August 11, 2015


Sen. Chuck Schumer’s opposition to President Obama’s Iran deal took considerable courage. The senator from New York knew that Mr. Obama brooks no dissent among his supporters and that his enforcers go after anyone who breaks ranks. Within hours, Obama loyalists were on the streets warning that the senator’s “foolishness” would be an obstacle in his path to succeed Harry Reid as the party’s leader in the Senate. The Obama loyalists suggested that Mr. Schumer’s break wouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with his record. He supported the invasion of Iraq, after all, and seems willing to put Israeli interests above those of his own country.

This is a familiar canard. Mr. Schumer is Jewish, therefore he is sympathetic to the Jewish state. But so are most Americans, including many members of Congress, Christians of various stripe, and Americans of no religious faith at all. To imply that Mr. Schumer is disloyal because he disagrees with the Obama administration on the president’s deal with the mullahs is beyond the pale. The purveyors of such accusations should be ashamed of themselves.

We often disagree with Mr. Schumer, but he’s right this time. He closely studied the text of the agreement and its implications for the security of the United States, and rejects Mr. Obama’s assertion that it’s his way or war. Choices are rarely that simple and President Obama knows it. He may believe the agreement that he and Secretary of State John Kerry struck with Iran is a good deal for national security, but just because he says so doesn’t make it so. Even if it is, everyone else is free to disagree.

Mr. Schumer gives the president an “A” for effort, but an “A” for effort is not enough. He finds the result of the negotiations deeply flawed. He has serious misgivings with everything about the deal, and believes the “non-nuclear” passages particularly troubling:

“This aspect of the deal gives me the most pause,” he says. “For years, Iran has used military force and terrorism to expand its influence in the Middle East, actively supporting military or terrorist actions in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and Gaza. That is why the U.S. has labeled Iran as one of only three nations in the world who are “state sponsors of terrorism.” Under this agreement, Iran would receive at least $50 billion dollars in the near future and would undoubtedly use some of that money to redouble its efforts to create even more trouble in the Middle East, and, perhaps, beyond.”

Mr. Schumer observes that the agreement enables Iran to continue developing its capability to deliver the nuclear weapons it can build 10 years from now if it abides by the agreement, and sooner than that if it doesn’t. These are aspects of the deal that trouble many others.

President Obama likens opponents of the deal to the Iranian hardliners who oppose it for entirely different reasons, and suggests that Israel is interfering in American politics by expressing the view that it will make matters in their neighborhood worse, not better.

Politics ain’t beanbag, as Peter Finley Dunne’s Mr. Dooley famously observed, and Mr. Obama has every right to round up support for his deal, but there are limits imposed by a decent regard for the opinions of others. Demonizing an opponent is never acceptable, and for a president of the United States to do it is a disgrace. The accusation, made by the president’s friends and allies that Mr. Schumer is a disloyal Jew, goes beyond disgrace. The president and his friends owe Mr. Schumer an apology – and the president should tell his friends to knock it off.