Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined by attorneys Paul D. Clement, far left, and Rick Esenberg, second from left, announces that he has filed a lawsuit to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and their staffs, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

GOP senator might trust Ayatollah over Obama

About a month ago, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei publicly disagreed with the U.S. interpretation of the recently negotiated nuclear framework. The White House didn’t much care, seeing it as meaningless posturing for a domestic audience, but Republicans took a very different tack.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, questioned the Obama administration’s reliability, even when compared to the Ayatollah’s. Asked specifically if he considered the Iran supreme leader’s version of the truth more believable than Secretary of State John Kerry’s, McCain added, “I don’t know…. I don’t know who’s more believable.”
BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reports today on another Republican senator pushing a similar line.
Sen. Ron Johnson, the Homeland Security Committee chairman, says when it comes to a nuclear deal with Iran, he’s “not so sure” he trusts President Obama over the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Now, a President who was awarded the 2013 Politifact Lie of the Year, if you like your healthcare plan you can keep it, period. If you like your doctor you can keep it, period. They lied boldfaced to the American public repeatedly with Obamacare,” the Wisconsin senator said at a recent town hall in Cerdarburg, Wisconsin.
“I don’t know, I hate to admit it, but in terms of this framework, do I trust President Obama, or do I trust the Ayatollah? In terms of what the framework actually says? I’m not so sure I’m trusting President Obama on this.”
Even for congressional Republicans, this is reaching new levels of inanity.
Obviously, Johnson, who’s routinely struggled with the basics of health care policy, still doesn’t understand the “if you like your plan…” debate. But for those of us who’ve kept up on the details, the far-right Wisconsinite’s claim that the president “lied boldfaced” is absurd. A senator really ought to know better.
But even looking past this obvious point, it’s truly amazing to see the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee say – out loud and in public – that he’s torn on whether to believe American officials or Iran’s Ayatollah.
As we talked about in April, GOP lawmakers argued that Iran is led by radical and dangerous madmen who were not to be trusted under any circumstances. But when Iranian leaders disagree with the Obama administration, Republicans effectively respond, “Well, let’s not dismiss rhetoric out of Tehran too quickly.”
Republican contempt for President Obama is intense, but it was hard to predict GOP senators would go quite this far in his skepticism of American officials.
President Obama’s comments from April remain relevant.
“When I hear some, like Senator McCain recently, suggest that our Secretary of State, John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran, who’s provided exemplary service to this nation, is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what’s in a political agreement than the Supreme Leader of Iran – that’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries. And we’re seeing this again and again. We saw it with the letter by the 47 senators who communicated directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran – the person that they say can’t be trusted at all – warning him not to trust the United States government.
“We have Mitch McConnell trying to tell the world, ‘Oh, don’t have confidence in the U.S. government’s abilities to fulfill any climate change pledge that we might make.’ And now we have a senator suggesting that our Secretary of State is purposely misinterpreting the deal and giving the Supreme Leader of Iran the benefit of the doubt in the interpretations.”
Johnson, of course, went further than McCain – it’s not just the Secretary of State whose credibility is suspect when compared to the Ayatollah, it’s also the President of the United States.