David Brooks on Iran Deal: "Bizarre That You Pass Something With A Minority, Especially What Is Effectively A Treaty"

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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR: All right, let’s take a look at the Iran deal.

There were kind of machinations in both sides of Congress this week, one side saying, hey, there’s this opportunity for you to pass this up or down, the other one saying, how about you block, that it not pass this forward?

It was just one of those moments where you realize what are you really voting for and how often is this going to come up? Is this going to become like the Affordable Care Act, where Republicans will continue to try to figure out ways to stop any progress on it?

DAVID BROOKS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes.

It’s, first of all, bizarre that you pass something with a minority, especially what is effectively a treaty with a minority. Treaties are supposed to be ratified by two-thirds, but now we have got like 42 or whatever it was. But that’s the way the situation was set up.

And once the Republicans agreed that they only — the Obama — the administration only needed a third of the votes in the Senate to pass the thing, then it was going to be a done deal. He was going to get a third.

And so they got that and a little more. And so the Republicans are going to hang whatever happens in the Middle East on this treaty, and not only whether Iran gets a nuclear option or whether they begin to cheat or fudge with the inspectors, but the most immediate effect and whether it postpones an Iran nuclear program, yes, it probably does.

But there’s an immediate negative effect and that is you’re enriching a power that funds Hezbollah. And so as, for example, Syria deteriorates and if Hezbollah gets stronger, then the Iranian regime will probably be funding it more and more and that will be a knock-off of this deal. And so the Republicans will be able to use that.

I think there’s a legitimate argument against something the administration did that, at least in the short term, destabilized the Middle East.

MARK SHIELDS: Iran was two to three months away from nuclear capability.

That’s the best estimate of people that I pay attention to who are in a position of leadership. And the reality is now that they are now at least 10 years away. Their own capacity at Arak will in fact be decommissioned.

But the politics here are entirely different. David’s right, in the legislative office area, you can never get in trouble by voting against something that passes. You can say, well, I was going to make it better. Or voting for something that doesn’t pass, the same thing, because there’s no responsibility.

This was a mirror vote of the Iraqi war vote. Ever since that vote, people who voted against it said we were right, and the people who voted for it and supported that war have been on the defensive. And Lindsey Graham was very blunt. He said, it’s all the Democrats’ now. It’s theirs. And it’s everything that happens, the whole deal.

I happen to think it’s a good step. It’s a positive step. I agree with Prime Minister Cameron. I agree with Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande that this is the best step. These are nations that know war from their own people’s experience on their own home fronts.

So I do think the reality politically here is that what had been bipartisan overwhelming support for Israel has been politicized, and I think basically by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, and who, as a campaign event and stunt for himself, wrangled an invitation from the Republican Congress to come and speak to the Congress and use it as a campaign post basically to criticize the policy of the president of the United States.

And I think that there’s been a wedge now between what had been overwhelming bipartisan support for Israel, and I think quite frankly the responsibility lies with Mr. Netanyahu.

DAVID BROOKS: I agree with that last point.

But on the Iran deal, if we conceded that Iran was going to get a nuclear weapon, that there was no way we could stop them, then maybe this was a good treaty to sign. I don’t think it was important necessarily to concede that. I don’t think it was inevitable. I think we sort of conceded a defeat basically too early, when the sanctions could have avoided that defeat.

But the larger issue here with both the Syrian and the Iranian thing is sometimes when you lean in and do something, you get blamed for it, the Iraq war. Sometimes, when you lean out and don’t do anything, you get blamed for it, Syria.

And so you got to have a foreign policy that is very tied to the circumstance at hand. Is this a smart move in this particular space? My problem, in retrospect, with the Bush administration, they were like leaning in all the time. My problem with the Obama administration is they’re leaning out all the time.

And so neither are that context-specific. And I think that’s just a lesson we have learned from the last two administrations.

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