In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Friday, the president defended his offensive remarks comparing Republican critics of the nuclear deal to hardliners in Tehran who chant “Death to America.”
Obama made the comments on Wednesday, sparking complaints from GOP lawmakers and conservative media that he was demonizing critics rather than engaging them in an actual political debate (which has been his habit throughout his term in the White House).
“What I said is absolutely true, factually,” Obama insisted in an excerpt of the interview that was published Friday.
“The truth of the matter is, inside of Iran, the people most opposed to the deal are the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds Force, hardliners who are implacably opposed to any cooperation with the international community,” Obama said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that the Senate would debate the Iran deal next month. He also knocked Obama on Thursday for claiming the only option to avoid war with Iran is a deal.
“That’s an absurd argument, and it’s the one they’ve made from the very beginning, that it’s either what the President negotiates with the Iranians or it’s war,” McConnell said. “That’s never been the alternative.”
McConnell has called on Obama to retract his comments, calling them offensive.
Obama is treating his drive to win congressional support for his nuclear deal with Iran like a political campaign, making attacks on opponents that need to stop, McConnell said Thursday.
Obama so far “is treating this like a political campaign,” McConnell told reporters. “Demonize your opponents, gin up the base, get Democrats all angry and, you know, rally around the president. To me, it’s a different kind of issue.”
Later in the CNN interview, the president explained that the GOP’s opposition to the deal was rooted in ideology. Obama doesn’t just “question” the motives of the opposition — he absolutely knows and can readily tell you what drives his critics.
“The reason that Mitch McConnell and the rest of the folks in his caucus who opposed this jumped out and opposed this before they even read it, before it was even posted, is reflective of a ideological commitment not to get a deal done,” Obama said. “In that sense they do have much more in common with the hardliners who are much more satisfied with the status quo.”
Lawmakers will be deciding whether or not to accept the Iran agreement by September 17.
In a blow to the administration, Senator Chuck Schumer joined the “hardliner” caucus Thursday, coming out in opposition to the deal.
“The very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great,” Schumer said in opposing the pact. He said he based his decision on the nuclear and non-nuclear elements of the accord and on the question, “Are we better off with the agreement or without it?”
WaPo columnist and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer blasted the president for his comments on The Kelly File, earlier this week.
What’s even worse here is how delusional he is. He’s pretending that those who chant “death to America” are some kind of KKK fringe in Iran. The people leading the chats are the Revolutionary guards, the Army, the parliamentary leaders, and of course – as he always calls him – the Supreme Leader himself.
Krauthammer continued: “The idea that somehow he has been strengthening the moderates is absurd. What he is doing is — he has made common cause with the hardliners , meaning the government. By removing the sanctions, by giving them a clear path to a bomb, an arsenal of bombs in ten years, and not just a path — but in ten years they would have an arsenal that would be legitimated and considered perfectly okay by the international community. He’s the one who is going to be giving tens of billions of dollars to the hardliners — meaning the government and the Ayatollah, which will be used for terror activities, for expanding its influence and suppressing its people.”
Krauthammer concluded with the devastating point that when tens of thousands of actual Iranian moderates were out in the streets during the Green Revolution in the summer of 2009, Obama abandoned them.
“Specifically, the people he says the Republicans are abandoning…Obama sided with the ayatollah — shooting people in the streets. There was graffiti on the walls in Tehran that said, ‘Obama, Obama, are you with us, or against us?’ Those were the demonstrators. Those were the ones that don’t shout ‘death to America!’ They looked to Obama and they got nothing.”
The hardline Iranian regime was at a tipping point in 2009, the moderates were begging the United States for support, and while they were being massacred in the streets by the Iranian regime, Obama literally went out for ice cream.
He has one hell of a nerve accusing his critics of “making common cause” with the hardliners.