This afternoon, Democrats in politics and the media promptly swung into action to try to discredit Benjamin Netanyahu’s powerful indictment of the administration’s policies toward Iran. Nancy Pelosi bordered on the hysterical. Here, Chris Matthews accuses Netanyahu of being a “man from a foreign government” who “tried to take over U.S. foreign policy.” Seems like we’ve heard that somewhere before; Mearsheimer and Walt, call your office:
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour says it was “Strangelovian,” a “very dark speech” with “nothing new.”
Congressman John Yarmuth thought it was a “very impressive bit of political theater.” He “resented the condescending tone” of Netanyahu’s speech, and says it was “straight out of the Dick Cheney playbook, fearmongering at its ultimate.”
Dianne Feinstein thought the speech “weak” because it “didn’t come up with any solutions.”
Congressman Lloyd Dogged called the speech a “desperate attempt to get re-elected” and a “pep rally.”
Congressman Luis Gutierrez skipped the speech because he “didn’t want to be part of a political prop.” Which didn’t prevent him from commenting on Republicans’ positive reaction to it:
I get why my Republican friends stand up. They stand up for anybody that criticizes Barack Obama. Barack Obama says yes, they say no.
Most significant, of course, was President Obama’s reaction. He offered a rebuttal, based on reading a transcript of Netanyahu’s speech. Obama said there was “nothing new” in the speech, which is more or less true. Netanyahu has been talking about the threat posed by Iran for a long time, and he has been consistent. This, though, isn’t true:
On the core issue, which is how do we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would make it far more dangerous and give it scope for even greater action in the region, the prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.
On the contrary: Netanyahu argued that the United States and its allies are in a stronger bargaining position than Iran, and that sanctions should be kept in place until Iran stops its aggression against other Middle Eastern countries, stops supporting terrorism, and stops threatening to annihilate Israel. Further, he pointed out that the proposed agreement, as publicly reported, “doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.” It allows Iran to maintain its vast nuclear infrastructure, continue to enrich uranium, continue to buy or build centrifuges, and continue its ICBM development program. Moreover, in ten years the deal ceases altogether, and Iran would be free to use its enriched uranium and its centrifuges to build nuclear weapons.
Therefore, it would be better to keep sanctions in place, or strengthen them, and make no deal at all. Or, alternatively, to hold out for a better deal, which credibly requires dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, bars it from enriching uranium, and doesn’t come with an expiration date. These are obvious alternatives to the administration’s reckless course, but Obama doesn’t want to debate them. He simply wants to deny that they exist. If Iran is obstinate, Obama implies, there is no alternative to capitulation. When you strip away the hysteria, the insults and the obfuscation, that is what the Democrats are telling us today.
UPDATE: Here is one more, David Axelrod on Twitter. Same script:
Speech broke no new ground nor offered realistic path short of war. But apocalyptic language & GOP cheerleading tailor-made for his base.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 3, 2015
FURTHER UPDATE: Mitt Romney responds to the White House’s denigration of Netanyahu’s speech:
President Obama may ignore @netanyahu, but he cannot ignore the truth he spoke. A flimsy Iran deal amounts to presidential malpractice.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) March 3, 2015