Hillary Might Know Her Position On The Iran Deal, But Her Team Does Not

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jul 16, 2015 1:11 PM
Hillary Might Know Her Position On The Iran Deal, But Her Team Does Not

Yesterday, Obama held a press conference, where he chastised CBS News' Major Garrett over his question about American prisoners in Iran, and said that he’s confident this agreement will lead to a safer world. Obama has got this, guys. We can sleep soundly, right? Well, Guy laid out the Iranian deal, and (shocker) obviously it isn’t good:

The just-announced Iran deal confirms critics' worst fears: It hands an epic victory -- replete with twelve figures in sanctions relief -- to an outlaw, anti-American regime, it confers the West's blessing upon Iran's nuclear program, and it crosses numerous so-called "red lines" in doing so. The accord leaves Iran's vast nuclear infrastructure virtually entirely intact. Its restrictions automatically begin to phase out after a decade. It (almost immediately) pumps more than $100 billion into the regime's economy, providing Tehran with desperately-needed resources to step up its habitual terrorism abetment and toxic regional meddling. It eschews the sort of solid anytime/anywhere snap inspections regime proponents of the deal promised repeatedly. It permits Iran to maintain its infamous underground nuclear facility -- long seen as an emblem of Iranian lawlessness and non-compliance. It allows Tehran to press forward with research and development on advanced-level centrifuges.

So, this will probably become a 2016 campaign issue. What does the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, think about this framework? If you read Politico, it would seem as if she staunchly supports the deal. Yet, the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff asked members of her team about the former first lady’s opinion on this issue, and they didn’t know where she stood. That' a bit odd, right?

Following a closed-door meeting with House Democrats, Clinton, flanked by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, addressed a scrum of reporters for a few moments and talked a bit about the deal.

“Iran did obviously come up,” she said. “This is a very important moment.”

[…]

“Do you support the deal?” cried one reporter. “Does it embolden Iran?”

No word on that front.

So does Clinton actually support the Iran deal?

I approached Huma Abedin—one of the candidate’s top advisors—and asked her that question.

“We’re not totally clear if Secretary Clinton supports the Iran deal as it’s written,” I said. “Is it right that she supports the deal, or enforcement of the deal?”

“I think you should talk to Nick Merrill, our press secretary,” Abedin replied. “Let me find—yes, he’s here,” she said, telling me to wait while she found Merrill.

I waited there for a few minutes, but he didn’t materialize.

After Clinton disappeared for more meetings with Democratic lawmakers, senior spokesman Jesse Ferguson chatted with a few reporters about her comments.

I asked if Clinton was somewhere on a spectrum between support and opposition of the deal.

Ferguson laughed.

“It’s right to say that of pretty much everybody, I would hope, right?” he said. “Like everybody lives somewhere between support and opposition.”

[…]

Never mind that Clinton’s longtime foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan secretly helped laid the groundwork in 2012 to kick off the talks. So, knowing that, she presumably will back the deal while being respectful of Netanyahu’s opposition. Right?

If that’s the case, Sullivan wasn’t saying so at a breakfast with reporters across town.

“There goes the laser focus on the middle-class economy,” he quipped during the breakfast, which was sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Woodruff added that Sullivan’s positive remarks about the deal were of his own opinions.

MSNBC's Kristen Welker wasn't successful eliciting an answer either:

Additionally, the National Review  reported that some members of Obama’s own party aren’t necessarily thrilled with this deal. Sen. Bob Menendez has certainly made his reservations known. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said, “Iran remains destructive around the globe. Iran is going to remain a problem — not a partner — for the United States and our allies in the Middle East… I remain uncomfortable with the fact that we have spent so much time negotiating with a country that opposes our interests in so many ways across the region.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was quoted as saying, “Without verification, this is a useless agreement.” Hoyer was possibly referring to the fact that we have no “anytime, anywhere” access to Iran’s nuclear sites with this deal, despite Obama official Ben Rhodes saying it would be etched in stone when an agreement is reached. Rhodes has since said this concession was never sought from Iran during negotiations.

Yet, have no fear because Vice President Joe Biden is quarterbacking the effort to sell this to the Hill.  For some reason, I think of Chris Farley and the movie "Tommy Boy" every time I think about Biden tasked with selling ... anything.

Last Note: CBS News says Hillary supports the deal insofar that it's a good first step, but she's still "studying the details."