Op-ed: Obama kneecaps Congress (again)

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:17pm
  • Opinion

If only President Barack Obama were as hard-nosed and clever in undermining our adversaries as he is in kneecapping the U.S. Congress, the country’s strategic position might be transformed.

The Iran deal went to the United Nations Security Council for approval Monday, months before Congress will vote on it, and got unanimous approval. The U.N. vote doesn’t bind Congress, but it boxes it in and minimizes it — with malice aforethought.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress issued sharply worded statements about getting pre-empted by Turtle Bay, although the vast international machinery that has been set in motion won’t be deflected by a few sharp words from people under the misapprehension that they occupy a coequal branch of the American government. What are congressional hearings and the U.S. domestic political debate compared with the “international community”?

Shortly after the U.N. vote, President Obama urged Congress to get with the program: “There is broad international consensus around this issue,” he said, adding that his “assumption is that Congress will pay attention to that broad-based consensus.” In other words, follow the lead of the United Nations on a matter of utmost importance to the national interest of the United States.

Secretary of State John Kerry issued his own warning over the weekend about the dangers of going our own way: “If Congress says ‘no’ to this deal, then there will be no restraints on Iran. There will be no sanctions left. Our friends in this effort will desert us.”

And who’s responsible for that? The Obama administration cut a deal eviscerating the international sanctions regime and got it blessed by the U.N., then turns around and tells Congress it has no alternative but to assent because there will be no meaningful sanctions regime left regardless.

The agreement is written to favor business with Iran. It grandfathers in all commercial deals cut after the initial lifting of the sanctions, even in the unlikely event they are reimposed. Plus, Iran isn’t going to give back its windfall of tens of billions of dollars handed to it under the agreement.

Kerry over the weekend seemed offended by the notion that Congress should get to vote before everyone else locks the Iran agreement into place: “It is presumptuous of some people to say that France, Russia, China, Germany, Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do.” This is admirably internationalist, but Kerry is supposed to be the secretary of state of the United States, not a representative of the interests and prerogatives of its allies and adversaries.

The New York Times reports that during the negotiations, Kerry actually pushed to delay a U.N. vote until Congress reviewed the deal. How sporting of him. It must have been vestigial loyalty to the Congress he served in for several decades. Predictably, the Iranians balked (they’re not fools), and so did the Russians and the Europeans. Equally predictably, Kerry resorted to his solution to most every knotty negotiating problem — he caved.

Amazingly enough, the agreement with Iran doesn’t mention the U.S. Congress or its review of the deal, but specifically cites the Iranian Parliament and its role in approving the so-called additional protocol of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. At least someone is willing to stick up for Iran’s (wholly fraudulent) legislative branch.

It is President Obama’s curse that he doesn’t have a legislature as compliant as that of Iran’s supreme leader. The president clearly disdains Congress as a body that harbors several hundred Republicans and that can only complicate his grand legacy-defining initiatives. He didn’t want Congress to have a say at all over the Iran deal, but accepted the Corker bill that requires a near-impossible two-thirds vote to block it.

The administration’s message to opponents is that even that supermajority would be too little, too late. Submission is the only option.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More in Opinion

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his veto of a wide-ranging education bill during a press conference March 16 at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Governor, please pay more attention to Alaskans

Our governor has been a busy guy on big issues.

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Happy Pride Month

This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade