Late last week, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei took issue with the United States’ characterization of the recently negotiated nuclear framework, though the White House was dismissive of the Iranian leader’s posturing.
“The test of whether or not that framework can be memorialized in a deal is not going to be a comment on any given day by a particular Iranian leader,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Friday.
But in a bizarre twist, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 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. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made similar remarks.
To put it mildly, it was an unexpected development. For months, Republicans insisted, “We can’t trust Iranian leaders.” And yet, on Friday, McCain and Graham suggested rhetoric from Ayatollah Khamenei should be accepted at face value – while arguments from the American White House should not.
During a press conference at the Summit of the Americas, President Obama seemed visibly frustrated by the GOP’s increasingly unhinged approach to international affairs.
“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.”
Obama added this isn’t how the United States is “supposed to run foreign policy, regardless of who’s president or secretary of state.” The president concluded that this is “a problem” that “needs to stop.”
I think even the most ardent Republicans, if they were to pause and think about this objectively, would be hard pressed to disagree with the underlying principles Obama presented. Put aside the GOP’s bitter, often ugly, contempt for the president and consider a more fundamental question: has American foreign policy ever worked this way?
Is there a scenario in which it can work this way? What signal does it send to the world when the legislative branch of the United States tries to undermine the executive branch of the United States on matters of international affairs?
For his part, McCain expressed a degree of dismay over Obama “attacking” him. I suppose that’s one way to look at it. The other way is that the president defended American foreign policy and America’s chief diplomat against ridiculous criticisms from a confused senator.