He's blinding them with science. Or intellectually charming them anyway. That's how Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz seems to be winning fans in the difficult fight to sell the Iran deal on Capitol Hill, even as skeptical lawmakers reserve plenty of vitriol for his partner on the journey, Secretary of State John Kerry. Moniz, a nuclear physicist with mad-scientist hair, has already been credited as the administration's secret weapon in the lengthy negotiations to secure an Iran deal that will prevent the rogue country from securing a nuclear weapon.
When an important international agreement is being negotiated, it stands to reason that diplomats will do most of the heavy lifting, But as the P5+1 nuclear deal was coming together, it wasn't just Secretary of State John Kerry helping lead the talks -- Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz played a critical role, offering scientific and technical expertise that made a real difference.
By most measures, the Secretary of Energy is not one of a cabinet's high-profile roles. I quizzed myself last night, trying to think of how many of Moniz's predecessors I could name from memory, only two -- Steven Chu and Bill Richardson -- came to mind.
And yet, all of a sudden, Ernest Moniz is drawing raves, even from White House critics who generally have no use for members of President Obama's cabinet. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
It was surprising to see just how many congressional Republicans were willing to go on the record praising Moniz. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), for example, had positive things to say about the Energy Secretary following a closed-door briefing. So did Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).
Even Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) "can't help but speak well of Moniz."
Remember, we're talking about a political environment in which GOP lawmakers don't usually speak well of anyone in the Obama administration.
But the nuclear physicist and longtime MIT professor is suddenly the most popular cabinet secretary in Washington.
I don't want to overstate this -- Republicans are still going to try to kill the international agreement. No matter how persuasive Moniz is, or how accurate his arguments are, GOP lawmakers decided months ago that they would reject the deal, no matter what. The "charming" physicist can't bend the rules of political science.
But that doesn't change the fact Moniz is blazing quite a trail at DOE.