Dick Cheney hands Obama an Iran victory: His speech denouncing diplomacy is good news for the nuclear deal

The ex-veep is poised to give a big speech blasting the Iran deal. Supporters of the deal couldn't be happier

By Simon Maloy

Published August 25, 2015 5:20PM (EDT)

  (AP/Cliff Owen)
(AP/Cliff Owen)

It’s looking more and more like the multilateral diplomatic agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities will survive efforts by congressional Republicans to scuttle it. When the 60-day review period began in mid-July, the big question facing the GOP was whether it could secure a sufficient number of Democratic defectors in both houses to pass a resolution blocking the removal of sanctions of Iran and override an expected veto from President Obama. With the clock ticking, Republicans are finding Democratic defectors in short supply – only two Senate Democrats have declared their opposition, while 28 have lined up behind the deal.

That means Obama needs just six more Senate backers to sustain a veto. If he can somehow cobble together 41 votes in the Senate, the resolution will fall victim to a filibuster and won’t even reach his desk. There are still reasons for trepidation on the part of the deal’s supporters, as Greg Sargent details today, but the deal’s opponents are facing some difficult math and an utter lack of momentum.

What they need is someone who can completely change this dynamic. They need a beloved elder statesman – someone who commands bipartisan respect, has unimpeachable credibility on national security issues, and the moral authority to deliver a strong enough message to convince the dwindling pool of potential Democratic defectors to break with the president.

Instead they’re getting Dick Cheney.

The former vice president and snarling mascot of unrepentant neoconservative failures is going to give a big speech on the Iran deal next month, about a week before Congress’ deadline for action. There’s no real mystery as to what Cheney will say – he’ll frame Obama’s diplomatic outreach with Iran as weakness and failure because that’s what Cheney says about literally everything Obama does. And he’ll probably throw some apocalyptic rhetoric in there – last month he told Sean Hannity that the deal “put us closer to use — actual use of nuclear weapons than we’ve been at any time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.” There are no surprises when it comes to Dick Cheney.

This speech is part of Cheney’s plan to get his name and face out there in the service of promoting neoconservatism ahead of the 2016 elections. He and his daughter, failed Senate candidate Liz Cheney, have a book coming out next week that blasts the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The two set up a non-profit group, The Alliance for a Strong America, that was supposed to be a vehicle for disseminating their national security arguments, but now seems to be moribund – click over to the group’s website and you’ll get an error message saying that its domain registration expired last week.

It may well be the case that by the time Cheney’s speech rolls around, enough Democrats will have signaled their support and the issue will already have been decided. Either way, it’s hard to think of someone less well-suited to the job of building bipartisan opposition to the diplomatic framework than Cheney, who remains largely reviled outside the pages of the Weekly Standard. For a backer of the deal, a little Cheney intervention might actually seem like a positive development – if the guy who said we’d be greeted as liberators in Iraq is against it, then the default correct position must be to support it.

And I’m still puzzled by Dick Cheney's insistence on making himself a highly visible spokesman for neoconservative causes. By and large, the Republican presidential field already subscribes to his mode of thinking: they promise to tear up the Iran deal, promote regime change in Syria, and defend the Iraq war. And there are so many other people out there making the same exact arguments he is who enjoy the distinct advantage of not being the former vice president who helped lie and manipulate the country into a disastrous war. The worst thing he could do for his cause is to remind people that he exists and make his sneering mug the face the Republican foreign policy in 2016. But if that’s his plan, I wish him the best of luck: for those of us who want to avoid repeating any of the catastrophic foreign policy errors of the Bush years, it’s useful to have Dick Cheney to kick around.

Simon Maloy

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