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‘How Big (and Bad) Is That?’

Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in New York City in 2016. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

In 2012, Harry Reid, then the Senate majority leader, said, “The word’s out.” Remember that one? “So the word’s out that he hasn’t paid any taxes for ten years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn’t.” Reid was talking about Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee.

Earlier this month, President Trump said, “Just out.” On July 3, he issued a tweet that said, “Just out that the Obama Administration granted citizenship, during the terrible Iran Deal negotiation, to 2,500 Iranians — including to government officials. How big (and bad) is that?”

In my opinion, this should not be forgotten about or brushed off. What the president says matters. He is not just another mouther-off on a call-in program. When the president speaks, people ought to listen to him and believe him. If the Obama administration included citizenship as part of the nuclear deal, we should know that — the government should tell us. Surely, the president has the means of finding out.

This is how the president’s tweet came to be, apparently: An Iranian news agency quoted an Iranian politician, Mojtaba Zonnour, who is hostile to the nuclear deal (which the U.S. has now scuttled). He was jabbing at the Iranian leaders who made the deal, saying they had procured citizenship for their children and other relatives. Fox News picked up the story — and the president thus heard it.

There is so much news to cover that a tweet on July 3 seems like ancient history. “Obama comes at me like a fire hose,” Charles Krauthammer once told me. Trump comes at us the same way. But I would not let the Iran matter — I would not let “Just out” — drop. The president of the United States should be taken seriously. “Oh, he’s just blowing off steam,” people say. “Don’t pay any attention to him.” And those are his supporters, not his critics!

Undoubtedly, the government can tell us whether the claim about citizenship and the Iran deal is true. I see no reason that it shouldn’t. Do you? If Obama sweetened the pot with an offer of citizenship for 2,500 — let’s hear about that. And if Trump conveyed fake news, let’s hear about that. Either way, the president should not be treated, by friend or foe, like an unruly child who can be ignored.

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