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Iran debate shows GOP 'utterly unprepared to govern'

Republicans were supposed to bring their A game to the debate over the Iran deal. But what if the party doesn't really have an A game anymore?
The dome of the US Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C., September 20, 2008.
The dome of the US Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C., September 20, 2008.
The debate over the international nuclear agreement with Iran wasn't exactly a pop quiz -- everyone involved in the argument has had plenty of time to prepare. So when three congressional committees, over the course of six days, held hearings on the diplomatic deal, this was the public's first real opportunity to see the Republicans' A game.
After all, these congressional committees ostensibly feature some of the most knowledgeable GOP officials -- including three notable presidential candidates -- when it comes to international affairs. Republicans had time to study the issue; they had time to prepare their best arguments; and the party put forward their top members to lead the debate.
And it was a disaster. Slate's William Saletan attended all three hearings, intending to write about Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, but he apparently came away flabbergasted by how ridiculous congressional Republicans have become.

Over the past several days, congressional hearings on the deal have become a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world. [...] In challenging Kerry and Moniz, Republican senators and representatives offered no serious alternative. They misrepresented testimony, dismissed contrary evidence, and substituted vitriol for analysis. They seemed baffled by the idea of having to work and negotiate with other countries. I came away from the hearings dismayed by what the GOP has become in the Obama era. It seems utterly unprepared to govern.

The full report is worth your time -- the Slate piece points to Republican lawmakers whose understanding of these issues can charitably be described as child-like -- but note that Saletan, hardly a knee-jerk partisan, came away from the hearing fearful of what the GOP has become.
"This used to be a party that saw America's leadership of the free world as its highest responsibility," he concludes. "What happened? And why should any of us entrust it with the presidency again?"
This was the best GOP lawmakers had to offer. These hearings put their strongest and most substantive arguments on display. This is an issue the party claims to take very seriously, and which they've invested considerable time and energy into trying to understand.
But after watching the hearings, it's hard to escape an uncomfortable question: what if GOP policymakers simply don't have an A game? What if their best is simply inadequate for a credible policy debate over an important issue?
On the other side of the aisle, notable congressional Democrats are starting to come forward to announce their support for the international agreement. For example, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), a decorated Marine combat veteran, endorsed the deal over the weekend, as did Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff had been skeptical of the agreement, but came around after an "extensive review" of the policy.
As for the pressure facing Democratic members, Politico reports that "more than 120 wealthy Democratic donors have written to the party's leadership in Congress to express support for the Iran nuclear deal," while the editorial board of Haaretz emphasized today, "It's important for Washington to know that many Israelis object to Netanyahu's maneuvers."
Mel Levine, meanwhile, an AIPAC board member and a former member of Congress, has also urged both U.S. and Israeli officials to support the Iran deal.
Domestic polling, meanwhile, continues to offer little help. A new Quinnipiac poll shows most Americans oppose the deal, while the new NBC/WSJ poll shows a plurality of Americans support the deal.