President Obama spoke directly to the American people during nationally broadcast remarks on the Iran nuclear deal, telling them to contact lawmakers to press for support – and saying Republicans who oppose the deal are like Iranian hardliners who chant for death to the United States.
First, he said, “superpowers should not act impulsively,” and tread toward war when diplomacy could suffice. He then spoke of the main detractors of his deal to Iranians who chant “death to America,” and drew parallels between those radicals and Republicans.
“[The hardliners] are most comfortable with the status quo,” Obama said. “They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.”
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Obama is relying on “partisan attacks, false claims, and fear.”
Obama also blamed opposition to the nuclear deal his administration took the lead in forging as “knee-jerk partisanship,” and seemed to mock those who called the pact a “disaster, a surrender, you’re aiding terrorists, endangering freedom.”
“Many of same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal. More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq,” Obama said from American University, a site chosen by the White House to draw comparisons to a speech by President John F. Kennedy, in which he called for negotiating with the Soviet Union in order to avoid war between two nuclear powers.
The president said the Iran accord “builds on a tradition of strong principled diplomacy” that Kennedy used to head off the Cuban missile crisis.
The president’s remarks were aimed largely at convincing a reluctant Congress to support the deal. Detractors say one of the biggest problems with the Iran pact is it doesn’t guarantee inspectors immediate access.
Obama spoke after Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., told Newsday he will oppose the Iran plan. Israel is policy and communications chairman for House Democrats and the chamber’s highest-ranking Jewish Democrat.
Some key Democratic lawmakers announced their support this week, including Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Barbara Boxer of California and Bill Nelson of Florida.
However, the administration lost the backing of three prominent Jewish Democrats — Nita Lowey and Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, in addition to Rep. Israel.
In his speech, Obama also addressed head-on the Israeli government’s opposition to the deal, saying he doesn’t doubt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sincerity but thinks he “is wrong.”
Ben Stein, writer, lawyer, actor, comedian and pundit, just wrote a commentary for the American Spectator, slamming the deal as “so bad that it could not be an accident, even for a president as inexperienced and foolish as Mr. Obama or a secretary of state so filled with anger as Mr. Kerry.”
Among his criticisms: “There is no meaningful verification. The sanctions are already basically gone. The president is paying Iran over $100 billion to go forward with making a nuclear bomb and having the rockets to deliver it.”
Stein said it appeared the American people “have basically been swindled into allowing the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism to have nuclear weapons without any penalty – indeed, with cash and prizes.”
And his conclusion?
“Again, this could not have been an accident,” he wrote. “It has to have been the working out of some deep unconscious rage at Israel, Jews and at America by the top players in this administration.”
House Republicans already have announced they have the 218 votes lined up to oppose the deal. If the Senate also opposes the agreement, both chambers would need to muster a two-thirds majority to override an expected presidential veto.