Do you remember when Rand Paul was threatening to run for president to Hillary Clinton’s left on war and peace? It seems like ancient history now, doesn’t it?
When the administration announced the framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program, Hillary backed it right away. It was “3 am,” as it were, and Hillary was waiting by the phone. (It wasn’t really 3 am, but the deal was announced on Thursday and Hillary made her statement Thursday evening; compared to many Senate Democrats, she responded right away.)
Rand Paul, on the other hand, signed the letter to Iran from Sen. Tom Cotton’s 47 Republicans threatening to kill any deal. But far worse in terms of practical impact, Rand Paul is a backer of the Corker-Menendez bill, the main legislative vehicle of Republicans trying to kill the talks, which would allow congressional Republicans to veto the deal. The Corker bill as written could prove to be a de facto authorization for military force against Iran, because if the Corker bill succeeds in blowing up diplomacy, we’re on a highway to war with no apparent exit ramp.
So, as we move towards 2016, Rand Paul is becoming just another pro-war Republican on national security issues, while Hillary Clinton is now playing a key role on the Democratic pro-diplomacy team.
But reality at present is more sobering than that, because there are a bunch of key Senate Democrats who are not yet on the pro-diplomacy team. They’re not as good as Hillary Clinton is right now. Some of them are playing for the pro-war team right now, some are silent so far and some are playing both sides of the fence.
The most prominent of the Senate Democrats playing on the pro-war team right now is New York Democrat and apparent Minority-Leader-In-Waiting Chuck Schumer. But he is not alone. Less prominent now since being indicted on federal corruption charges but still vocal is New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez.
Playing both sides of the fence is Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal. He slammed the framework deal in a New York radio interview on Sunday and said that’s why he’s supporting the Corker bill; but he has also said “I hope there will be no interference or impeding impact on the negotiation,” even though the purpose of the Corker bill is to kill the deal.
On the apparently silent team so far is Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey. He is generally considered a friend of the arms control community, which is strongly backing the framework deal. Markey’s apparent silence is particularly remarkable because he serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is expected on Tuesday to formally consider the Corker-Menendez bill.