The Corner

Obama’s Politics, America’s Paralysis

Did domestic political considerations influence Obama’s Iran deal? Some say the president’s looking for a distraction from the Obamacare rollout fiasco and wants an accomplishment to tout now that he’s down. I doubt that either of these motives are prime drivers of this ill-conceived agreement. More important is Obama’s ideological commitment to reducing America’s role in the world and his consequent desire to contain, rather than stop, an Iranian bomb.

Insofar as domestic politics figures into the equation, I suspect it’s less about distracting from Obamacare or bragging about a deal than simply preventing the political consequences of a conflict with Iran. Obama’s domestic support is down to his hardcore base. No group of Americans would be more opposed to a potentially violent American face-off with a weaponizing Iran than Obama’s diehard supporters. To the extent that the current American political scene factors into this agreement, it’s about Obama’s fear of a military conflict that would alienate his fast-shrinking base.

Had the Obamacare rollout gone swimmingly, the president would have had a bit more breathing room on Iran. Yet with a shrinking base already livid with dismay over the health-care disaster, Obama knew that a showdown with Iran would be politically untenable. Combine that with the fact that Obama and his base are in perfect agreement on the substance of Iran policy, and you get this misconceived deal.

Americans are weary of war and few on any political side were inclined to bail Obama out of his Syrian “red line” misadventure. Yet there is still a strong constituency for taking action when core American interests are threatened. That constituency, unfortunately, stands largely outside of Obama’s base.

To the extent that this analysis is valid, it means that as long as Obamacare is on life-support (for the next three years, by most accounts), Obama’s policy inclinations and political survival alike will conspire to dictate American weakness on the world scene. With Obama down to his dovish core supporters, we are paralyzed abroad.

— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and can be reached at



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