Can Republicans Swiftboat the Iran Nuclear Deal?

It’s hard to see a plausible path for Republicans to block the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions. To override a certain presidential veto of any legislation undermining the deal, they would need a two-thirds majority in both houses, and nobody has come up with a plausible story for where they can get the Democratic votes for that.

If Congress did destroy the deal, the US government would be humiliated in international public opinion and the international sanctions regime on Iran would collapse. Under the deal, sanctions on Iran will be removed in an orderly way in exchange for Iranian concessions. If Congress were to destroy the deal, international sanctions on Iran would collapse in a disorderly way in exchange for no Iranian concessions, because Russia and China and others would no longer comply with the sanctions, to which they agreed on the premise that the US would bargain in good faith, not renege on a deal it had agreed to.

Of course, many Republicans harbor a fantasy that if they can destroy the deal, a Republican president can get elected in 2016, invade Iran, overthrow the Iranian government, install a US client regime and we can all live happily ever after – just like Iraq. But so far they can’t sell that fairy tale to the US public, and it’s extremely doubtful that they can sell that fairy tale to the US military and the national security establishment.

Of course, some Republicans are promising to kill the deal. The same people promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which they couldn’t do, even by shutting down the US government.

But a far more plausible Republican goal is to swiftboat the deal in the center of US public opinion, to rob Democrats of a foreign policy diplomacy victory, to scare Democrats away from embracing the deal as an example of why a pro-diplomacy Democratic foreign policy is better for the US than saber-rattling Republican foreign policy.

Unfortunately, the track record suggests that this is a realistic goal. The Republicans have millions of dollars from Sheldon Adelson and company for TV ads to throw mud on the deal. Republicans used their millions to smear the Affordable Care Act which gave millions of people access to health insurance; the Obama economic stimulus which kept US unemployment from rising to Greek levels after the 2008 Wall Street collapse; and the military heroism of John Kerry, who got two decorations for bravery and three purple hearts. If Republicans could accomplish these smears with their millions, they think, why couldn’t they do the same with the Iran deal?

The Hill reports [my emphasis]:

Republican leaders in Congress are crafting their attack plan against the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Lawmakers will have 60 days to review the deal after the White House delivers the text of the historic agreement to Capitol Hill. The GOP could seek to move a measure of disapproval, but it will be difficult to win a filibuster-proof 60 votes, much less the 67 required to overcome a presidential veto.
[…]
But Republicans believe they will win the public relations battle on the deal, which largely unites the GOP and threatens to divide the Democratic Party.

Some Senate Republicans are thinking about moving a motion of approval of the deal, believing it would put Democrats in a tough spot ahead of next year’s elections.

We can’t afford the illusion that this is merely a horse-race, inside-the-Beltway, partisan issue in a narrow sense. Whatever one thinks of the “two-party system” in the abstract, in our time the Democratic Party is the Washington arena where the political aspirations of Americans for peace and diplomacy have a chance to be expressed. Americans elected a Democratic Congress in 2006 to end the Iraq war. Americans chose Obama over McCain in 2008 and Obama over Romney in 2012 when Obama stood for peace and diplomacy. (Removing last doubts of a Republican party line on the deal, Rand Paul just announced that he opposes the deal. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton support it.)

What Republicans are trying to do is make sure that the Iran deal, if it cannot be stopped, is a “one-off” – that it doesn’t lead to broader conclusions about what we can accomplish by pursuing diplomacy and preventing war. This is why it’s so urgent for Americans who want to see more peace and diplomacy and less war in our future, who want rebuilding the US rather than pursuing foreign empire to be our national priority, who don’t want to repeat the experience of the 2003 Iraq invasion over and over again for the rest of our lives, to speak up for the Iran deal now. You can add your voice in support of the deal here.