When 42 Senate Democrats blocked debate on the Iran deal, they prevented a floor vote that would have resulted in a bill rejecting the pact negotiated by John Kerry and approved by Barack Obama. Recent polling from Pew shows support for the deal at 21% — the kind of level that indicates the fringe of American politics. The House passed a bill to reject the nuclear deal by a 269-162 margin. Yet after the filibuster, Obama bragged about the “strong support” he received for the deal from “lawmakers and citizens alike”:
“Since we concluded these negotiations, we have had the most consequential national security debate since the decision to invade Iraq more than a decade ago. Over the last several weeks, the more members studied the details of this deal, the more they came out in support. Today, I am heartened that so many Senators judged this deal on the merits, and am gratified by the strong support of lawmakers and citizens alike.”
Er … what? Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler is similarly mystified. Not only did both chambers of Congress oppose the deal, polls all summer long showed the deal losing support the more people heard about it, and not just from Pew. The YouGov polls dropped from 45% support to 23% in less than two months; the NBC/WSJ polling series never had support above 35%; and Reuters daily polling showed a five-day average support level of just 29.4% at the beginning of September.
Besides, when it takes a filibuster to avoid an embarrassing (if not permanent) rejection of the deal, a president can’t turn around and claim a mandate. At best, as Kessler says, it’s “winning ugly”:
As you can see, support for the agreement consistently dropped over the summer, even as the White House was picking up enough votes from Democratic lawmakers to thwart a resolution nullifying the agreement. In large part, the shift is because the debate became hyper-partisan. As Republican lawmakers unified in opposition, sentiment among Republican voters also turned against the deal.
But the polls also reflect declining support among Democrats. By the beginning of September, there was barely a poll that, outside the margin of error, indicated majority support for the deal, let alone “strong” support. …
Anyway you slice it, it is difficult to support the claim that there is “strong support” for the Iran deal among lawmakers and citizens. This is clearly a case of winning ugly, in the face of minority support among lawmakers and increasing opposition among American citizens.
Obama gets three Pinocchios from Kessler, which seems low given the baldly propagandistic and provably false nature of the claim, but YMMV. It brings up another issue about credibility, too. Is this “strong support” anything like the “strong inspections” Obama promises will be part of this deal? How about Obama’s claims of maintaining a “strong relationship” with our ally, Israel? The Times of Israel wonders whether Obama can regain Israel’s trust after cutting this deal with their existential-threat enemies:
Wide swaths of the Israeli public, particularly supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have little trust in the American leader, considering him naive and even hostile. One recent poll showed less than a tenth considered him “pro-Israel.”
Such misgivings bode poorly for Obama as he tries to repair ties with Israel in the final year of his presidency, and they would certainly complicate any renewed effort at brokering peace between Israel and its neighbors — once a major Obama ambition. …
“The average Israeli probably thinks that he is a nice guy, but he is naive,” said Alexander Yakobson, a historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In Israeli eyes, “he doesn’t get the Middle East, doesn’t understand how the Mideast functions, and he doesn’t therefore understand what dangers Israel has to face,” he added. …
But the biggest issue has been the US-led nuclear agreement with Iran. Politicians across the spectrum have come out against deal, agreeing with Netanyahu’s assessment that it does not have sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from gaining the ability to make a bomb and that it will boost Iran’s influence across the region. Iran is a key backer of Israel’s toughest enemies, and Netanyahu has warned that the ending of sanctions against Iran will result in more money and arms flowing to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Recent opinion polls reflect these sentiments. In one survey published Sunday in the Maariv daily, 77 percent of respondents said the deal endangers Israel, compared to 15 percent who said it didn’t. The poll interviewed 500 people and had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.
Hey, don’t worry, Israel! Obama says he’s a “strong supporter” of Israel. And now you know what that means.