Could Hillary Clinton <br>Lead the Democrats <br>From Debacle on Iran?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Could Hillary Clinton be the one to lead the Democrats out of the Iran debacle? Through the entire drama between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the woman who hopes to be the next president was nowhere to be seen.
Mrs. Clinton did give an interview — in Winnipeg, Canada — in which she echoed President Obama, warning that Russia and China might balk in the United Nations “if the US Congress imposes sanctions before we even know the answers to the questions we are asking.” Yet no one in Congress — not Senator Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is co-sponsor of the leading sanctions bill, nor even more confrontational figures like, say, Senators Cruz and Rubio — is talking about imposing sanctions before we know the answers.
The Menendez bill that has triggered this tumult would restore sanctions only if Iran fails to reach a deal with the Obama administration, or defaults on any deal it makes. Many Democrats have nonetheless worked themselves into an incredible lather. It’s hard to recall anything quite like the on-camera nervous breakdown the Democratic left wing held after Mr. Netanyahu’s speech.
One congressman, Kentuckey Democrat John Yarmuth, likened Mr. Netanyahu to a child. Another Democrat, Jared Huffman of California, suggested that Mr. Netanyahu, who was actually twice-wounded in combat, has “never seen a war he didn’t want our country to fight.” The most shocking was Represenative Jan Shakowsky, a Democrat of Illinois, who mocked Mr. Netanyahu for backing the Iraq war.
If Saddam Hussein were toppled, she quoted Mr. Netanyahu as saying in 2002, “I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region, and I think that people sitting right next door in Iran, young people and many others, will say that the time of such regime and such despots is gone.”
Funny: Those predictions were right as rain.Toppling Saddam did have positive reverberations in the region: The Libyan regime abandoned its nuclear program; democrats began to stir in Egypt, Tunisia and even in the Arab kingdoms. And also right next door in Iran, where protests over the 2009 election rocked the regime — which proceeded to force its own voters into submission.
Mr. Obama betrayed the Iranian democrats by standing silent while they were shot, gassed and beaten in the streets of Tehran. It was also Mr. Obama who yanked American GIs out of Iraq, creating the vacuum that the Islamic State raced to fill. It is Mr. Obama who is refusing to name the ideology of our enemy. And who, if he is leading anything, is leading a global retreat.
This is all part of a larger tragedy, a story of how the Democrats emerged as the party of isolation and fecklessness in foreign affairs. This started in Vietnam, when Senator Robert Kennedy turned on the war his older brother had inspired us to fight.
It was Ronald Reagan and the Republicans who picked up the American baton, declared for a policy of rollback of Soviet communism and led us to victory in the Cold War.
Not that Republicans are immune from the siren song of isolation. We’ll see how Senator Rand Paul fares if he enters the 2016 campaign. But where is Hillary Clinton going to be in that race?
Can she overcome her silence on Iran in 2009, her failed bid to reset relations with Russia and her blaming an Internet video (by a Coptic Christian protesting the murder of his co-religionists in Egypt) for the riots in Cairo and the al Qaeda attack on our Benghazi consulate? It’s going to be hard to explain away her actions as Mr. Obama’s secretary of state.
There are, though, occasional rays of hope. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, in a dispatch this week, recalls that in an interview last August, Mrs. Clinton took a significantly harder line than Obama. She told Goldberg that Iran has no “right” to enrich uranium at all. She also said that the desire of Israel and the Arabs to see Iran “denied any uranium-enrichment capability” was “not an unrealistic position.”
Tell that to Nancy Pelosi.
Don’t look for Mrs. Clinton to endorse Mr. Netanyahu for prime minister. But her occasional departures from the Obama line do remind us that there is a hawkish tradition within the Democratic Party.
My own favorite tribune of that tradition was Lane Kirkland of the AFL-CIO, who took a harder line than Reagan on Soviet communism. Will anyone pick up this tradition? It’s a key question as Hillary gets ready to announce a campaign to succeed the man who beat her in 2008.
This column originally appeared in the New York Post.