About a week ago, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), the #2 member of the Senate leadership, said it was “ironic that Congress may vote on Iran nuke deal on 9/11.” Political observers have heard a lot of nonsense in recent months about the international nuclear agreement, but this was just bizarre.
It’s possible, of course, that the Republican leader doesn’t know what “irony” means, but since none of the 9/11 terrorists were Iranian; 9/11 had nothing to do with nuclear weapons; and al Qaeda and Iran are bitter enemies, it was hard not to wonder what in the world John Cornyn was talking about.
A few days later – on the anniversary of 9/11 – the GOP-led House held a symbolic vote, intended to make Republicans feel better, on the diplomatic solution the party despises. Everyone involved recognized the fact that the vote was substantively meaningless, but GOP leaders proceeded anyway after they realized their own members were no longer on board with the original Republican plan, months in the making.
The debate on the symbolic resolution did, however, lead to some noteworthy rhetorical flourishes.
“Do not sacrifice the safety, the security and the stability of 300 million Americans for the legacy of one man,” implored Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) as he stood next to a poster of the Twin Towers burning on Sept. 11, 2001.
What does 9/11 have to do with a policy that blocks Iran’s access to nuclear weapons? In reality, nothing.
This is the same Mike Kelly, by the way, who argued in 2013 that the day contraception access began being treated as preventive care in the United States was “a day that will live in infamy, along with” Pearl Harbor Day and 9/11. He wasn’t kidding.
As for the diplomatic agreement advancing because of concern for President Obama’s “legacy,” it’s a common argument on the right. Earlier in the summer, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) insisted the policy is only intended to serve as “an exhibit in his presidential library.”
But “legacy” accomplishments – the kind historic achievements that become exhibits in presidential libraries – tend to be successful policies.
If the Iran deal is a disaster that will cause widespread death and destruction, why would President Obama’s allies embrace the policy with an eye towards his place in history?