Quick Takes

* There was big news over the weekend about continuing developments with Iran. Fred Kaplan uses the opportunity to explain why Obama’s Republican Foreign Policy Critics Don’t Understand How the World Works.

The events of the past week reveal a few things about the Republican critique of Obama’s foreign policy. First, it is completely uninformed on substantive grounds: The jeremiads against the nuclear accord in particular reflect a deep-seated ignorance of what’s in the nuclear deal. Second, it is completely uninformed on procedural grounds: The candidates know nothing about the diplomatic back-and-forth that produced the nuclear deal, the prisoner release, or the release earlier this week of the 10 U.S. sailors who’d somehow crossed into Iranian territorial waters…

But the centuries-long history of international relations shows that it’s possible for adversaries—even, during the Soviet-American Cold War, bitter foes who have the ability to incinerate each other in a matter of minutes—to negotiate deals that benefit the security interests of both sides, and to do so in ways that might open up avenues of accord in other realms worth exploring.

This is what Obama’s approach to foreign policy—which isn’t so different from the approach of many past presidents—has wrought this week. It’s an approach and an outcome that most of the Republican candidates not only couldn’t pull off but explicitly, if bizarrely, condemn.

* If history is any lesson, a lot of what happens in the Iowa caucuses comes down to the ground game of turning out your supporters. Recently the staff of FiveThirtyEight went to visit the Republican field offices in Iowa and ranked what they saw into tiers. It’s a fascinating look at something we don’t see often enough in campaign reporting.

* Here’s an interesting piece of news about Bernie Sanders’ single payer plan.

Millions of undocumented immigrants would gain health care coverage under Bernie Sanders’ plan for a single-payer health care system, a detail he didn’t include explicitly in his just-released proposal but one confirmed by an aide shortly after Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate.

“It would cover everyone, including aspiring Americans,” said Warren Gunnels, senior policy adviser to the Vermont senator’s campaign, when asked whether the plan would cover immigrants in the country illegally.

* Steve Benen has some fun with: “Who said it? Marco Rubio or Donald Trump?” No spoiler alerts, but he uses it to make a good point.

* Minor Sinclair writes about the process toward economic equality – or lack thereof – by African Americans since MLK’s day.

* As we saw with last week’s Republican presidential debate, the whole contest has turned into who can be the biggest bully. Ali Davis has some fun with all that by rating the candidates based on who would be most useful in a bar fight. The results are likely to surprise you – and you’ll get some good LOL’s along the way.

* Finally, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s let Rev. Al Green take us to church (I mean that figuratively, of course) with his rendition of ” A Change is Gonna Come.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.