Commentary

Correspondence with Rep. Alan Grayson About the Iran Talks

[In what follows, I have redacted email addresses, phone numbers, and the names of people who were copied in the exchange but did not participate in it. These are replaced by “X.” When the identity of a participant in the exchange was identified by their email address, the name follows the redacted email address in brackets. -RN]

The key problematic statement in Grayson’s email claiming that critics of his position on the Iran talks are “concocting a conflict that doesn’t exist” is this [my emphasis]:

"As I said, I think that the final agreement should include a complete end to Iran’s nuclear program and its ICBM program, and an end to Iran supplying missiles to terrorist groups."

The reasons this statement from Grayson is so problematic are: 1) no reasonable informed person thinks that "a complete end to Iran’s nuclear program" is a remotely realistic goal for diplomacy, so Grayson's statement is setting up an impossible "unicorns and ponies" standard for a "good deal" (which Grayson, as an informed person, surely knows); 2) the other issues are outside the scope of the talks, and attempts by opponents of the framework deal to add these issues to the talks or argue that these issues are standards by which the comprehensive deal should be judged are a key point of dispute between supporters and opponents of the framework deal. Indeed, language in the original Corker Congressional review bill which the Administration and Senator Cardin successfully removed using the Administration’s veto threat concerns exactly this issue. As the New York Times reported [my emphasis]:

UN Security Council: Right Venue for Iran Deal, Right Venue for Israel-Palestine

In the wake of the Israeli election -- in which now re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spectacularly unmasked himself and his supporters as diehard opponents of a diplomatic resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in which Netanyahu engaged, as the New York Times put it, in a "racist rant" against the Palestinian citizens of Israel -- the Obama Administration is talking about taking steps to move the venue of diplomacy to reso

Opposing Two States, Netanyahu Unmasks GOP-Likud Agenda of Fake Diplomacy

Congressional Republicans who are trying to blow up U.S.-European diplomacy with Iran would desperately like Americans to believe that they have some alternative besides war to the administration's multilateral efforts to reach a diplomatic agreement with Iran.

If any fair-minded man or woman who reads newspapers retains any doubt that this claim is fraudulent, let incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- whom Congressional Republicans constantly invoke as their Supreme Guide on diplomacy with Iran -- put these doubts to rest. (If the Jewish Daily Forward's JJ Goldberg is correct in his handicapping of the Israeli election Tuesday, Netanyahu may not be Israeli Prime Minster for much longer.)

Who is skipping Bibi's speech?

Latest Update: March 3 12:30 AM

If your rep is undeclared or on the fence, give them a call at 1-202-224-3121. When you reach a staffer, you can say something like:

I urge Rep./Sen. ___________ to join 60 other Democrats in skipping Netanyahu's March 3 speech. Please stand with Democrats who support President Obama's Iran diplomacy, not with Republicans who want to tear President Obama down.

Find out where your reps stand below.

Skipping (61—Includes 1 Republican)

House

Bass, Karen (CA-37) — “My support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship has been consistent during my entire time in elected office, and that support will only continue in the years to come. Support for Israel has traditionally been a non-partisan issue, and I want it to remain so,” she said. "Unfortunately, Speaker Boehner mishandled inviting Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech is now marred with controversy. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been provided with other options to talk with members of Congress, but he has turned them down to do the public speech. It is truly sad that Speaker Boehner and Prime Minister Netanyahu have chosen to play partisan and divisive politics.”

Blumenauer, Earl (OR-03): Wrote a Jan. 29 column in The Huffington Post explaining his decision, saying the Constitution “vests the responsibility for foreign affairs in the president.”

Brown, Corrine (FL-05)

Butterfield, G.K. (NC-01): The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) focused on Boehner undermining Obama in a statement and emphasized he's not urging a boycott.

Capps, Lois (CA-24)

Carson, Andre (IN-07)

Castro, Joaquin (TX-20)

Clark, Katherine (MA-05): http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/02/massachusetts_democra...

Clay, William Lacy (MO-01)

Profiles in Courage: 38 Dems Publicly Break With Netanyahu's War Polemic

A recent CNN poll found that four out of five Democratic voters oppose the Israeli Prime Minister's planned March 3 tirade to Congress against diplomacy. Thursday morning, twenty-three House Democrats did something about it.

Rep. Hank Johnson: It's Not Just About Bibi Dissing Our Black President

When the 1% were plotting to overthrow the Roman republic, the great democratic orator Cicero gave a series of speeches in the Roman Senate, exposing the conspiracy. These speeches came to be known as the "Catilinarians" or the "Catiline Orations," after the principal target of the speeches, Lucius Sergius Catilina. For two thousand years, these speeches have been pored over by students of Latin and rhetoric as a canonical example of Roman oratory.


One of Cicero's rhetorical techniques that made a big impression on my high school Latin class was "praeteritio," "I will pass over." The orator mentions "in passing" some really damning thing done by the accused. "Quod ego praetermitto," "which [crime] I will pass over." By such "passing over" of the crime, the speaker calls attention to the crime.

I had the opportunity to interact at some length with Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson not so long ago. I'm going to hazard a guess that at some point in his life, Rep. Hank Johnson had the opportunity to study Cicero.

In 2015, Let’s Not Punish the Palestinians for Joining the ICC

A proposed New Year's Resolution: in 2015, let's not punish the Palestinians for joining the International Criminal Court. No doubt some Members of Congress - presumably, the ones who aren't busy resigning for felony tax evasion or defending themselves for schmoozing with white supremacists - will try to gin up an outrage festival and demand sanctions on the Palestinians for exercising their rights.

Can Congress End the Cuba Embargo? Many Republicans Want the Embargo to Fall

 A left-right coalition, supported by the president and public opinion, could successfully push Congress to end the Cuba embargo.

Can Republicans nostalgic for the Cold War block President Obama from taking executive actions to improve US diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba? Could a Republican-led Congress vote to end the US embargo? Some Republican leaders were quick to denounce President Obama's announcement that the United States was restoring ties with Cuba. But how many divisions do these Cold War dead-enders control?

On whether Republicans can follow through on threats to block the president, Associated Press is skeptical:

This Week, Senate Democrats Can Limit the ISIS War

At long last, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote this week on an authorization for the use of force for the war against ISIS that started in early August. There is little doubt that a majority of the committee supports the use of force against ISIS. What will be revealed this week is what limits the committee will support in authorizing the use of force.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has proposed to prohibit the use of U.S. ground troops in combat except for rescue missions and "limited operations against high-value targets" -- that is, against terrorist leaders who directly threaten the United States. Kaine's proposed authorization would expire in one year unless renewed by Congress and would require the White House to give legislators a list of groups that might be covered by the authorization because they are associated with the Islamic State.

Warren and Sanders: Missing Voices for Iran Diplomacy?

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are increasingly seen as leaders of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, largely as a result of being the most talked-about alternatives among progressives to Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

Progressives who are most enthusiastic about Warren and Sanders tend to be those most engaged on the issues of challenging Wall Street and corporate power and making the economy work for the majority of working families. It's obvious why those issues are at the top of the marquee as people fight about 2016.

But if you're going to be an alternative to Hillary, you have to be an alternative to Hillary all the way around, not just on corporate power and the economy. That doesn't mean, of course, that you have to have the most progressive position on any issue that anyone can imagine -- that's obviously not how it goes. But if most Democrats have a progressive position on an issue, you should not be far away from majority Democratic opinion.