A legacy is an enduring gift, or in the case of a politician, some noteworthy accomplishment that will go down in history as a lasting benefit or detriment to the people they served. For example, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s legacy is the New Deal provisions that gave the American people several protections including security in old age, workplace protections, and regulations to keep oligarchy at bay among many, many others. Conversely, George W. Bush’s legacy is two protracted and unnecessary Middle East wars, an economic catastrophe not seen since the Great Depression, and an overbearing police state spying on Americans’ every move. The current President, Barack Obama, will go down in history for providing tens-of-millions of Americans with access to affordable health care, restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, an historic climate change deal with China, and with the stroke of his pen, ceding executive branch authority over foreign policy to a Congress loyal to a foreign national.
In signaling that he will sign legislation giving veto power over the Iran nuclear deal to Netanyahu’s Republicans, as the New York Times and several other news outlets reported, “Obama yields authority over the Iran nuclear deal to Congress.” In relenting to Israel’s demands that Netanyahu’s acolytes in Congress supersede the Executive Branch’s authority to negotiate with foreign nations, Obama caved to Republican demands that the president of the United States is a just figurehead, and as many pro-Israel pundits claimed; Benjamin Netanyahu is the leader of the free world and has the right to dictate American foreign policy in the Middle East.
The White House announcement that President Obama conceded defeat and will sign Netanyahu’s legislation is a major disappointment to any American that held out hope he could really stand strong in the face of Netanyahu’s unrelenting assault and power play for control of American Middle East policy. But like the New York Times said, “The agreement means Congress muscled its way into nuclear negotiations that Mr. Obama sees as a legacy-defining foreign policy achievement;” a legacy-defining achievement Obama apparently lost the will to fight for.
For months the negotiators from Iran and the other members of the United Nations P5+1 group have “voiced concern that Congress could fatally undermine a deal before a June 30 deadline for a final pact;” it turns out they were right and did not underestimate the authority Benjamin Netanyahu wields over Washington. Now they understand that America is on a very short Israeli leash that Obama appeared to test only to be jerked back to reality and yield to Netanyahu’s Congress. Future presidents will be burdened with the precedent Obama is setting that foreign policy or negotiations with foreign nations are no longer the purview of the Executive Branch; that authority belongs to the U.S. Congress when Obama signs off on Netanyahu’s legislation.
It is the legislation that Benjamin Netanyahu lobbied for when John Boehner invited him to address Congress as surrogate for the legally-elected president; the one that used to have authority to negotiate with foreign powers and set American foreign policy without interference from a foreigner running this nation’s Congress. As it turns out, despite how many other times Obama has bested Boehner on his attempts to subvert his authority as president; Boehner won the big one when it counted for a precedent-setting maneuver that fundamentally transfers authority over foreign policy decisions to Congress. Likely it is not the legacy-defining achievement Obama sought, but when he signs Netanyahu’s legislation, he will have doomed all future presidents to subject themselves to Congressional vetoes over foreign policy and negotiations with foreign nations.
It is difficult to determine what crushed Obama’s resolve to hold the line against Netanyahu’s demand that Republicans get final authority to scuttle the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Perhaps it was when 47 Republicans issued a letter to Iran’s hardliners, or maybe it was the Israeli leader’s re-election last month, likely there was intense pressure from the military industrial complex desperate for America to engage in another Middle East war, or it possibly was Netanyahu’s speech before Congress. Whatever the reason, Obama conceded that Congress gets the final say on the agreement between the United Nation’s P5+1 and Iran that Republicans have indicated they will never allow to go forward; particularly when Netanyahu lusts for an American war with Iran.
Mr. Obama’s attempt at diplomacy with Iran, albeit noteworthy, will turn out to be an exercise in futility, a betrayal of the United Nations P5+1, a massive waste of Secretary of State John Kerry’s time, and send a signal to Iran that what the 47 Republican signatories of an open letter to Iranian hardliners claimed is absolutely true; America cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith or fulfill its commitments to Iran or its co-negotiators. Republicans and a few Israeli-Democrats have spent the past year decrying the negotiations and agreement as dead-in-the-water if they get their way, and now that Obama lost the will to fight for what critics and proponents alike said was a very good deal, Republicans earned the right to do what Netanyahu wanted all along; scuttle the deal and pave the way for an American war with Iran.
Speaker of the House John Boehner was instrumental in Obama’s concession by calling in Netanyahu to demand that Congress pass legislation giving them veto power over the Iran deal. After Obama said he would sign Netanyahu’s legislation, Boehner rejoiced and said, “We couldn’t count on the administration, who appears to want a deal at any cost. Congress absolutely should have the opportunity to review this deal.” The legislation mandates that Obama sends the text of a final agreement to Congress as soon as it is completed, and blocks Obama’s ability to waive many U.S. sanctions on Iran included in the P5+1 deal. It also allows a final vote on whether America lifts sanctions agreed to in the final deal.
The legislation Obama said he will sign, according to its author Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and co-author Democrat Benjamin Cardin (MD), puts authority over the deal where Israel says it belongs; Netanyahu’s Congress regardless it is not a treaty. Corker also said the White House is lying by claiming there were changes in the legislation it could reluctantly live with. Corker likely was truthful when he said “the only change that occurred was when they saw how many senators were going to vote for this, and only when that occurred.” Cardin concurred saying “the fundamental provisions of the legislation had not changed.” Both of Netanyahu’s lackeys are right; Congress will have final say over the deal.
In fact, the overriding thinking in Washington is that the president was “overrun” by Netanyahu’s Republicans and eight Democrats who are Hell-bent and duty-bound to sabotage the president’s attempt at diplomacy with Iran. The eight Democrats, by the way, are securely in the pocket of the pro-Israel lobby to the tune of $1,053,067 in campaign donations. That amount does not include the fortune they collect from the weapons manufacturers that were seriously concerned that a successful deal with Iran would prevent another American war and cut into their profits.
Obviously, Republicans and Benjamin Netanyahu are ecstatic over Obama’s surrender on the legislation he said he would veto as late as last week. What is discouraging is that he was not even willing to force the House and Senate to garner the necessary votes to override a presidential veto and signal to his P5+1 partners that he was willing to go to the mat to see the deal reach fruition. Instead, as most news’ outlets rightly reported, President Obama relented, yielded, or caved to Republicans and some Democrats who are loyal to Benjamin Netanyahu who said he would never allow the deal to progress. He also promised that if Congress could not amass the votes to scuttle the deal he would bomb Iran in protest and start another American war in the Middle East; something his Congress now has the authority to do.
Congress earned its newfound authority when President Obama signaled that he will sign legislation giving Congress final say over the months of negotiations with Iran that will likely be a total and complete waste of time. It is also a precedent-setting move that future president’s will regret because throughout this nation’s history, negotiations with foreign nations and final say over agreements that are not treaties was the purview of the Executive Branch of government; something Barack Obama will end with the stroke of his pen, be part of his enduring legacy, and a major concession to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.