U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif (C) and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton (R) during a meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, September 24, 2013.
Andrew Gombert/EPA

Republicans, U.S. mainstream at odds over Iran talks

About a week ago, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced his plan to increase sanctions against Iran, confident that the move would force the end of international diplomacy with Iranian officials.
“The Obama administration is circumventing the will of the American people, who do not support this deal,” the senator said, referring to an agreement that (a) does not yet exist; (b) Cruz has not seen; and (c) the American people have not yet considered.
This came to mind yesterday when former Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who’s struggled of late with foreign policy, published a piece for National Review condemning President Obama’s participation in the P5+1 talks.
It is clear that nothing – not public opinion, not opposition from his own party in Congress, and not even the facts – will deter President Obama from a potentially risky agreement that may well allow Iran to intimidate the entire Middle East, menace Israel, and, most of all, threaten America.
It was the “public opinion” part that stood out for me. As the Florida Republican sees it, the American mainstream simply disagrees with the White House’s diplomatic efforts. Cruz obviously feels the same way – Obama may be working alongside our allies and negotiating partners, but he’s “circumventing the will of the American people.”
Some politicians develop a bad habit when it comes to debates like these. They draw a conclusion; they surround themselves with others who’ve drawn the same conclusion; they get their news from media outlets that have drawn the same conclusion; and they start to assume that most Americans think exactly as they do.
But in reality, public opinion appears to be on Obama’s side, not this critics’.
Americans broadly back direct negotiations with Iran about that country’s nuclear program, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. […]
Direct diplomatic negotiations with Iran are broadly popular, 68% favor them, while 29% oppose them. That support cuts across party lines, with 77% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans and 64% of independents in favor of diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran in an attempt to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
So, Jeb Bush is outraged that the Obama administration isn’t listening to “public opinion,” despite the objective evidence that the White House approach enjoys broad support, even from Republicans.
There’s also polling that shows the public disapproving of the 47 Senate Republicans who tried to derail the international talks and sabotage American foreign policy, and still more polling that shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support among Americans dropping to new lows, even as most of Congress elevates him to Reagan-esque levels
In fairness, NBC News recently released the results of a national survey that found most of the country is skeptical that a deal will produce worthwhile results. But with due respect to the public, there’s very little to suggest the American mainstream is equipped to assess the long-term efficacy of an international nuclear agreement that the American public hasn’t even seen. Besides, skepticism about the effects of a policy isn’t the same thing as opposition to the policy.
To date, how many independent polls have shown American voters souring on the nuclear talks? So far, none.
Republicans, and much of the media, seem to have simply accepted assertions that the White House is ignoring public attitudes when it comes to preventing Iran’s nuclear capabilities. In reality, some folks are turning a blind eye to public opinion, but at least for now, they’re not in the West Wing.