The Obama administration is becoming desperate in its attempt to sell the Iran deal. Bloomberg.com reports that “administration officials are increasingly finding themselves on the defensive against criticism from Republicans and some Democrats, as well as vehement opposition from Israel, according to three officials, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal political deliberations.”
The president probably has enough votes in Congress to sustain a veto should Congress reject the deal, but it still would not look good and would be a rebuke to him if so many in the Senate reject it. That is why, as Politico reports, the president is inviting congressional Democrats to Capitol Hill, and is putting his “focus on marshaling enough Democratic votes to sustain a veto of legislation disapproving of the nuclear deal.”
To deal with this problem, especially given the intense lobbying on the Hill by AIPAC (which plans to take key members of Congress on a trip to Israel during the recess) and the opposition to the deal by mainstream Jewish groups, the Obama administration yesterday took a new step to gain support.
For the first time, the administration has turned to both the far Left and to Iranians who favor détente with Iran to, in effect, become community organizers on its behalf. Yesterday, the president held an unprecedented conference call with left-wing groups, including Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun magazine subscribers and his “Network of Spiritual Progressives,” and MoveOn.Org. (For those who don’t know, Tikkun is a San Francisco publication published and edited by Lerner, a veteran of the extreme elements in the New Left. Like J Street, it claims it is pro-Israel, pro-peace and pro-Palestinian.)
Writing in the Forward, Nathan Guttman reports that Obama made the following argument:
Obama repeatedly weaved two themes known to strike a chord among progressives: the Iraq war, and the role of big money in Washington’s decision making process.
When put together it sounded something like this: Criticism of the deal, he said, comes “partly from the $20 million that’s being spent lobbying against the bill,” and “partly from the same columnists and former administration officials that were responsible for us getting into the Iraq war.”
Of course, the $20 million figure is a reference to AIPAC, as is his assertion that the same people who opposed the deal are the ones who got the U.S. into the Iraq war. Some might, as Guttman writes, think that Obama accepts “the notion that the American Jewish community was behind the Iraq war” and that it is the same Jewish neo-cons who would take us to war again. William Daroff, an executive of the Jewish Federations of North America, immediately tweeted “Canard” as he heard the president say these words.
So when President Obama talks, as he did during the conference call, of “a whole bunch of folks who are big check writers to political campaigns, running TV ads, and billionaires who…are putting the squeeze on members of Congress,” he is clearly referring to AIPAC and other Jewish groups whose members are in opposition to the deal with Iran. With good reason, it is fair to refer to the words used by the president as bordering on old anti-Semitic tropes.
Obama told the progressives listening that he feared that under pressure, certain members of Congress were “getting squishy.” The president said:
I’m meeting these members of Congress. And they don’t really buy the arguments of the opponents, but I can tell when they start getting squishy. And they start getting squishy because they’re feeling political heat. And you guys have to counteract that with the facts.
He obviously wants those who joined him on the call to start their own political pressure, via lobbying, propaganda, and increased militancy. Referring to Iraq, he said, “Everybody got really loud and active after it was too late” as opposed to taking action “on the front end.”
Obama, especially, is trying to rally Jewish left-wing progressives to counter fierce Jewish opposition in the Jewish community. So to be able to say that important Jewish groups back him, he is forced to turn to both J Street (which always opposed sanctions on Iran) and Tikkun.
Following the theme of opposition as a right-wing conspiracy, Michael Lerner accuses those who do not support the deal of being conservatives or Republicans. Hence at the Tikkun website, Lerner writes:
It would be a great tragedy if U.S. Jews aligned themselves with Republican hawks to prevent ratification of this international agreement with Iran, thus setting up the conditions for an Israeli attack on Iran or other provocations that might lead Iran to respond militarily.
In making this argument, Lerner is echoing the White House line — war now or test the waters and see if Iran changes and actually stops the effort to go nuclear. And like Obama, Lerner tries to make it appear that only Republicans are against the deal, when in fact, many Democrats are just as worried and disturbed about the deal. If they weren’t, the White House would not be calling out its left-wing troops to do the work for them.
MoveOn.Org has already mobilized. They write:
MoveOn members have already contributed more than 206,000 petition signatures and made more than 5,500 calls to Congress in July alone. Now, we’re turning our attention to town halls and other local events while members of Congress are back in their home states for recess. We know that proponents of war are spending tens of millions of dollars to be seen, so our representatives and senators who are sitting on the fence need to hear directly from constituents like us.
And like the president, MoveOn makes the argument that there are only two options: going to war or accepting the deal. Hence there is no alternative except, they say, to accept what is supposedly Sen. Tom Cotton’s “plan” to go to war. They end by quoting the president’s words:
You guys have to get more active and loud and involved and informed, and start making your voices heard with respect to members of Congress. Because the lobbying that’s taking place on the other side is fierce, it is well-financed, it is relentless.
They urge their members to “defeat this warmongering,” and to “rally behind President Obama.”
How revealing that when the president needs support, action and pressure, he turns for it not to mainstream liberals or regular voters who might favor the deal, but to the regions of the American left.