Point of View Columns

Lies and Consequences

The nuclear power agreement between Iran and five allied countries, including the United States, has been unanimously endorsed by the Security Council of the United Nations. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, over thirty senior U.S. generals and numerous former officials of Mossad, the Israeli security agency, have also endorsed it. These endorsements mean nothing on the Planet Teapublican, and as a result every effort has been made to derail this agreement. And now that those efforts have failed, it is fair to ask, now what?

Historians will one day look back at this near debacle and wonder how presumably rational men and women could lock themselves into an alternate universe where anything that President Obama proposes is wrong, and anything that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says is correct. How is it that the reality of the limits of U.S. power is not crystal clear, even after Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and 9/11. And most importantly, historians will wonder what was the real Plan B that opponents of the Iran nuclear deal had in mind?

When the arguments against the Iran deal are distilled, the result is a single phrase – “a better deal”. Of course, the desire for a “better deal” presumes that over the several years of negotiation a “better deal” was not the goal of the Obama administration. The desire for a “better deal” presumes that the United States can simply impose its will, not only on Iran, but also on Russia, China, Britain and France. The desire for “a better deal” is rational only with the assumption that it is the sole province of these United States to determine what reality is – and is not.

The proposed agreement with Iran has been called “the worst deal in the history of the world”, which upon brief reflection has to be an exaggeration that clouds the American mind but does not change the reality that a negotiated agreement, by definition, does not represent perfection for any of the parties to the agreement. But the Teapublican leadership in Congress and the Republican candidates for president seem to think that the discussions with Iran represented an opportunity to dictate the terms of surrender to a defeated country. Of course, that is not true. But facts and truth never seem to get in the way of a good Teapublican myth.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his supporters in Congress seem to think that the negotiations with Iran, possessed of one of the most powerful military forces on earth, should simply capitulate to the will of America. Since that was never the case, it was absolutely impossible for any rational agreement to get the support of the Israeli prime minister (despite the very clear support for the agreement by Israeli military and intelligence experts) or that of the leadership of the Congress which is mired in the mud of permanent opposition to anything and everything that is associated with the presidency of Barack Obama.

Regarding that Plan B, historians will also have to wonder if the “military option” to the agreement really meant sending thousands upon thousands of American sons and daughters to certain death and mayhem without even giving a negotiated agreement a chance. Is the right wing of the right wing so wedded to the American tradition of defining the world by sheer force that it would be willing to risk yet another blood soaked conflagration in a region already destabilized for the foreseeable future due to misguided military incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan?

There are questions that will never really be answered. But in reflecting on the value of the divergent paths of peaceful negotiation and war, why would anyone choose war?

Point of View Columns

Three Strikes and You’re Out!

As soon as Barack Obama was re-elected president (I just love the way that phrase rolls across the page) it took about two hours for new battle lines to be drawn. The fiscal “cliff” negotiations were anticipated since the January 1, 2013 was set in place over a year ago. The battle regarding U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is the outlier. In opposing her presumed nomination to become Secretary of State the Teapublicans, John McCain and Lindsey Graham in particular, are seriously wrong on three counts – and three strikes and you’re out!

First, the Teapublicans who are lining up to form a human wall of opposition to Ambassador Rice’s presumed nomination are by and large hypocrites of the first order. Staunch pitchfork and torch bearers and like Senators McCain and Graham are claiming that Dr. Rice is not trustworthy or qualified.

Yet these same senators voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. That Dr. Rice as head of the National Security Council presided over the 9/11 fiasco, the greatest lapse in American intelligence since the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. That Dr. Rice also helped orchestrate a symphony of misstatements and mistruths – “mushroom clouds over the Middle East” and “Weapons of Mass Destruction” – that led to the calamitous and disastrous American military engagement in Iraq at a cost to this country of over a trillion dollars, over 4000 killed, over 40,000 injured and untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths.

That Dr. Rice’s resume describes an untrustworthy and horrific record in security and foreign policy matters. Senators McCain and Graham voted to confirm her as Secretary of State without so much a muttering word of question or dissent. They are wrong for being hypocrites. Strike One.

On the other hand, Dr. Susan Rice seems to have trained her entire academic and professional life to become Secretary of States beginning with her being selected as a Rhodes Scholar. Her work in the State Department of the Clinton Administration is unquestionably excellent and her work as United States Ambassador to the United Nations has been a portrait of diplomatic skills at the highest level.

The Terrible Teapublican Twins McCain and Graham would like to nail the Benghazi tragedy onto Dr. Susan Rice’s record. In an effort to turn a tragedy into a scandal McCain and Graham would have us believe that the American Ambassador to the United Nations had some operational responsibility in Libya. The concept is so ridiculous it could only be a Teapublican talking point.

But McCain and Graham know the truth – former CIA Director David Petraeus told them. Essentially, Ambassador Rice was not permitted to make references to terrorist involvement in Benghazi in her initial statements because it would have compromised security and military initiatives that targeted those same terrorists. For pretending not to understand how the real world works and for trying to destroy the reputation of a lifelong public servant who has served this country well, McCain and Graham are wrong. Strike Two.

Finally, the Teapublican Twins seem to be hell-bent on ignoring the fact that Barack Obama is the President of the United States and on 11.6.12 was reelected as President of the United States. The United States Constitution is very clear in giving the president the power to appoint Cabinet members. And while the Senate is designated to provide advice and consent to such appointments, in over 200 years a presidential cabinet appointment has rarely been blocked and then in cases of outright fraud or suspicion of serious misdeeds.

Nothing like that has even been alleged with respect to Ambassador Rice, even by McCain and Graham. What we are seeing is a Capitol Hill Teapublican Temper Tantrum – they cannot get over the fact that President Obama won and that they lost. Ambassador Rice’s nomination as Secretary of State, should it be forthcoming (I personally hope that she is nominated), simply offers the Teapublicans another opportunity to obstruct.

Over the past four years President Obama has selected an entire Cabinet, two Supreme Court justices, numerous ambassadors and countless other officials – exercising his judgment in each instance. The American people saw his judgment at work in real time and reelected him with over 330 electoral votes and by more than 3 million actual votes.

For not acknowledging political reality and dragging partisanship to a new low, McCain and Graham are wrong again. Strike Three…….and you’re out!