President Obama’s last State of the Union speech was one of his best, both in delivery and writing. Listening to it was a joy, but even more delightful were the frantic attempts of House Speaker Paul Ryan to keep a straight face, to appear somber and disapproving so that his party not pillory him for reacting in any way that might indicate approval of the president who the GOP is determined to hate. Here’s one of Ryan’s failed attempts.
The conservatives did have about 16 hours of joy after Iran picked up ten sailors and two Navy patrol boats that wandered into Iranian waters. While Secretary of State John Kerry was negotiating for their return, GOP leaders disparaged the president’s leadership abilities and, as usual, accused him of letting Iran “push us around.” Saint Ronald Reagan came into the dialog as the GOP tried to use the incident to start a war with Iran.
Forbes Senior Political Contributor at Forbes Rick Ungar used Facebook to explain how far off base the Reagan worshippers are:
“One of the advantages of having graduated high school with Abraham Lincoln is that I was quite present during the Reagan administration. I remember all too well when our Marine barracks in Lebanon was bombed during Reagan’s term of office, killing 241 Marines and injuring another 100. Reagan knew who did it- it was Hezbollah with the support of Iran and Syria. How did Ronald Reagan respond?
“First, Reagan assembled his National Security team and hatched a plan to seek retribution by blowing up the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, which housed Iranian Revolutionary Guards that were there to train Hezbollah fighters. The only problem was that Reagan ultimately decided not to do it because it would harm relations with other Arab nations.
“Not only did he not do anything to avenge the deaths of our Marines, four months later he withdrew all of our Marines from Lebanon, never so much as firing a shot in retribution for our dead military. There was no shortage of people at that time who were incensed with that move, just like these armchair quarterbacks who are on Obama’s case because someone took a photograph they don’t like- forget killing over 200 of our finest.”
Like President Obama in the current era, Reagan realized that “carpet bombing” Damascus and Tehran wouldn’t solve any problems: it would just cause more conflict and destroy foreign policy. Yet conservatives follow the war hawks, Israelis, and defense contractors who are salivating for a fight with Iran to further line the pockets of the rich to the loss of U.S. soldiers, economy, civilians, and peace.
The GOP House has been determined to scuttle the Iran deal determined by six major world leaders, but Ryan seems unable to get his members into the chamber to vote in a timely fashion. Today the vote to trash the Iran deal passed on an almost strictly partisan vote of 191 to 106, meaning that over 50 Republicans were missing. Because Ryan kept to the 15-minute limit for voting, something that his predecessor had not done, he had a serious shortage of votes. The House Speaker than promptly scrapped the vote and set a new one for January 26.
The bill would force the president to certify that entities benefiting from lifted sanctions would have to prove they never supported terrorism or Iran’s missile program. The new vote may be too late to stop Iran from regaining about $100 billion of its own assets. Even if the bill had passed, House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said, “It’s a waste of all our time” because the president would veto the bill. This is the process, however, that the GOP continually follows—pass only bills that they know the president will veto.
Congress has another Iranian problem in the Supreme Court when it argued in Bank Markazi v. Peterson that the legislature is above the court system. That position didn’t sit well with the justices. Congress had ordered a federal court to determine how the U.S. could give almost $2 billion in security assets from Iranian’s bank to victims (and their families) of Middle East terrorist acts blamed on Iran by using language in its caption, including the case number of the victim’s lawsuit, for a law governing no other lawsuit. Justices seemed to initially go along with the process, but lawyers told the court that Congress could change any pending case in the courts by modifying a law to apply to only one case. Lawyer Theodore B. Olson told Chief Justice John Roberts that Congress does this all the time—in essence, tells the court how it shall rule—even saying that Congress could take such action in a Supreme Court case. Roberts wasn’t happy about Olson’s position.
In another Supreme Court case, Congress is trying to prove that it controls Puerto Rico instead of the country following its own constitution.
Convinced that Iran would not live up to its agreement to stop its path to a nuclear program, Republicans had a bad shock in the end of 2015. Iran has turned over almost all its enriched uranium to the Russians with plans to downgrade the little remaining material to fissionable reactor plates for an internationally supervised test reactor. The country will have no ability to produce weapons-grade material.
This positive move by Iran is not only irreversible but also months ahead of schedule. The country is also in the stages of completing other requirements, including dismantling the mandated number of centrifuges, reconfiguring the Arak heavy water reactor (to close down the pathway via plutonium), and allowing for more intrusive inspections. Although violating UN Security Council resolutions, Iran’s ballistic missile test does not violate the agreement. President Obama said he will address that problem by enforcing sanctions that are not part of the agreement.
Before the completion of the Iran deal, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) got signatures from 47 senators on a letter to Iran stating that the U.S. might not live up to their agreement. Living in relative obscurity since then, Cotton selected the night of President Obama’s last State of the Union speech to spread more lies about the U.S. boats being picked up in Iranian waters. According to the Tea Partier, it was not “coincidental” that Iran had selected that night to “seize” the boats and that the White House was “apologizing for Iran seizing two U.S. Navy vessels and holding 10 sailors hostage.” A minor blip on history was also blown out of proportion by GOP presidential candidates in an effort to score points and appeal to war hawks.
Republicans may have benefitted financially from their virulent opposition to the Iran deal. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials tried to bribe members of Congress to stop the agreement. They may have succeeded. The discussion shows that some legislators conspired with a foreign government to undermine the Commander-in-Chief’s foreign policy agenda—a definition of treason. The GOP has already evidenced its allegiance to Israeli’s lobbying groups such as AIPAC and the Israeli government. Sheldon Adelson, the 20th richest person in the world, spent $30 million on legislators to oppose the Iran deal.
Republicans have a reason other than supporting Israel to stop lifting sanctions on Iran: oil prices. Last spring, guesstimaters said that the price of oil could skyrocket to $250 a barrel with a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Now they wonder if the prices will drop even more because Saudi Arabia will drop its prices to force down those of Iran. With gas prices hovering at $2 per gallon and $30 per barrel, a 70-percent drop in the past 15 months, conservatives in Congress are considering action to raise oil prices. Fracking in the U.S. has caused an oil glut of oil, driving the prices down; thus lawmakers are considering retaliatory trade measures against Saudi Arabia for flooding the market with its own oil. A few years ago, Republicans blamed President Obama for high gas prices; now they complain about low prices.
All the GOP can hope for is a Republican president, one who would start World War III.