trend in a congenial direction. Obama is.

The Iran deal is another example. It takes country in the direction Obama favors, and that’s enough to recommend it.

Obama wants an America that makes nice with its enemies. He wants to reverse the arrogance (as he sees it) of our prior dealings with nations like Iran. He wants to put America on the right side of history (as he sees it) by moving us closer to the forces he believes are ascending.

The Iran deal is a step in these directions. Its “concessions” (as the Post sees them) do not diminish that step. If anything, they enhance it. The sweeter the deal, the nicer we “make” and the less “arrogant” we seem.


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