The Willful Ignorance of Dana Milbank

As issues of potentially world-altering significance are being debated in connection with Iran’s nuclear weapons program, you can count on one constant: liberals will dodge the real issues while trying to score petty political points against Republicans. One of many cases in point is Dana Milbank, the Washington Post reporter/comedian. In yesterday’s Post, Milbank accused Republicans of inconsistency with regard to the Iran negotiations:

A week ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went on television and proposed abandoning the nuclear deal just reached with Iran and returning to the 2013 interim agreement that started the talks. “What I would suggest is, if you can’t get there with this deal, is to keep the interim deal in place,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He repeated his idea of “keeping the interim deal in place that’s been fairly successful and have a new crack at it with a new president that doesn’t have the baggage of Obama.”

It’s a reasonable argument, but it was roundly refuted by . . . Lindsey Graham. In November 2013, he panned the interim deal he now praises as successful. “This still allows 18,000 centrifuges to stay in place, and it basically just suspends construction of the plutonium reactor,” he told CNN, adding: “I’m very worried. . . . This interim deal gives the Iranians $7 billion in cash, and it leaves in place one of the most sophisticated enrichment programs around.”

There is no inconsistency is these positions at all. We, like Graham and many others, panned the interim deal. But at least that agreement left sanctions in place, with limited exceptions. It is because of those existing sanctions that Iran is willing to continue negotiating. The proposed final deal would give away those sanctions for very little in return. I, like Lindsey Graham, think it would be better to remain with the status quo, unsatisfactory though it is, rather than agree to Obama’s proposed final deal. (For the moment I am putting aside the parties’ disagreement as to what the deal entails, since the conclusion is the same, in my view, on either interpretation.)

Milbank accuses other Republicans of inconsistency:

At that time, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was even more alarmed. “I think people are very concerned that the interim deal becomes the norm,” something that would make Iran “a threat to the world,” he said then. He called that temporary agreement “a total victory” for Iran.

But just three weeks ago, Corker, now chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CBS’s Bob Schieffer that if Iran talks fail, he’d rely on . . . the very same “Joint Plan of Action” he panned 16 months ago. “Number one, we do have JPOA in place, the interim deal, and it could continue for some time,” he said. “It keeps the existing sanctions in place, although there is some sanctions relief for Iran, okay, but it stays in place for a while.”

Again, no inconsistency. In fact, Milbank seems not to have read Corker’s quote carefully, as Corker explained that the interim deal “keeps the existing sanctions in place” and is therefore preferable to caving in to Iran’s demands.

Milbank makes a somewhat different accusation, laughably, against Tom Cotton:

Sometimes, lawmakers here at home have found themselves contradicted by the facts. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the author of a letter to Iran’s leaders signed by 47 Republican senators seeking to scuttle nuclear negotiations, asserted that “if Congress does not approve a deal, Congress will not accept a deal.” But that’s not true, historically: The Congressional Research Service found that at least 18,500 international executive agreements had been reached since 1789 (17,300 since 1939) and that only 1,100 treaties have been ratified by Congress.

But Senator Cotton didn’t say that Congress would never accept any executive agreement, absent Congressional approval. He said that Congress wouldn’t accept this agreement with Iran absent Congressional approval. Milbank’s argument is simply childish.

It would be helpful if we could get Democrats to talk seriously about national security issues, rather than endlessly trying to score cheap political points.

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