It was a low point in the history of presidential speeches.
President Obama's speech to rally support for his Iran deal yesterday at American University was disgraceful. The most disgraceful moment was when the president compared the Republican caucus, which opposes his agreement, to the Iranian hardliners who chant "Death to America."
There is no such thing as an honest disagreement with this man. Instead of gagging at the baseness of the charge, the students at American University laughed. They are coming of age, after all, in a time when an angry president heckling his domestic opponents passes for statesmanship.
The speech itself was typical of the man: untruthful, ungracious, boastful, and presenting false choices. If you oppose this deal, the president made clear, you aren't legitimately worried about its effects, you are a warmonger. There were parts of the speech that imputed a love of war to opponents of this very dangerous agreement. President Obama is fond of comparing himself to greats in history, and in the AU speech, he was drawing a comparison to President Kennedy, who went to the same university to deliver an address on negotiations with the then-Soviet Union. it is a false comparison. James Robbins, USA Today contributor and Custer biographer, says that President Obama is no John Kennedy.
The American University speech wasn't President Obama's only effort yesterday to rally support for the agreement. He also invited the leaders of twenty Jewish groups to the White House to pressure them to accept the deal. The president pictured “missiles raining down on Tel Aviv” if his agreement is defeated. This is rich: the deal gives the Iranian regime a signing bonus of $150 billion, some of which will find its way into the coffers of Hamas and Hezbollah, who love nothing more than raining down missiles on Israel.
So the president mounted a full court press yesterday but Commentary blogger Jonathan Tobin notes that "missing from his heavy-handed pressure tactics is a more honest explanation for why he is so determined to push through an agreement that fails to meet the standards that he originally set for the talks." But it is possible to ascertain why the president is pushing forward despite everything. Tobin observes:
For [the reason] we have to turn to Secretary of State John Kerry who reveals in a new interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that he doesn’t think Iran is serious about wiping Israel off the map and thinks the entire discussion is a waste of time. That rather lazy justification for détente with the Islamist regime should motivate Jewish groups to redouble their efforts to fight the president’s policy.
How then to explain the administration’s decision to discard the enormous political and economic leverage it had over Iran in 2013 and begin making the series of far reaching concessions that led to the agreement? The answer comes from Kerry who not only dismisses Iran’s ideological obsession with destroying Israel as not serious but also thinks the fact that it will continue to fund Hezbollah and Hamas (something that the $100 billion in unfrozen assets it is getting in the deal as well as the profits from the business boom that will follow the pact’s ratification as American and European companies flock to Tehran to make nice with the ayatollahs) as no big deal.
The mullahs, apparently, are just joshing when they say they want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Ditto "Death to America." It is unfortunate that President Obama won't listen to what the mullahs actually are saying–or, for that matter, to what worried Republicans and a smattering of worried Democrats are saying. Does this man listen to no one?