Demonstrators gather outside the City County Building on March 30, 2015 in Indianapolis, Ind.
Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty

The right tries, fails to connect Indiana and Iran

Much of the political world’s attention was divided yesterday between two important developments. On the same afternoon, President Obama announced a preliminary nuclear agreement with Iran, curtailing the country’s nuclear ambitions, while in Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence (R) scaled back his state’s new right-to-discriminate law.
Some on the right seemed eager to connect the two stories into one deeply odd narrative. Laura Ingraham tweeted yesterday:
“If only the secular Left put as much trust & faith in the people of Indiana as they do in the rulers in Iran.”
Rush Limbaugh tried to raise a similar complaint, decrying the “hypocrisy” of companies that complained about Indiana’s discrimination statute also selling products to Iranians.
If Apple vowed to sell to consumers in Tehran, but not Indianapolis, the comparison might be more coherent.
But even putting that aside, the right’s desire to connect the two unrelated news stories is a spectacularly bad idea. The “secular Left” doesn’t want Americans facing discrimination in Indiana. The “secular Left” also doesn’t want Americans facing the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. Yesterday brought policy advances that brought us closer to both goals.
To see these two priorities in conflict is to misunderstand the basics of current events.
“Trust,” to use Ingraham’s word, has no meaningful role in the debate. The “secular Left” doesn’t want to trust Iranian officials; it was a strict verification system that’s included in the international agreement announced yesterday. At the same time, supporting civil rights laws – in Indiana and elsewhere – has less to do with trust and more to do with creating protections to ensure Americans are treated fairly.
Jon Chait responded with some biting sarcasm:
It’s so true. Liberals are willing to negotiate a verification treaty with Iran, but the only policy they will consider with regard to Indiana is a bombing campaign. How on earth these people can possibly favor an international inspections program to prevent a nuclear weapon in Iran without also demanding inspectors be sent to Indiana … or something. Anyway, the liberals who want to move the Final Four from Indiana to Iran are hypocrites.
Back when the Obama administration first started diplomatic outreach with Iran, Republicans pushed a specific talking point pretty aggressively: the White House finds it easier to negotiate with Iranians than Republicans in Congress.
If we’re being charitable, it was a flawed comparison for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that officials in Tehran were more open to concessions than hardliners on Capitol Hill.
In time, however, the talking point faded, though it’s apparently been replaced: Democrats are being fairer to Iranian officials than to right-wing evangelicals in Indiana.
I can’t wait to see how foolish the next talking point is.