From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:
Only the Presidency Keeps a Presidential Narrative Viable
Lee Smith looks back and analyzes how the Obama administration sold the Iran deal, and how those arguments – such as, “if you don’t support a deal that frees up billions for a regime that threatens war, then you’re a warmonger” — are collapsing with their departure from office:
There are no winners in war, only losers. The most arduous nuclear inspection regime in history involves letting Iran inspect its own nuclear sites. Funding a state at war won’t fill its war chest. Rewarding a state sponsor of terror for its activities makes that state less likely to sponsor terror. Deterrence doesn’t work.
The logic at work in some of the more popular arguments made by Obama aides and their validators in the press wasn’t dialectical or paradoxical; e.g., if you want peace, prepare for war. It was Gladwellian—what’s really true is the opposite of whatever you think is true. Of course, that’s not journalism, it’s just marketing, or, in contemporary journalism-speak, Voxsplaining, after the popular liberal website Vox, which devoted itself in its entirety to counter-intuitive self-branded “hot takes” designed to showcase the wisdom of whatever the current Obama administration policy was.
Chatting with a group of conservative bloggers who are particularly focused on Israel policy recently, we came to the same conclusion as Smith: the reason the Iran deal worked was because Obama won in 2012 and the GOP congress had few options to stop an agreement that didn’t need to be ratified by the Senate. The deal was never popular; most polling indicated great skepticism and wariness.
Why does the inverted wisdom of the echo chamber now strike readers as transparently mendacious and silly? Because policymaking is not quite the same as advertising and PR. The Obama administration sold the Iran deal not because of its copywriting talents and facility in framing and manipulating “connectors” and “mavens” but because it controlled the White House. The president of the United States is the single most powerful person in the world. Almost everything he decides to push against, especially in the area of foreign policy, is an open door.
The slogans that the Obama echo chamber used to sell the Iran Deal sound weird now because Obama is no longer in the White House. So what does it mean that “everybody knows” that the deal to rid Bashar al-Assad of his chemical weapons didn’t actually rid him of his chemical weapons, which he uses with regularity to murder civilians, including patients in hospitals? That’s not a paradox, it’s not a Gladwellism, and there is nothing clever about it. What the slogan means now is that they lied, and made America complicit in Assad’s war crimes. It’s no surprise that admission doesn’t sound clever, and that it makes people angry.
It’s easy to forget that as recently as January 2017, Susan Rice was insisting, “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.” And of course, in 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry boasted, “we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”