Jonathan Bernstein explained something important, Why Obama Won’t Stop Talking About Iran. The situation right now is that Congress has 60 days to pass a law killing the deal. I’ll come back to that. But the main thing is that Obama needs Congress to do what it does best: nothing. Of course, when it comes to really bad things, Congress is usually eager to act. So this bill should have little problem making it through through the House. In the Senate, the Democrats might be able to filibuster it. But in the end, Obama will probably have to veto it, and that means he can’t allow 290 votes in the House — and that would require only 43 Democratic defections.
Bernstein explained that under normal circumstances, when presidents talk about pending legislation, it just causes more polarization. But in this case, that’s exactly what he wants. All he needs is for the Democrats to remain cohesive. So the more he talks, the more that should happen. And in this case, he has nothing to lose. The Republicans hate him and everything he does. Other than some must-pass legislation like the debt ceiling and continuing resolutions, there has basically been no Republican support for anything that Obama is in favor of.
The whole thing makes me very sad. I really do think that the Republican Party has it out for America. They believe that they must destroy the America that is in order to create the “America” of their delusions. I seriously wonder if 9/11 happened today, how would the Republicans respond? Would they fall in line and decide we are one big country? Or would they instead start impeachment proceedings? This is a serious question. But it is most concerning that I’m no longer sure of the answer. As it is, conservatives are linking the Iran deal to what looks like some kind of ISIS wannabe attack in Chattanooga. I think these people would see Obama as part of the attackers, not the victims.
It reminds me the moral of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” This speaks very much to the Republican Party of the last two decades. I’ve never thought that Newt Gingrich actually believed the nonsense that he spouted. He’s just a power hungry jerk. He figured out a way to get people to vote for him. And 20 years later, not only is the Republican base in a constant state of fear and outrage, now most of the establishment Republicans are too. The biggest change in the House is not how many seats the Republicans control, but just how fanatical the people who hold those seats are.
So here we are with what looks like a good deal with Iran. Yet the Republicans are against the deal on principle. A lot of them would only be happy with a war with Iran. But few of them have the strength of their convictions. And that means in practice, they don’t want to do anything: no military engagement but also no diplomatic engagement. It’s the same old thing: just pretend that the situation doesn’t exist and hope it goes away; in the mean time, talk tough but do nothing. And this is apparently what the American electorate wants. It doesn’t want war, but it wants to feel “strong” to ease its constant fear of, well, everything.
We are lucky that in this case, all we need to get something done is nothing. But I won’t feel good until this is all done. Because I can easily see the Republicans grabbing a handful of Democrats in the Senate or a few dozen in the House. Fear, outrage, and stupidity is not something that the Republicans have a lock on. Keep talking Mr President; it may well be our best way forward.