Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,speaks with reporters in the Capitol on June 10, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

McCain’s dilemma: trust Ayatollah or trust U.S. officials?

When Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei disagreed with the U.S. interpretation of the recently negotiated nuclear framework last week, the White House was quick to dismiss the posturing. Congressional Republicans weren’t so sure.
 
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), in particular, seemed to endorse the Ayatollah’s credibility over the U.S. Secretary of State’s. “I think you’re going to find out that they had never agreed to the things that John Kerry claimed that they had,” McCain said Friday.
 
Yesterday, as Sahil Kapur reported, McCain went a little further.
One of the ironic things about the Iran nuclear deal is that it has left skeptics torn over whether to trust Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei against the word of the United States government. […]
 
“The fact is there are stark differences between John Kerry’s version of what this agreement is, and what the ayatollah – who doesn’t stand for election – says about what the agreement is,” McCain told a scrum of reporters Tuesday in the Capitol.
Asked if he considered the Iran supreme leader’s version of the truth more believable than the American version, McCain added, “I don’t know… I don’t know who’s more believable.”
 
Just so we’re clear, the Republican senator could trust American officials – including John Kerry, his friend and former colleague – or the ayatollah. McCain freely admits he feels torn on the matter.
 
This really is bizarre. For years, McCain and others have 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, GOP leaders 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 John McCain would go quite this far in his skepticism of U.S. officials.
 
If you missed our report on Monday, President Obama told reporters over the weekend that he was unimpressed with McCain’s ridiculous posture.
“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.”
For what it’s worth, McCain added yesterday that President Obama “has this habit of personalizing his disagreements.”
 
If personalizing disagreements is an area of concern for the senator, perhaps someone should introduce John McCain to John McCain.
 

Foreign Policy, Iran, John Kerry and John McCain

McCain's dilemma: trust Ayatollah or trust U.S. officials?