Whatever: Top Hillary donor hints that she opposes Obama's deal with Iran

You know what would clarify whether Hillary opposes Obama’s deal with Iran?

Hillary taking questions on whether she opposes Obama’s deal with Iran.

[Haim] Saban responded carefully, “She will have to, at some stage, express her opinion. But we know that in essence and in every important matter, she is committed to the security of Israel. She is a friend of the State of Israel. And we’ve seen this over the past 25 to 30 years. So, there won’t be any problems with relations between the United States and Israel when Hillary Clinton is president. No problem. On the contrary.”…

“I know where she stands but I can’t talk about it,” Saban admitted.

“Give me a hint,” Ayalon had to ask.

“I hinted to you – that I know,” Saban couldn’t repress a laugh. “But I can’t reveal to you things that were said behind closed doors. She has an opinion, a very well-defined opinion. And in any case, everything that she thinks and everything she has done and will do will always be for the good of Israel. We don’t need to worry about this.”

Being “committed to the security of Israel” in this context can only be code for “she thinks O’s deal stinks on ice.” Saban would be in a position to know too: He’s a multi-billionaire who’s been showering cash on the Clintons for decades and will shower much, much more on them over the next 16 months. He can get an audience with Her Majesty whenever he likes, I’m sure, which means he really might be privy to her true feelings about Iran negotiations.

Now let me ask you this. Does it matter what her true feelings are? It matters a lot once she’s elected, of course, but I’m talking about Hillary as a candidate. Hypothetically, even if she does secretly oppose Obama’s negotiations with Iran, paint me a picture where she’d feel safe politically in announcing that. Poll after poll shows that the public supports negotiating with Iran even though skepticism about Iranian intentions is off the charts. Hillary wouldn’t dare say a critical word about negotiations while they’re ongoing for fear of enraging the left by undermining O; Tom Cotton and the Senate GOP spent a week being called “traitors” for supposedly doing something like that, remember? As long as there’s a deal in the works, Hillary will be silent about it at worst and publicly supportive at best.

If Obama actually reaches a final deal with Tehran, which seems unlikely, the pressure on her to back it as nominee will grow even more intense. After all, if O’s likely successor starts signaling that she’ll back out once she’s sworn in, the deal could collapse instantly. Plus, Republicans will spend the last 15 months of the presidential campaign attacking the deal at every turn, precipitating a ferocious defensive backlash among progressives who want to preserve Obama’s big “achievement.” Hillary’s going to have enough problems holding Obama’s coalition together without being accused of sabotaging his most prominent diplomatic initiative, especially given the left’s worries that she’ll be unacceptably hawkish as president. There’s simply no way she’ll cross them by joining the GOP in attacking O for it.

In fact, as Twitter pal David Shor reminds me, she already expressed support for a deal in principle (although not the precise terms of the deal reached earlier this month) in a letter to Carl Levin in January 2014. Sample quote:


There’s Hillary telling you in her own words that America can’t afford to be seen as the recalcitrant party in this negotiation. Having said that, how’s she supposed to undercut a deal now that’s been agreed to by her old boss in the White House, our allies in Europe, and Iran?

The most a hawk can expect from her on this is a hedge where she claims she likes the deal, praises Obama for his amazing accomplishment, and then claims “grave doubts” about whether Iran will hold up its end of the bargain. “We cannot allow Israel’s security to be threatened,” she’ll say, as if the deal doesn’t already do that. The only way she’d cut bait and turn on a final agreement after it’s signed is if Obama himself turns on it by accusing Iran of cheating and then seeking relief at the UN. She’ll have other opportunities to distance herself from his foreign policy (remember this?) without kneecapping him on the one he cares the most about. The real question here, I think, isn’t what her true feelings are but whether she told Saban what he wanted to hear and/or if he’s now telling pro-Israel Democrats what they want to hear. She’s not going to alienate a donor as important, and as supportive of Israel, as he is by backing up O on Iran. And Saban surely knows that. In which case, is he willingly covering for her by inventing some nonsense about how she opposes Obama’s negotiations or did she actually persuade him that that she does?