Tempers Flare on the Bullshit Express

I was on vacation last week. But I didn’t miss that the White House finally secured enough votes to block any attempts to scuttle the Iran Deal negotiated by the US, Iran and other world powers. We now know the Iran Deal antis have definitively lost. And today we have news of the final indignity: The White House has secured 41 votes for the deal in the Senate, which means that in all likelihood the GOP and Netanyahu and Ambassador Dermer won’t even get the vote they were hoping to use to embarrass the President and delegitimize the deal even if they couldn’t block it. But even more than in whip counts, which have been bubbling up over recent weeks, you could see this coming watching the social media accounts of the key propagandists and pressure group operatives as things went south and they made their journey from frustration, to disbelief and rage, culminating finally in a species of spittle-based vitriol and vainglorious derp.

In a peace offering to my mental health, I quit Twitter this Spring. But I still get the echo of Twitter ranting as wingnut friends repost some of the fun to my Facebook feed. And, reader, let me confide this to you: it’s been glorious.

Here just by way of example are some recent greats from a guy named Noah Pollak, one of the coarsest of the bunch, who runs a Bill Kristol-founded group called the Emergency Committee for Israel, a group whose name is actually an homage to a few 70s era pressure groups established by Kristol’s father and other first-generation neoconservatives to peddle phony numbers about alleged Soviet missile superiority – claims that were definitively discredited after the end of the Cold War.

We go from the kind of manic outrage that can only be born of the frustration of defeat …

To the ridiculous ..

To the willfully and knowingly fake claims of anti-Semitism …

To the heights of self-parody …

The encomium to the “Vice President of Free America” is likely the best tribute and epigraph to this long-running charade.

But remember, it wasn’t supposed to go like this. Republicans were looking for an Obamacare/Tea Party-like storm to overtake Democrats over the August recess – a popular outcry, rowdy town halls and constituent backlashes that would change the calculus when Congress returned in September. But it just didn’t happen. At all. The antis had put together huge sums of money – so much in fact that they were struggling to find places to spend it. (When you see web ads in New York telling Senators from Maryland to vote “no” on the Iran deal, you know they’re struggling to spend all of Adelson’s and the rest’s money before the vote makes the whole thing moot.) But it didn’t work. The votes just kept trickling in the wrong direction.

Even the timing was hilariously off. “Vice President of Free America” Dick Cheney gave his speech today at AEI. But it’s already over. Believe me, that was not the plan. The idea was that the vote was still a week or so away. Then the inevitable veto. And then the high stakes politicking over the hoped-for-veto override. In other words, this fight was just supposed to be hitting high gear. But it’s over before, in these guys thinking, it even got started.

Part of the problem here is that the antis really convinced themselves of several things that were simply not true. First, they do have a stranglehold over a lot of rightwing Jewish donors. And they were able to exploit a lot of fears of American Jews. Indeed, they were able to kick off something like a civil war within American Jewry by calling deal supporters traitors and duping reporters in places like the Times into thinking that supporters of the deal were pursuing the same kind of scorched earth policy they were. (Claiming deal supporters, including the President, are using dogwhistle anti-Semitism to push support for the deal has been the most cynical, scandalous and shameless lie propagated by the antis in this whole mess which has been one of the most shameless episodes in recent American history – which is saying a lot.) Most American Jews actually support the deal – though that’s not the case with the organized establishment of American Jewry. Far more important, though, is that the antis managed to convince themselves that Americans at large overwhelmingly opposed the deal.

This simply was not ever the case. The truth is that impassioned minorities oppose and support the deal. The rest of the public isn’t that focused on it and doesn’t care that much. You can see this because polls routinely produce contrary results – support or opposition – and they’re entirely dependent on how the question is asked. What the “right” way to ask the question is is anyone’s guess. But results like that mean that most people don’t have terribly strong opinions on the question and don’t care that much about it.

The sweetest irony of this whole drama is that the Democrats biggest advantage in delivering the votes for President Obama is none other then Benjamin Netanyahu and his haplessly malevolent Ambassador Ron Dermer. By directly interposing himself into internal US politics and working to humiliate the President with his speech before Congress in March, Netanyahu partisanized the debate. He made a lot of Democrats who might have been more open to the hawkish arguments against the deal more reflexively hostile to Netanyahu, Dermer (who was openly lobbying “no” votes in the halls of Congress) and the rest of the American antis. After the effort collapsed, even AIPAC officials were telling the Israeli press that Netanyahu’s speech had made their work all the harder.

“Netanyahu’s speech in Congress made the Iranian issue a partisan one,” an AIPAC official told the Israeli news website Walla News. “As soon as he insisted on going ahead with this move, which was perceived as a Republican maneuver against the president, we lost a significant part of the Democratic party, without which it was impossible to block the agreement.”

Netanyahu prides himself on understanding every nuance of America and American politics. He speaks flawless English, a first for an Israeli PM and he’s spent significant parts of his youth and early adulthood in the US. He also surrounds himself with many advisors who are themselves immigrants from the United States – Dermer and longtime advisor Dore Gold being examples. It’s often joked that his top policy discussions are often held in English. But these are all folks who come out of Republican politics and even at that have not been in US politics for a long time. It’s an old playbook. By making an open alliance not just with the GOP but more specifically with President Obama’s most aggrieved enemies, Netanyahu not only brought the US-Israel alliance to one of its lowest points and triggered a crisis within the American Jewish community, he also failed spectacularly on his own terms: blocking or even delegitimizing the Iran Deal. As I said, I think Netanyahu et al always knew blocking the deal was a real uphill battle. But they thought they could delegitimize the deal by forcing the President to fall back on a veto and discredit the President himself.

This is what leaders in the highest echelons of Israel’s intelligence and military establishments were worried about. They certainly weren’t supporters of the deal. But their view was far more equivocal and balanced than the over-the-top nonsense coming from Netanyahu and American antis. Their big fear was that Netanyahu would damage ties with the US in a hopeless effort to defeat the deal. In other words, exactly what happened.

Now even the most assiduous advocates of a US-Israel alliance based what in Israel is termed the ‘national camp’ are openly saying that Netanyahu actually made it easier for President Obama to seal the deal. While reasonable people can criticize or oppose the deal, the arguments made against it in the public sphere have been almost without exception complete horseshit. The kind of pack of lies we remember from the lead up to the Iraq War, which, remember, Netanyahu himself testified before Congress would be a huge success and the best way to spur regime change in Iran.

They can carp about how Democrats are going to pay at the polls for their votes in 2016. But they won’t. That’s not what the polls show at all. Now it’s up to Israel’s real supporters, right and left, to try to pick up the pieces from Netanyahu’s gambit which has failed so spectacularly.

For the moment, this is what the antis are reduced to …

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