Thursday, July 30, 2015

Once More, Mr. President, the Ball Is In Your Court

It's all but certain that the Congress will vote to disapprove the Iran deal. The real question is will Barack Obama's veto be sustained or overridden? The answer to that question will depend on how badly Obama wants the deal he so eagerly sought over the last two years.

It's come down to this: John Kerry did his job. He negotiated all the details with Iran and the other five countries involved in the deal. He went before Congress desperately trying to convince people who had long ago made up their minds. And all the other actors have taken to the cable news outlets doing the heavy lifting for the Administration.

In my opinion, it won't be enough. The opponents of this deal are determined and well funded. The ads are already flowing like water over a dam. The magic number for an override stands at 13 Senate and 42 House Democrats. There are by some estimates as many as 6 Senators and twenty or so Congressmen who will vote to override the veto. By the time of the vote, it wouldn't surprise me if that number doesn't at least double.

That is why this president must take the time and address the nation to make his case. Not in some afternoon press conference in the middle of the afternoon, but at night during prime time in front of millions of people. He must do what he hates doing most: explain what he wants and why it matters.

I have written many times about Obama's lack of intestinal fortitude when it comes to these matters. His inability to artfully engage the nation and draw a narrative has been by far his biggest undoing. It has cost him more than his fair share of political capital. Pick an issue - healthcare, the stimulus, the auto bailout, Libya, the pullout in Iraq, ISIS, the executive order on immigration - and the pattern has been the same. A botched or incoherent message that was coopted by his opponents and turned against him. It's as though the man has a "kick me" sign stapled to the back of his suit.

But this time, the stakes couldn't be higher. This time if Congress is allowed to override him and kill this deal, America may well find itself in the middle of another war in the Middle East that could make Bush's war in Iraq look like a military training exercise.

The opponents of this deal keep insisting that they would've gotten a better one. How? In what universe? There was no better deal available. In that case, they argue, we should've simply walked away and kept the sanctions in place. Except that even with sanctions in place, Iran was able to produce enough centrifuges so as to be approximately two months away from building a nuclear bomb. The deal that was worked out would push that back to at least a year and would be in place for a decade.

The facts are undeniable to any reasonable person. This deal was the best we were going to get and it is considerably better than what we had, which was nothing. But facts alone will not determine the ultimate outcome here. What is needed is a strong and persuasive argument for going forward and, while the President may hate this part of his job, there is no one better equipped to make it than he.

This was a man who ran two perfect campaigns to get elected. He made speech and speech and convinced a majority of American voters that he and not his Republican opponents were best suited to run the country. Now is the time for him to summon that talent and make his case to the country on Iran.

In less than two months we will know if we have a deal with Iran or not. But if Obama really wants the former, it would be in his best interest to get up off his butt and do everything within his power to make it happen. Whether he likes it or not, he's the only one who can do the heavy lifting this time around.

It's time to roll up your sleeves, Mr. President. Time to put your mouth where your money is.

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