US President Barack Obama pauses as he makes remarks at the National League of Cities annual Congressional City Conference in Washington, March 9, 2015.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Obama, Iran, and the unseen anger translator

Updated
For those hoping to see international diplomacy succeed, President Obama’s remarks yesterday at the White House were a welcome development – preliminary agreement is now in place to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
 
But listening to Obama’s address, it seemed if there was a text and a subtext. There’s the message we heard, coupled with the message lurking just below the surface.
 
The sketch comedy show “Key & Peele” has an amazing recurring bit in which Americans hear from Obama, played by Jordan Peele, and his “Anger Translator” Luther, played by Keegan Michael Key. The idea is simple: the president will state a simple truth, which Luther will then repeat in an aggressive, confrontational, no-holds-barred sort of way. (Here’s a sample.)
 
And while the president’s pitch yesterday was quite compelling, I also found myself looking for Luther, telling us what the president wishes he could have said.
 
There’s what Obama said ….
“Today, the United States – together with our allies and partners – has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“All of those folks who say they don’t want Iran to have nukes? They haven’t done anything. I did. You’re welcome.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“This has been a long time coming. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been advancing its nuclear program for decades.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“I’m referring of course to all of those other presidents who were here before me. You know, those folks talked a lot without acting.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“By the time I took office, Iran was operating thousands of centrifuges, which can produce the materials for a nuclear bomb – and Iran was concealing a covert nuclear facility.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“Let’s all pause to thank the Bush/Cheney administration. When we’re making a list of the messes I had to clean up, this one ranks pretty high.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“I made clear that we were prepared to resolve this issue diplomatically, but only if Iran came to the table in a serious way. When that did not happen, we rallied the world to impose the toughest sanctions in history – sanctions which had a profound impact on the Iranian economy.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“I’m the one who got Iran to the table. I’m the one who imposed the toughest sanctions ever. I’m the one who brought Iran’s economy to its knees. Again, you’re welcome.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“Because of our diplomatic efforts, the world stood with us and we were joined at the negotiating table by the world’s major powers – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“All that ‘leader of the free world’ stuff isn’t just rhetoric. We stepped up, the world followed, and unlike my critics, we defied the odds and got something historic done.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“Over a year ago, we took the first step towards today’s framework with a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas. And recall that at the time, skeptics argued that Iran would cheat, and that we could not verify their compliance and the interim agreement would fail.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“I wonder, are Republicans ever right? I mean, really, ever? About anything? I’m starting to feel a little sorry for them.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“Instead, it has succeeded exactly as intended. Iran has met all of its obligations. It eliminated its stockpile of dangerous nuclear material. Inspections of Iran’s program increased.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“Because I’m gracious, I’ll accept your apology.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“This deal is not based on trust; it’s based on unprecedented verification.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“Remember the whole ‘trust but verify’ line Reagan borrowed from the Russians? This isn’t that – it’s tougher than that.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“If Congress kills this deal – not based on expert analysis, and without offering any reasonable alternative – then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy. International unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“All that talk about how concerned you are about America’s capacity to lead on the global stage? It’s put-up-or-shut-up time.”
There’s what Obama said ….
“The American people understand this, which is why solid majorities support a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“Hey, Republicans, you keep saying the public is on your side. That’s true, if by ‘your side’ you mean ‘my side.’”
There’s what Obama said ….
“We have an historic opportunity to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran, and to do so peacefully, with the international community firmly behind us. We should seize that chance.”
… and there’s what Obama probably wanted to say:
“Let’s hope those who are always wrong don’t screw up this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
 

Barack Obama, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy and Iran

Obama, Iran, and the unseen anger translator

Updated