It depends on which Hillary Clinton gets the question. In front of the media, the Democratic frontrunner for the sap that gets stuck with Barack Obama’s agreement with Iran calls it “an important step,” but hedges away from complete endorsement of the deal:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the just-announced nuclear deal with Iran is an “important step in putting a lid on Iran’s nuclear program.”
Clinton, who said she will be briefed today on the details of the agreement, told reporters on Capitol Hill that the deal “will enable us to turn our attention, as it must, to doing what we can with other partners in the region and beyond to try to prevent and contain Iran’s other bad actions.”
And she noted that she would be “absolutely devoted” to ensuring that the parameters of the deal are enforced if she is elected president.
“This agreement will have to be enforced vigorously, relentlessly,” she said.
“We have to treat this as an ongoing enforcement effort, which I certainly strongly support,” she said. “And as president [I] would be absolutely devoted to ensuring that the agreement is followed.”
Behind the scenes with fellow Democrats, Hillary gets a lot more enthusiastic about the deal. According to a number of House Democrats, Hillary Clinton offered a “full-throated” endorsement of the bargain with the mullahs in a meeting on Capitol Hill today:
In a meeting with House Democrats on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton threw her support behind the deal the White House reached with Iran Monday night. The deal lifts sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran’s agreement not to pursue nuclear weaponization. …
Democrats who attended the meeting Monday morning say that Clinton unequivocally supported the agreement.
“She endorsed it full-throated,” Rep. Gerry Connolly said. “She was not equivocal at all in her support of the agreement as she understands it.”
Rep. Peter Welch wasn’t surprised by her stance, and also noted that Hillary bears some ownership of the result too:
“The whole negotiation began during the Bush administration,” Welch said. “She played a major role, and I thought she had a good analysis.”
This will certainly make for campaign fodder, but it’s a loser for Hillary in the long run. She will have to rely on Barack Obama and John Kerry to keep Iran in line for the next sixteen months to keep the deal from blowing up in her face as well as theirs. Republicans will almost certainly form a united front against the deal, with the possible exception of Rand Paul, and even that’ll be unlikely now that he has to cast a vote on the deal. Any hint of cheating, backsliding, demands for renegotiation, or access issues for the IAEA, and this deal will look like an utter stinker.
Still, Hillary might have had little chance of avoiding ownership of it. It’s true that she worked on P5+1 negotiations, but those were under a stricter context of what the US would accept. Kerry and Obama moved those goalposts nearly the length of the field over the last year, which Hillary could point out when it goes south. That won’t help much, though, because she’s going to have to defend Obama’s foreign policy no matter what she does now, since Republicans will run on the need for a dramatic change of direction in that arena. Scott Walker made that a major part of his campaign-launch speech yesterday, and Marco Rubio has been saying the same thing for months, as have Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and most of the field.
The best Hillary can do now is to embrace the deal conditionally in public to leave her just enough room to campaign on being the only person who can make it work — and pray it hasn’t collapsed before Election Day. That’s a mighty large bet.