Iran Deal: Why Debbie Wasserman Schultz is Crying

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Joe Raedle / Getty)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Joe Raedle / Getty)

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz cried over the Iran deal on CNN’s State of the Union this weekend when she was asked by host Jake Tapper what she would say to fellow Jews who would say to her that she had “sold out Israel” by casting a vote in favor of the agreement.

Wasserman Schultz briefly lost her composure as she argued that she believed she had strengthened Israeli and American security by supporting it.

You know, I’m the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress. I’m a Jewish mother. And I wrote an op-ed today that is in The Miami Herald, my home–one of my hometown papers that talked about my Jewish heart [chokes up] and how important this was to me that, as a Jewish mother, that we have a concept of l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation.

There’s nothing more important to me, as a Jew, to ensure that Israel’s existence is there throughout our generations. And I’m confident that the process I have gone through to reach this decision is one that will ensure that Israel will be there forever. It’s the homeland of my people. I’m an American citizen, and I believe fervently in protecting America’s national security interests. And there’s no way that we would be able to ensure that better than approving this deal and ensuring that Iran is not ever able to get access to nuclear weapons, and that we can shift our focus with the rest of the world on going after their terrorist ambitions.

And, most importantly, I had the privilege of talking with President Obama last night, who assured me that, as we move forward and discuss with Israel enhanced–the enhanced security package that will absolutely be essential for us to provide to Israel, as well as ensure that we tighten the ability–our ability to enforce this deal, that I will be part of a group of members of Congress that will be working with him and his administration on that. That’s critical for me.

Wasserman Schultz’s defense can be summarized as follows. 1. She cares deeply about Israel’s existence, which ought to mean she has made the right decision. 2. The Iran deal protects Israel because it prevents Iran from “ever” gaining access to nuclear weapons. 3. The Iran deal allows the world to shift focus to the regime’s terrorism. 4. The president will offer Israel an “enhanced security package” that will be “essential” in the aftermath of the Iran deal.

None of these arguments is convincing. Let us take each in turn.

1. Wasserman Schultz may care about Israel, but that is not reflected in her political leadership. During her time as chair, the Democrats have moved away from pro-Israel positions–most visibly in the floor fight at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. People can care about an issue and still be wrong. And, quite possibly, she cries because she really does care–and knows she is wrong.

2. Wasserman Schultz is wrong that the deal prevents Iran from “ever” attaining nuclear weapons. It is, at best, a temporary deal. The so-called “permanent” provisions citied by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are non-binding and voluntary. Even the deal’s defenders–such as, lately, Colin Powell–acknowledge that the deal merely kicks the can down the road. If Wasserman Schultz thinks otherwise, she is deeply confused.

3. The Iran deal does not shift the world’s focus to terrorism. Clearly, it does the opposite by providing the regime with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief that even the Obama administration admits will be used, at least partly, to fund terror. Confronting Iran’s terror in the region would also require a dramatic escalation in the U.S. military presence in the region. The Obama administration is plainly moving in the opposite direction.

4. Unlike the Saudis, who have traded away their public opposition to the Iran deal in exchange for sophisticated weaponry, the Israeli government has resisted the Obama administration’s offers of military aid in exchange for supporting the Iran deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees this as an existential and moral issue, and has refused to be bought. And if the Iran deal makes Israel safer, why does it need new weapons in the aftermath?

So none of Wasserman Schultz’s arguments to Jake Tapper suffice. In her article in the Miami Herald, she offered a more detailed explanation of her position. It is one of the more heartfelt defenses of the Iran deal yet, but still fails. She accepts, for example, the president’s claim that “Iran cannot self-inspect.” She does so on the basis of classified information about Iran’s side deals with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

We still do not know, however, if she has actually read the documents–nor do we know why they have not been presented to Congress, as required by law. To believe her, we simply have to trust President Obama, who has misled Americans throughout this process.

Wasserman Schultz’s tears are real–this has probably been her toughest ordeal. But she knows she has chosen party over principle. At some level, even in the most political of souls, that decision has to hurt. As well it should.

The sentence “It is impossible to know whether Wasserman Schultz cares sincerely for Israel’s existence” has been replaced–in retrospect, it was unduly harsh.




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