In August to September 2013, Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson was a vocal opponent of plans by the Obama administration for direct military intervention in the Syrian civil war by bombing the Syrian military. The proposal was defeated by public and congressional opposition, even though it was backed by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee – the National Rifle Association of US military intervention in the Middle East.
In a September 2013 interview, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! asked Grayson about AIPAC’s role.
Congressmember Grayson, I wanted to ask you about the role of AIPAC. There’s been this whole controversy now about a New York Times article. The Times is facing questioning this week after a passage on the influence of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, on the Syria discussion seemed to disappear from its reports. In an article that appeared in Monday’s newspaper, the Times quoted an unnamed Obama administration official calling AIPAC “the 800-pound gorilla in the room”… But that issue of AIPAC’s role in lobbying congressmembers now and senators around a strike on Syria, can you talk about its presence in the House?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, AIPAC has issued a statement saying that they’re in favor of an attack. And many other organizations have done the same, and many other organizations, even more organizations, have done a statement saying that they’re against it. But at this point it’s not relevant, because the public is engaged, the public is paying attention, the public is against this, and the public is adamantly against this. All these organizations sort of fall to the wayside when the public weighs in. There are now both Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have reported that their emails and letters and phone calls to their office are running more than a hundred to one against this. People are against it. They’re adamantly against it…So, any organization, like AIPAC or otherwise, cannot operate effectively in the environment that we’re in, where the public is speaking and speaking very loudly.
Apparently, in Grayson’s perception, on the issue of war with Iran – our friends Tom Cotton and John Bolton readily concede that war is the “alternative” to diplomacy – we are not yet in the environment in which AIPAC cannot “operate effectively” because “the public is speaking and speaking very loudly.” Because right now, on the issue of war with Iran, Grayson is playing for the AIPAC team, not the public team. While Leader Pelosi is defending the framework deal with Iran negotiated by the administration and the Europeans, Grayson is trashing it.
The Hill reports:
Rep. Alan Grayson, a liberal member of the House Foreign Affairs panel, is also dubious. Emphasizing that many details remain to be hammered out, the Florida Democrat said the framework falls short of the administration’s ultimate objective: to ensure the end of Iran’s nuclear-weapons ambitions in return for relinquished sanctions.
“From what I see, that deal is not this deal,” Grayson said Friday in a phone interview. “[It’s] a classic example of, let’s kick the can down the road.”
Of course, Grayson is being totally disingenuous in his attack on the framework deal. The deadline for the comprehensive deal is June 30 and was always June 30. The administration isn’t “kicking the can down the road” – the can was already down the road. The framework deal isn’t the comprehensive deal: the framework deal is an agreed outline of the mechanisms by which the comprehensive deal is going to keep Iran at least a year away from having enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. That’s all that was ever promised at this stage of the negotiations, and the arms control people are saying that they were pleasantly surprised by the level of detail that the administration and the Europeans were able to negotiate in the framework deal.
Grayson knows this; he’s a smart guy. He’s posturing as a critic of the deal because he wants to raise campaign money from people who follow the AIPAC line. But other Democrats – like Pelosi – also want to raise money from those people, and they’re not doing what Grayson is doing. They’re playing for the public team now, not the AIPAC team, because the stakes are too high to play for the AIPAC team now.
If you think it’s time for Rep. Grayson to switch from the AIPAC team to the public team, you can tell him so here.