RSS
No, the Iran deal is not a manufactured distraction from ObamaCare
Republicans cry foul over presidential multi-tasking
 
The timing of John Kerry's deal is too convenient for some Republican leaders. 
The timing of John Kerry's deal is too convenient for some Republican leaders.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Critics of the nuclear accord struck between Iran, the United States, and five other global superpowers are deeply skeptical about the deal's terms, fearing it is too weak and relies too much on placing trust in a secretive state.

Some Republicans, meanwhile, think the deal is a farce for another reason.

Cornyn isn't just any random Republican either. He's the Minority Whip, the second-ranking GOPer in the Senate, so his opinion carries more weight than if someone akin to, say, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) unloaded on the administration with a factually-light claim.

The argument gained some credibility Sunday when Bob Schieffer repeated it in question form on Face the Nation to House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) McCarthy, for his part, offered only a semi-dismissal: "I know they need some other type of news, but that would be the biggest mistake any administration could do. I would hope that would never be the case."

As "distraction" murmurs intensified, Cornyn doubled down on the claim. And come Monday, Fox News' morning hosts were opining on how Secretary of State John Kerry, amid the ObamaCare debacle, magically "pulls a rabbit out of his hat and changes the subject."

There's one huge problem with the augment: The deal was reportedly in the works for at least eight months — or well before ObamaCare went live and exposed glaring problems with the health care website.

Administration and Iranian officials met in Oman back in March for the first of at least five secret meetings, according to the Associated Press. The AP learned of the first meeting soon after it happened, the news agency said, but could not confirm the details and so sat on the story until now.

Going back even further, Secretary of State John Kerry, while still in the Senate in 2011, began forging ties with the Omanis that may have laid the groundwork for the nuclear negotiations.

Certainly, President Obama would like to talk about something other than his administration's poor handling of the ObamaCare rollout. And indeed, the White House is quietly pushing Democratic lawmakers to shift their focus to the economy.

Yet assuming a historic deal was really a calculated gambit to shift the conversation in Washington from domestic to foreign affairs is, given the many months and rounds of negotiations that resulted in the deal, quite a stretch. You could argue that the administration, anticipating the ObamaCare implosion, started preparing an Iranian smokescreen earlier this year, just in case. But to truly believe that you would have to view the news in a complete vacuum, and be a pretty big cynic to boot.

And as far as distractions go, a nuclear deal with a country a plurality of Americans believe is an "enemy" is not exactly the best shiny object to reach for. So far, the reaction to the deal has been mixed, with even some prominent Democrats panning the accord as too friendly to Iran. So though the deal shifted the news cycle, it did not do so in a way uniformly beneficial to the White House.

Plus, the nuclear pact is only the latest piece of news Republicans have claimed is a manufactured ObamaCare distraction. When Democratic senators last week scrapped centuries-old rules governing filibusters, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused them of "cook[ing] up some fake fight."

"I'd probably be looking for an exit, too, if I had supported this law," he said, "I'd be looking to change the subject, just as Senate Democrats have been doing with their threats of going nuclear and changing the Senate rules on nominations."

Yes, the Senate changed the conversation from ObamaCare to arcane debate rules last week. But McConnell, as with Cornyn, had no proof it was a deliberate, politically motivated calculation.

The administration has so far refused to respond to the allegations. And that may be a good idea: Were they to respond, someone would probably accuse them of again trying to distract from ObamaCare.

 
Jon Terbush is an associate editor at TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week