While violence against Jews rages on the streets of Jerusalem and Paris, and a Twitter account that may or may not belong to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is tweeting nine steps to destroy Israel, the negotiations between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran are running up against a deadline.
Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal writes of the negotiations, first, that he believes that another extension, rather than a final deal, is imminent (though that view is not unanimous). In the event that Stephens is wrong, however, and a deal is reached, he looks at what such a deal would look like. It would be “hyper-technical,” he writes, filled with unfamiliar terms and standards.
The avalanche of fine print will help convey an appearance of meticulousness and transparency. If this were a nuclear deal between the U.S. and, say, Finland, no doubt it would be so.
But we’re talking about Iran, meaning the abundance of detail will serve a more obfuscatory function. The Obama administration will count on a broad measure of public ignorance and media credulity, meaning it can sell a deal by citing experts who happen to agree with its conclusions.
Is Stephens right? Would President Obama really try to sell a deal to the American public by using complicated language and convoluted writing to obscure its true terms? In another context, he already has. In what appears to be a leaked video, Jonathan Gruber, credited as the “Obamacare architect,” brags about how the White House deceived the public and Congress in order to pass the Affordable Care Act. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber told an audience at the University of Pennsylvania last month. He further explained how the ACA manipulated language to ensure that the Congressional Budget Office would not count the individual mandate as a tax (shame on the CBO for falling for it) and how proponents of the ACA obscured the extent to which the law redistributes wealth (and let’s not forget the biggest whopper, “if you like you plan you can keep it”). Using such tactics to get public opinion behind a deal with Iran, then, is entirely consistent with Obama’s conduct in office so far.
The ACA, of course, is domestic policy, and the Iranian negotiations are a matter of foreign policy. But Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes has already made clear that striking a nuclear deal with Iran is just as important to the President as was passing the healthcare law. It certainly stands to reason, then, that Obama and his staff will use any means necessary to sell the Iranian deal to the public, just as they did with the ACA. In this case, moreover, they don’t even plan to sell it to Congress, and appear to be poised to push through a deal without Congressional approval. The arrogance that allowed Obama to intentionally obscure aspects of the ACA in order to ensure its passage is the very same character trait that will allow him to attempt to cast his selling out to the Iranians as a victory in order to rally the American public behind him.
As was mentioned above, the twitter account @khamenie_ir is believed to be, but not confirmed to be, run by Khamenei’s actual staff, and the US State Department has acknowledged that it appears to be so. Over the past few days, that account has tweeted, in addition to its nine-point plan for Israel’s destruction, its nine reasons for supporting nuclear negotiations. Number five on that list is “Repelling the evil of the great Satan” (um, that’s us). If that account is, indeed, run by Khamenei’s staff, there is only one reason they would write something like that: to prove to themselves and to anyone else paying attention that they have Obama exactly where they want him.
Update: This morning, the Washington Free Beacon is reporting that, without the terms even being known, a liberal Washington DC think tank is gearing up efforts to help the President promote a nuclear deal in national and local media outlets.