President Obama just gave his strongest speech yet in support of the Iran deal. At the end, he called on the public to call up your representatives and tell them what kind of America we want to be. And he both honored the role of the Israel lobby in our politics and then defied it.
Don’t succumb to “political concerns,” he told the Congress, in implicit reference to the power of the Israel lobby, the millions marshaled by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC. And he boldly defined an American national interest that is different from the Israeli one. Israel is the only country in the world that is against this deal, he said. Europe and the Security Council are behind it all the way. And while Benjamin Netanyahu is completely “sincere” in his opposition, Obama said, “As president of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty” to defer to Israel’s wishes on this matter.
When has the president stated before that the Israel lobby wants him to abrogate his constitutional duties? He has done so now, and let that word go forth.
In his speech at American University this afternoon, Obama was most forceful in his denunciation of the “mindset” that got us into the Iraq war, a mindset that believes in unilateral action, that exaggerates threats, and whose advocates mislead Americans about the costs of war.
Over and over again he stated the costs of the Iraq war, materially and in human suffering, even referring to the great numbers of Iraqis who died for our folly.
And the costs of war in our country are borne by the less than “1 percent,” Obama said movingly– those in uniform. While those who make the decision to go to war do not suffer the personal consequences.
He made clear that absent the deal there is no other path than a path to war, ultimately. Absent a deal, Iran will continue to develop its nuclear program, and there will soon be calls for military strikes. The very same people who are advising this route are the ones who pushed for the Iraq war.
“The same mindset, in many cases offered by the same people who seem to have no compunction about being repeatedly wrong, led to a war” that did more to strengthen Iran than anything else.
That mindset, he said, is “out of step with American traditions of foreign policy.”
He cited Reagan and Kennedy here, and called on American idealism in a global age. We are “one nation among many,” he advised. And our diplomatic credibility is at stake if we cannot pass the Iran deal.
Chris Matthews said after the speech on MSNBC that Obama is trying to expand the electorate, to those who do not see Israel’s interest as ours. This is the heroic part of the speech: Obama is taking on the lobby directly. The Forward complained earlier this week that he was dog-whistling about Jews wanting wars. He’s not saying that. He’s saying that only Israel and the lobby and the Republicans support this warmongering mindset; and it is damaging our country.