The President, MoveOn, and Iran

By Cathy Keim

On Thursday night I listened in on a conference call that President Obama had with people from MoveOn, OFA, CREDO, Americans United for Progress and many more groups. The purpose of the call was for the President to solicit support for his agreement with Iran. He encouraged his supporters to get more active, get loud, get involved, and get informed to make their voices heard in Congress because the opposition (that would be me) is fierce, well financed, and relentless. He assured them that if they would counteract with facts, then the truth would win. He stated that it is rare to have something so clear in front of us, but that his bully pulpit alone is not enough.

His presentation may have thrilled his troops, but it left me amazed by his capacity to lie so fluently. He stated that this agreement is not just the best of bad options. It is a very good deal. He presented his case, but it was so weak and pitiful, with internal inconsistencies, that I was wondering how these people could possibly fall for this.

He stated flat out that the only option was this deal or war. The tired warmongers that brought us the Iraq War are back to agitate against this wonderful agreement because they only want another war.

If you have not seen the following ad, then please sit back and enjoy while Jack Black and his friends explain that the Iranians love their children, so if the warmongers in the USA would behave, there would not be any problems. (But then there is that inconsistency in the final moment when he “hopes” they love their children too, and Jack is right to question it. The Iranians sent thousands of children to their deaths as minesweepers in the Iraq-Iran War.

The president assured his callers that Iran would never get nuclear weapons under this treaty, but without it they would weaponize within six months. Do you really think that somebody that can weaponize in 6 months would decide to never pursue nuclear weapons in the future because President Obama asked them to swear off on it?

He also admits that Iran has been able to get around many of the current restrictions so that they can fund Hezbollah. That is not a problem. It just means that we need to up our game on blocking their egregious behavior concerning conventional weapons. Their misdeeds there have no bearing on their nuclear arms agreements.

He assures his audience that any infractions made by Iran will be quickly detected and sanctions will be reinstated. He does not mention that there are at least two side agreements that have not been released to Congress for review. Without having seen the documents, and there may be more that we do not know about yet, it is only guesswork on anybody’s part to know what we are signing.

Congressman Mike Pompeo (KS-04) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) put out a press release on July 17, 2015,

According to the IAEA, the Iran agreement negotiators, including the Obama administration, agreed that the IAEA and Iran would forge separate arrangements to govern the inspection of the Parchin military complex – one of the most secretive military facilities in Iran – and how Iran would satisfy the IAEA’s outstanding questions regarding past weaponization work. Both arrangements will not be vetted by any organization other than Iran and the IAEA, and will not be released even to the nations that negotiated the JCPOA. This means that the secret arrangements have not been released for public scrutiny and have not been submitted to Congress as part of its legislatively mandated review of the Iran deal.

Then on July 23, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Robert Menendez (D, NJ) asked:

“Is it true that the Iranians are going to be able to take the samples, as Senator Risch said? Because chain of custody means nothing if at the very beginning what you’re given is chosen and derived by the perpetrator.”

Kerry: “As you know, senator, that is a classified component of this that is supposed to be discussed in a classified session. We’re perfectly prepared to fully brief you in a classified session with respect to what will happen. Secretary Moniz has had his team red-team that effort and he has made some additional add-ons to where we are. But it’s part of a confidential agreement between the IAEA and Iran as to how they do it. The IAEA has said they are satisfied that they will be able to do this in a way that does not compromise their needs and that adequately gives them answers that they need. We’ve been briefed on it, and I’d be happy to brief you.”

Menendez: “My time is up. If that is true, it would be the equivalent of the fox guarding the chicken coop.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R, TX) introduced a Senate resolution emphasizing that the 60-day review of the Iran deal cannot officially begin until the side deals are provided to Congress.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 mandates that the 60-day congressional review period cannot begin until the nuclear agreement with Iran, and all related materials outlined in the Act, are transmitted to Congress,” a press release from his office notes. “President Obama has failed to provide separate side agreements and federal guidance materials to Congress, so the review period cannot have begun without the majority leader’s consent.

In closing, I will go back to the president’s most pitiful bid for legitimacy with his followers. “As a consequence, if we reject this deal we negotiated, and 90% of scientists and ambassadors (GOP and Dem), and experts in Iranian regime – if those folks (allies and friends), my Secretary of Energy is a nuclear expert from MIT – if Congress for political reasons reject this deal — we’ll find ourselves having to engage in military action or isolated from the rest of the world with no credibility to negotiate on any international agreement.” (my notes and a friend’s notes)

I almost burst out laughing on the phone call when the president of the United States interrupted his argument to build up his Secretary of Energy by saying he is a nuclear expert from MIT!!! If I doubted everything else he had told me, at least I could know that Secretary Moniz is bonafide! That was right up there with having Jack Black and Morgan Freeman use their political acumen to explain why I should trust Iran.

We are in serious trouble as a nation when this is the level of discourse applied to life and death decisions with nations that regularly vow their goal of destroying us.

Please do call your Senators and Congressman using your fierce, well financed, and relentless voice to demand that they do not vote for this very bad agreement.

So what is the New Fair Deal?

If you are one of those who follows conservative grassroots activism, it’s likely you may have heard about the New Fair Deal rally being held in Washington tomorrow afternoon to coincide with tax day. While it will certainly be a modest event by the standards of other TEA Party rallies such as the 9/12 rally in 2009 or various Glenn Beck-led gatherings since, organizers believe a few thousand will attend with many staying around after the speeches to buttonhole various members of Congress about this new legislative program aimed at reining in government.

But the better question is: what is the legislative program? The four planks can be summarized as follows:

  • No corporate handouts
  • A fair tax code
  • Stop overspending
  • Empower individuals

The eight Congressmen who will be authoring the legislation in question, some of whom are among the most libertarian Republican conservatives in Congress, are Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Dr. Tom Price of Georgia, and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. Mulvaney, Pompeo, and Price are among the speakers tomorrow at the event, which will also feature Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, activists Rev. C.L. Bryant, Deneen Borelli, Julie Borowski, Ana Puig, and Maryland’s own Dan Bongino. Borelli is featured in this video decribing some of the features of the New Fair Deal.

“The New Fair Deal is a four-part legislative package that ends corporate handouts, closes loopholes in a simple tax code, balances the budget, and empowers Americans with the choice to opt-out of Medicare and Social Security,” explained FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe. “Individual freedom, economic empowerment and equal opportunity are the ultimate fair deal for Americans. No more pitting us against each other while politicians and big business pick winners and losers in the marketplace at the expense of everyday individuals,” he added.

It goes without saying, though, that the devil is in the details. For example, ending corporate subsidies is great for avoiding the next Solyndra or Ener1, but my friends at the American Petroleum Institute would argue that the tax package for oil exploration is vital to the industry’s success. They may have a point, so perhaps the best solution is to prioritize which subsidies would be axed first and which ones would have more of a transition. Being a fairly mature industry, it may take somewhat longer for the oil and natural gas companies to deal with these changes, as well as the sugar farmers who were targeted in the video. I could see a time window of three to five years for these industries, but green energy? Cut them off yesterday.

As far as a “fair tax code” I honestly don’t think there is such a thing, particularly with the proposal of a two-rate system as specified. I like the idea of a “skin in the game” tax where everyone has to pay at least 1 percent (for someone making $20,000 a year that’s $200 – not a back-breaker if you know it’s coming) but I disagree with the progressive rate change from 12% to 24% at $100,000. If we are to have a flat tax, it should be one rate regardless of income. Why would I take the overtime which would push me from a salary of $98,000 (and an $11,760 tax bill) to $101.000 only to have that and much more – since the tax bill would steeply jump to $24,240 – entirely eaten up by taxes? I understand the populist idea of the secretary paying less than the billionaire, but the solution proposed would be ripe for complication because of situations like the above. I’d rather work on repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and creating a consumption tax, which would be the most fair of all because one can control their level of consumption to the greatest extent.

Another area which suffers from being too broad is the concept of “overspending.”  Even if you cut off all discretionary spending tomorrow we would still have a deficit. Yes, we do need to eliminate the concept of baseline budgeting posthaste but we also have to lose the mindset which makes people fear their budget will be cut if they don’t spend their full allocation. While thousands and thousands of federal workers are superfluous to the task of good government, we have to educate the public as to why they need to be let go – you know the media will be portraying them as victims just like they tried to make a huge case that sequestration would be devastating.

Of the four planks presented, though, I really like the idea of the last one as expressed – the power of determining your own retirement and health care needs. In just 14 years I will be eligible for Social Security, but to be quite honest I don’t expect a dime from it because the system will be bankrupt by then in my estimation. (My writing was intended to be my “retirement” but real life intruded a little more quickly than I imagined it would.) The same goes for Medicare. If I had the choice, I would tell the government to give me back the money I paid into Social Security and Medicare – let me decide how to invest it best. This legislation may well allow me that option, although I suspect it will be tailored more to those under 40 who still have plenty of time to weigh all their retirement choices.

(Remember, though, I am on record as saying “Social Security should be sunsetted.” Nothing they can propose would eliminate that stance.)

The key to any and all of these changes taking place, though, is to remember none of this happens overnight. As it stands right now, the earliest we can make lasting national change in the right direction is January of 2017. Moreover, these Congressional visionaries and any other allies we may pick up along the way will be standing for election twice before a new President is inaugurated – and if the Republicans nominate another milquetoast “go along to get along” Beltway moderate who doesn’t buy into this agenda, the timetable becomes even longer.

But there is an opportunity in the interim, though. What statement would it make if Maryland – one of the most liberal states in the country according to the conventional wisdom – suddenly elected a conservative governor and confounded the intent of the heretofore powerful liberals in charge by electing enough members of the General Assembly to foil their overt gerrymandering attempts? No doubt it’s the longest of long shots, but let the liberals think they have this state in the bag. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch them fume as a Governor Charles Lollar, Larry Hogan, Blaine Young, or Dan Bongino is inaugurated – this after the stunning ascension of Speaker of the House Neil Parrott and President of the Senate E.J. Pipkin? Those who survived the collective hara-kiri and cranial explosions throughout the liberal Annapolis community would probably be reduced to bickering among themselves and pointing fingers of blame.

Our side often points to Virginia as a well-run state, but I think there are even better examples to choose from. Certainly there would be a transition period, but why not adopt some of these ideas as well as other “best and brightest” practices to improve Maryland and create a destination state for the producers as opposed to the takers?

If this sort of transformation can occur in Maryland, I have no doubt Washington D.C. would be next in line.