The initial reaction to the Iran nuclear deal from the unhinged wing of the Republican Party was bizarre. Led in part by Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), and soon echoed on Fox, the pushback was built on the notion that President Obama scored a diplomatic breakthrough in order to distract attention from healthcare.gov.
It was an unusually dumb argument – counter-proliferation efforts with Iran began months ago, and the issue was a top Obama priority since his days in the Senate. To see the stories as related was to push the limits of Obama Derangement Syndrome to new depths.
At least until the second wave of criticism. Consider this entirely serious, non-satirical piece from the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens.
Britain and France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany at Munich has long been a byword for ignominy, moral and diplomatic…. [T]he interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva on Sunday by Iran and the six big powers has many of the flaws of Munich and Paris. But it has none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.
Stephens isn’t just comfortable comparing the nuclear deal with Iran to Nazi appeasement at Munich; Stevens actually thinks the agreement struck in Geneva is worse.
Note, as plainly ridiculous as this is, the argument has popped up quite a bit since Saturday night. Daniel Pipes pushed the same line in National Review, as did Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro. Last night, Sean Hannity read from the same script.
About five years ago, during the 2008 presidential race, far-right radio host Kevin James accused Obama and other Democrats of Chamberlain-like “appeasement” in the Middle East. When MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked James what, specifically, happened in Munich in 1938, the conservative host simply had no idea – James thought it’d be provocative to throw around buzzwords popular with the right, but he never bothered to gain even a cursory understanding of his own rhetoric.
It seems the political world is witnessing a repeat of the same circumstances, only this time it’s on a much larger scale. Instead of one confused radio host being exposed as ignorant on national television, we have much of the conservative movement making the same mistake – Republicans, following Kevin James’ lead five years later, are still pushing a comparison they don’t understand.
The United States and its partners didn’t appease Iran and certainly didn’t give Iranian officials the green light for a nuclear weapons program. They did the opposite, stopping Iran’s program in its tracks.
If Republicans want to talk about instances in which U.S. officials empowered Iran, we can talk about Reagan illegally selling them arms to finance an illegal war in Central America. Or perhaps we can talk about Bush/Cheney expanding Iran’s influence in the Middle East by launching a disastrous war against Iraq, and sitting idly by as Iran’s collection of centrifuges grew.
But the P5 +1 deal? That’s the opposite of appeasement.
As for why so many on the right are whining so loudly as U.S. foreign policy interests advance, it seems Dana Milbank has summarized the situation nicely.
Republicans are opposed to President Obama’s deal with the Iranians – whatever it is. […]In the eyes of Republicans, the agreement with Iran has a fatal flaw: It was negotiated by the Obama administration. This president could negotiate a treaty promoting baseball, motherhood and apple pie, and Republicans would brand it the next Munich.