It’s always mushroom clouds with these guys. Secure America Now, a 501c4, has released a sequel of sorts to Lyndon Johnson’s infamous Daisy ad that equated electing Barry Goldwater with nuclear Armageddon. Daisy 2 accuses Barack Obama of “failing” to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, a humdinger of a lie that overlays the original ad’s message of peace with the drumbeats of war.
We’ve all seen the original: A little blonde girl standing in a field picks the petals from the eponymous flower while a voiceover counts down. Then comes the mushroom cloud. In a decision no contemporary media consultant would allow, Pres. Johnson finishes with his own narration over images of rolling clouds of fire: “We must either love each other, or we must die.” No one needed to coach LBJ on message discipline.
The sequel is almost never as good as the original, and Daisy 2 is no Godfather 2. The little blonde girl is still standing alone in a field, and the narrator again starts, “These are the stakes.” Except this time the choice is between “stand[ing] up to supporters of terrorism, or we and our allies [read: Israel] risk losing the freedom we cherish,” a construct more Dwayne Johnson than Lyndon Johnson.
Here is the central irony at the heart of the issue: The original Daisy ad was meant to cast a harsh light on the belligerent, conservative machine that was thundering toward war. Now, that same imagery is being used to fuel that machine in a transparent attempt to derail the critical work that the Obama administration has been doing to keep Iran from joining the nuclear club.
Obama’s first impression still fuels the misperception that he has been weak on Iran. In the fourth Democratic presidential debate in 2007, then-Sen. Obama shocked post-9/11 sensibilities by saying he would “be willing to meet separately, without precondition” with leaders of Iran, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who believed Israel must be “wiped off the map.”
“And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them – which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration – is ridiculous,” said Obama.
This seemed foolish at the time, and Hillary Clinton jumped on it as if he’d made a gaffe. Later, John McCain called Obama’s willingness to try diplomacy with Iran “reckless, and demonstrates poor judgment that will make the world more dangerous.”
It didn’t, not that you can tell from Daisy 2.
“We must not let the jihadist government of Iran get a nuclear bomb. President Obama has an opportunity to stop it. But he is failing,” says the narrator while a thousand pants burst into a tower of flame.
Maybe the good folks at Keep America Safe just don’t know about America’s success in keeping Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, because the best-kept secret in town is that Obama’s “wreckless” diplomacy is paying off. Economic sanctions brought Iran to the table, and we’re getting real concessions by playing poker with their money. It might disappoint and confuse the Dick Cheneys of the world, but Obama is getting his way in Iran without firing a shot.
Last year, United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany signed a first-step agreement with Iran to freeze their nuke program while they negotiated a permanent treaty, and this agreement was recently extended until November. The terms of the freeze required Iran to destroy its stockpile of highly enriched uranium, stop building new centrifuges, halt work on its heavy water plutonium reactor, and allow full access to the International Atomic Energy Agency for video surveillance and surprise inspections—all in exchange for lifting some sanctions and letting Iran have access to their frozen accounts in London banks.
Contrary to what Daisy 2 claims, Iran is further away from having a nuclear bomb that it was when Obama took office. If conservatives were sincerely interested in creating a nuclear-free Iran, they would stop undercutting the ongoing negotiations and support the extension of the nuclear freeze.
Those who don’t understand history are doomed to remix it, and those who would subvert success in nuclear non-proliferation for their own political ends are doomed to post their web ads on Breitbart, which is about the only place Daisy 2 is getting any run. There are plenty of reasons to disagree with Obama’s foreign policy without pretending to find fault with the one place Obama made a risky move that paid off.
Jason Stanford is a partner with the Truman National Security Project. He is also a national Democratic consultant based in Austin, Texas, and writes regular columns for The Austin American-Statesman and The Quorum Report.