At a cabinet meeting last week, Donald Trump made the case that his policy toward Iran is on the right track. "You know, a lot of progress has been made," the president claimed, pointing to nothing in particular. For good measure, he added, "A lot of progress has been made."
Reality suggests otherwise. Iran has recently been accused of shooting down an American drone, seizing a British oil tanker, and expanding its uranium enrichment. As of this morning, as NBC News reported, Iranian officials have also claimed to have captured 17 people who were allegedly spies working for the CIA.
Those looking for "a lot progress" will be searching for a very long time.
It's against this backdrop that Politico reported last week that the president played a round of golf with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who volunteered for a diplomatic mission. According to the article, the Kentucky Republican, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested that he sit down privately with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during his trip to New York for U.N. meetings.
The day after the Politico piece ran, a reporter asked Trump whether the GOP senator would serve as his emissary to Iran. "No," the president replied. "I don't know anything about that."
And the day after that, Trump switched gears. A reporter asked the president what he expects Rand Paul to do for the administration with respect to Iran. Trump said:
"Well, Rand is a friend of mine, but I have, really, 53 very good friends, and they're in the Senate.
"I also have a lot friends -- you saw that the other day when they brought a ridiculous vote up, and only four Republicans out of hundreds voted against. So I have a lot of great friends. I'm 94 percent in the Republican Party approval rating.
"Rand is a friend of mine. And Rand asked me if he could [get] involved. The answer is yes.... We'll see what happens. But I have many people involved. And Iran is going to work out very nicely. Iran is showing their colors. It's going to work out very nicely."
It's difficult to understand where the president's optimism is coming from.