Iranians celebrate

Iranians celebrate July 14 in Tehran, Iran, following a landmark nuclear deal. Overcoming decades of hostility, Iran, the United States, and five other world powers struck a historic accord to check Tehran's nuclear efforts short of building a bomb. PHOTO BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tammy Baldwin has focused a great deal of attention on issues of defense and diplomacy during the better part of two decades of service in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. She knows how hard it is to choose the path of peace over the path of war, while at the same time maintaining national security. So the Wisconsin Democrat says she was “proud that America led six countries toward an historic international agreement with Iran.”

But she did not immediately endorse the Iran nuclear agreement. Like any responsible member of Congress would, she reviewed the paperwork. She consulted with experts. She considered upsides and downsides and then she came to a conclusion.

“I believe we are right to choose a path of international diplomacy to achieve our goal of verifiably preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said Baldwin, who explained, “I have carefully reviewed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), attended numerous classified briefings, heard from experts and constituents, and examined detailed arguments for and against the agreement. I have also been guided by the hard lessons that should be learned when America chooses to engage in military action and war in the Middle East. Simply put, I do not believe that rejecting this agreement is in our national security interest."

Baldwin’s bottom line is the essential one: “(The) choice is clear, I will support this international agreement because it will best serve America’s national security interests and it is built on verification with a robust inspections and compliance regime that will cut off all of Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon.”

The Wisconsinite’s announcement came around the same time as another veteran member of Congress, with extensive background in the areas of defense and diplomacy, California Congressman Sam Farr, came out in support for the agreement. Farr said something profound when he made his announcement: “After two decades in Congress, this is the first time I will be able to vote for peace, not just against war.”

Now that a deal has been reached with Iran, Congress has 60 days to review it. If Congress passes a resolution of disapproval and Obama vetoes that resolution, a two-thirds vote of each house would be needed to override his action.

Unfortunately, too many members of Congress and too many contenders in the 2016 presidential race refuse to consider this agreement seriously. Instead, they play politics. In doing so, they raise serious questions not about the deal but about their suitability to serve in positions of public trust and responsibility.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination have been shameless — and shameful — in their unthinking rejection of an agreement that a bipartisan group of 60 former secretaries of state, national security advisers and ambassadors said “will put in place a set of constraints and monitoring measures that will help to assure that Iran’s nuclear program will be for peaceful purposes only.”

The national security leaders point out: “The agreement will set up a highly effective multilayered program to monitor and inspect every aspect of Iran’s nuclear supply chain and fuel cycle, including continuous monitoring at some sites for 20-25 years, and permit inspections on short notice. We have followed carefully the negotiations as they have progressed and conclude that (the agreement) represents the achievement of greater security for us and our partners in the region.”

Yet Walker said before the agreement was finalized that he would rip it up on his first day as president. That’s stunning even for Walker. He asks Americans to put their trust in him as a potential commander in chief, yet he is so irresponsible that he rejected the deal without even reviewing it.

Of course, the only candidates whose opinions matter are those who actually serve in Congress, as they are the only ones who will have a say on the deal when it is weighed by the House and the Senate. Unfortunately, Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Lindsay Graham have been every bit as juvenile as Walker in their responses.

Cruz, Rubio, Paul and Graham at least have the excuse that they are too busy running for president to think.

What’s Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s excuse?

Declaring the negotiations to be “lost from the start,” Johnson was criticizing the agreement — and Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomacy — before the ink was dry.

Johnson, like Walker, seems to be more interested in playing politics than in doing the serious work of an elected official.

It is unfortunate that Wisconsin does not have two senators who are up to the task. Perhaps that will change after next year’s election, when Johnson will face former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

Feingold, who during his tenure in the Senate was a key member of both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, has since leaving the Senate been highly engaged in international diplomacy. He served as the State Department’s special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa and wrote a highly regarded book on global issues: "While America Sleeps: A Wake-Up Call to the Post-9/11 World."

Like other leaders with experience in the areas of diplomacy and disarmament, Feingold says the Iran deal moves our country and our world in the right direction. He is under no illusions, explaining that “there are always going to be concerns when you’re dealing with a regime like the Iranian regime. To not have concerns is irresponsible. On the other hand, it is completely irresponsible to not try to do something about it — just sit back and say ‘it’s a bad deal and I have no alternatives.’”

Feingold’s assessment is neither partisan nor ideological. It is the right and responsible position — precisely what Wisconsinites should expect from our senators, and precisely what all Americans should expect from our presidential candidates.

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