We need to freeze this Ruth Marcus column in amber so that it never perishes. Future generations will not believe that it actually existed if they can’t see it with their own eyes. It is probably the purest form of wankery that has ever been constructed. I thought I had seen Peak Beltway Trolling, but I had not seen anything.

How can I find the right analogy for her argument?

Imagine if you will that there is a giant anvil hanging by a rope over your head and that the rope is on fire and the anvil will soon fall on you and kill you.

Now, imagine that someone comes up with a plan to put out the fire before it burns through the rope and you die.

Now imagine that some people are concerned that the rope might catch fire again at some future date and are therefore against putting out the fire right now and saving your life.

I could expand on this analogy to make it more realistic, but I think it’s best to keep this really simple.

What Ruth Marcus is saying is that of course we should put out this fire, but we shouldn’t be impatient with the people who say that we should not.

That’s really it.

When you boil it down to its essentials, those who think Iran is on the verge of building a nuclear weapon should want to put out the fire. If the fire flares back up, we’ll deal with that then, but the immediate problem is the anvil.

If you want to get a little more detailed about it, we’re able to put the fire out right now but if we dawdle, the firemen will go home and they won’t come back in time or, really, ever. In fact, the whole plan for putting out the fire was concocted by the firemen because they believe the plan will work.

For Ruth Marcus, none of this is in dispute or even actually disputable. Yet, despite this, she is appalled that the president is dismissive of the people who want to tell the firemen to go home.

I could go through her column paragraph by paragraph, but that would give me either an aneurysm or a bad case of apoplexy.

I’ll let this suffice. Ms. Marcus says “you don’t have to be an ideologue, or an idiot, to have serious qualms” about putting out the rope fire to prevent the anvil from falling on your head.

But, as she very well knows and describes quite well, you do have to be an idiot to have qualms about something like that.

The only possible excuse from not wanting to put out the fire is if you don’t think there is even an anvil there in the first place.

Is that Chuck Schumer or Joe Lieberman’s position? Is that the position of anyone who is publicly opposing this deal right now?


If the anvil is real and the rope is on fire and the fire department has a plan to put it out, you let them put it out and then you talk to us about your qualms.

But, this is what Marcus says about the president:

Obama once understood, even celebrated, this gray zone of difficult policy choices. He was a man who took pains to recognize and validate the legitimate concerns of those on the opposite side of nearly any complex debate.

The new Obama, hardened and embittered — the one on display in his American University speech last week and in the follow-up spate of interviews — has close to zero tolerance for those who reach contrary conclusions.

He’s “hardened and embittered” and has “close to no tolerance” for people who claim to care about the anvil, who say that the anvil will kill us, who acknowledge that the rope is on fire, and who nonetheless want him to tell the fire department to go home because even if they put the fire out, the fire might come back and kill us ten or fifteen years from now.

And if you point out that the fire department isn’t coming back tomorrow or in ten or fifteen years, well, then you “brook no disagreement, accommodate no uncertainty.”

Let’s listen to the folks Obama is supposed to accommodate:

“The alternative is not war,” Schumer said. “I’d be very much opposed to war. It is to go back to the bargaining table and come to a better agreement,” Schumer said in a Manhattan event Tuesday…

…“U.S. sanctions, which will stay in place absolutely if we don’t have an agreement, along with pressure on other countries to keep Iran isolated, can force Iran back to the table,” Schumer claimed.

“It’s a bad deal,” said Mr. Lieberman, who believes that lawmakers have a chance to block the accord even if that means overcoming a presidential veto. “If the Iranians are pressured more, I think we can get a better agreement.”

There is no better agreement. And I think John Kerry explained it very well here why we can’t keep the sanctions on Iran if we walk away from the deal:

Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at a Reuters event in New York, hit back at Schumer’s argument on his own turf — in particular the idea that it was possible to get a better deal.

“Are you kidding me?” Kerry asked. “The United States is going to start sanctioning our allies and their banks and their businesses because we walked away from a deal? And we’re going to force them to do what we want them to do, even though they agreed to the deal we came to?” he continued.

Because sanctions don’t work on Iran unless we’re willing to sanction those who violate the sanctions on Iran. And we’re not going to do that because that would be completely insane in this context.

But, as I’ve said, Ruth Marcus knows this very well. And, yet, she chose to use her precious space in the Washington Post to troll the president for being dismissive and exasperated and unaccommodating of the people who are just talking the worst nonsense about this deal.

Her conclusion is so priceless that it needs to be saved for the ages:

The less [the president] insults his critics — yes, even the ones who insult him as a feckless, naive negotiator — the better.

As John Kerry said, “Are you kidding me?”

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com