If we’ve learned one thing from Donald Trump during his meteoric rise in the GOP presidential sweepstakes, it’s that he likes to win. He never wants to be seen as a “loser” – the pungent term he has used to describe some of his challengers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
So why would Trump agree to rally Tea Party, pro-Israel and other conservative forces seeking to kill the Iran agreement when the outcome is basically foreordained in favor of President Obama?
Unless there is a sudden change in plans, Trump has agreed to appear with Sen. Ted Cruz and conservative talk show host Glenn Beck next Wednesday on the West Lawn of the Capitol to denounce the nuclear deal negotiated by the U.S., Iran and five other major countries.
Trump has called the agreement a “horrible deal” that is bad for the U.S. and “really, really bad for Israel,” because of the high likelihood that Iran might eventually develop a nuclear weapon and use it against Israelis. He also complained the administration failed to obtain the release of several Americans being held prisoner in Iran as part of the agreement.
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America and one of the organizers of the event, told Politico that he heartily welcomed Trump’s participation – and the widespread attention the real estate magnate and reality TV show man would bring to the effort to defeat the agreement.
But Trump surely must have heard the news that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-TN) already have thrown in the towel, informing the news media that the Republicans will be unable to muster the votes to override a veto of a resolution of disapproval.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Del) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have agreed to support the Iran nuclear agreement, which leaves the administration just one vote shy of the 34 votes needed to secure the agreement and prevent the majority Republicans from turning it down. Even if the Republicans manage to pass a resolution of disapproval, they would be unable to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override Obama’s certain veto.
A small handful of Democrats have yet to announce their decisions, including Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Gary Peters of Michigan. One of them will likely put Obama over the top by the time Congress returns from the August recess next week.
Trump, Cruz and practically every other prominent Republican in Congress or running for president oppose the agreement. They contend the U.S. was taken to the cleaners by the Iranian negotiators and that it would be too easy for Iran to cheat on inspections. They also warn that once the sanctions are lifted, Iran will be awash in billions of dollars of oil money and other assets that could be used to further their goals in the region.
Cruz, one of the most unpopular Republicans on Capitol Hill, recently called McConnell a “liar” on the floor of the Senate. However, he could claim a major feather in his cap by drawing the bombastic and hard-charging Trump to next week’s rally and basking in the reflective glory of the presidential frontrunner.
After a promising start, Cruz has lost ground in his bid for the presidential nomination. The latest Morning Consult national tracking poll has Trump with 37 percent of likely Republican voters but only four percent for Cruz. However, unlike former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Graham and others, Cruz has tried to cozy up to Trump and he refuses to say anything critical of him.
Few other members of the Senate have generated as much chaos and controversy as Cruz, yet the freshman Texas senator has failed repeatedly in achieving his stated goals. He vowed to lead a GOP crusade in both the House and Senate to defund the Affordable Care Act in 2013, but in the end the Republicans had nothing to show for it except a 16-day government shutdown that was largely blamed on them. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) recently called him a “jackass” at a fundraiser in Colorado.
Cruz has sought to run for president as a Washington outsider, even though he is part of one of the world’s most exclusive legislative bodies. He has frequently denounced McConnell and Boehner for failing to make good on their promises after taking control of Congress.
The mass rally Cruz is planning with Trump could well be heavily tinged with strong criticism of Republican leaders as well as the Obama administration. That’s because a legislative agreement that McConnell, Corker and Boehner struck with the White House earlier this year to allow Congress to review the final Iran nuclear deal may have sowed the seeds for the defeat of the GOP resolution of disapproval.
McConnell, Boehner and other GOP leaders might well feel the heat of conservative firebrands denouncing them for not doing more to defeat the agreement. It could prove to be an extraordinary spectacle of Republican congressional and presidential politics colliding.
“This is going to be very difficult for Boehner and McConnell because it’s very clear that the sentiment that Cruz and Trump and Ben Carson are tapping into is as much an anger and feeling by the base of betrayal by their leaders in Congress,” said Norman Ornstein, a congressional and political expert with the American Enterprise Institute.
Ornstein said in an interview Tuesday that many conservative activists and Tea Party adherents feel their GOP leaders let them down after “promising to bring Obama to his knees and repeal Obamacare, roll back a lot of the spending, use the threat of a shutdown and the debt limits to extract great things from him, block the Iran deal and so on.”
“We’ve already heard the kind of wild language from Trump and Cruz about the Iran deal,” Ornstein added. “But it wouldn’t surprise me if you also see them condemn their leaders for creating a process that made it possible for the deal to go through.”