Chasing Rainbows

Mort Zuckerman opens his Wall Street Journal op-ed on President Obama’s agreement with Iran with two lines from the popular song “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” and remarks:

The vaudeville song by Harry Carroll and Joseph McCarthy, popularized by Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, is all too appropriate to this moment, as we consider the implications of a nuclear Iran and the prospect of mushroom clouds over the Middle East.

The song was popularized in 1918 by Charlie Harrison (his version is above) back when a “hit song” meant you sold a lot of sheet music with your picture on it and before Judy Garland was born. The melody is adapted from Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu composed in 1834 and published in 1855. It’s been popular ever since, one of Chopin’s most popular works. The popular song has a new revival about once a generation. It’s been covered hundreds of times.

In his op-ed Mr. Zuckerman lists the reasons he’s skeptical about the agreement but IMO there only needs to be one: the only vote in Iran that means anything is that of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and, judging by his public statements, an agreement that would meet with his approval is not one that should meet with U. S. approval. Contrary to Sec. Kerry’s claims if Khamenei answers to any constituency it is a handful of ayatollahs with very different views and objectives from those of an American politician.

As I’ve said from the announcement of the “framework agreement”, it certainly appears that President Obama is desperate for a deal and I think the Grand Ayatollah has that impression, too.

16 comments… add one
  • Guarneri Link

    When you are incapable of pushing away from the table it’s game over. Further, in this negotiation you can’t just bully the other side in the press, telling everyone what obstinant meanies they are, and expect the public communications apparatus to fall in line for you.

    Obama’s play book is woefully thin. The other sides book is thin as well, but efficacious.

  • steve Link

    Did I miss something or did we just sign a deal that gave everything to Iran? (10 minutes later). Nope. Doesn’t look that way. We should want a deal. Iran clearly wants one. It will certainly be more difficult if Americans allow themselves to be manipulated by public statements from the other side. Ahh well, when Drew’s team wins you can finally have the war they are desperate to have. Much better than any deal.


  • steve, you’re making a straw man argument. If you want to address the point that I made, finish this sentence: “We should want an agreement with Iran under the terms stated by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei because…”. I don’t think there’s a coherent way to finish that sentence.

    Guarneri can tell you about his own experience but I engage in negotiations for a living just about every darned day and I’m pretty good at it. My usual method is to start by searching for common ground. That’s why I’m skeptical about the desireability of any agreement with Iran. I don’t think there’s much common ground.

  • steve Link

    ” “We should want an agreement with Iran under the terms stated by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei because…”.”

    Because this is also a straw man. We want an agreement like we laid out in the framework. I don’t especially care what he said in public, which will be aimed at many audiences, especially his own hardliners. The people he sent to negotiate, and I am pretty sure knew exactly what he wanted, came home and laid out a framework nearly identical to ours.

    If they had really wanted a nuke, they would have had one by now. The latest from my Tea Party discussion group is that Iran has been 3 months away from a breakout for many years now, but Obama has been hiding it. Israel has claimed they were 5 years away since the mid 90s. Nonetheless, our hardliners and Israel our intent upon Bombing Iran. A deal is our best bet to avoid this.

    Common ground? Iran’s interests are pretty clear. They don’t really want a bomb (though they want to maintain the ability to have one) and sanctions hurt them. On our side of the “we” it is pretty murky. Some of us just don’t want more nukes in the world, especially in the ME. Others are intent upon carrying out Israel’s foreign policy. It is necessary that Iran be humiliated.

    OT- I assume you saw Pat Lang’s video on negotiating in the ME?


  • You’re interpreting his actions as though he were an American politician. He is not.

    You’re also illustrating the point I’ve been trying to make here for weeks pretty neatly. On the one hand you’re assuming that Khamenei is lying. On the other you’re assuming that he’ll tell the truth once an agreement has been negotiated.

    I, on the other hand, am assuming that he’s telling the truth. Why, then, would the Iranian delegation have issued the joint statement it did with the EU? There are all sorts of possible reasons. It could be that they were negotiating in good faith but have been overruled. That, as I have said before, is the problem when you’re negotiating with people too low on the totem pole to make commitments.

    They may have been negotiating in bad faith. It could be that they have just been stalling for time. Maybe it’s something else. I don’t honestly know. However, unlike you I don’t think we should accept any deal that Sec. Kerry and his associates can come up with just because it’s a deal. In my view no deal is better than a deal by which we obtain nothing.

  • CStanley Link

    Steve, since you routinely seem to attribute more good faith to the Iranians than to American Tea Partiers, maybe you could try imagining a counter factual where we had a Tea Party president and a US negotiating delegation that consisted of people who weren’t hard liners. In such a case, would it be in the interests of the Iranians to accept any deal that the American Tea Party president could overrule?

    And you do realize that Obama’s energy sec has confirmed that the administration has known for some time that the breakout period for enrichment has been only 2-3 months?

  • steve Link

    I assume the guy is a politician. His actions matter much more than his words. Every president has promised us peace and prosperity. None have delivered. His team went to the negotiations and agreed to a framework. That is much more important than anything he says to the press. You can’t honestly tell me you prioritize what politicians say over their actions, and that is just as true for politicians in other countries.

    “However, unlike you I don’t think we should accept any deal that Sec. Kerry and his associates can come up with just because it’s a deal.”

    I thought I had articulated my views clearly. Let me do so again. I think the deal worked out in the framework is pretty good. That is the same deal published by the Iranian team. Yes, the details matter, but it is a deal I can live with. At no point have I, or anyone I know or read, have suggested that we accept any deal made by Kerry. Talk about a straw man.

    CStanley- It would not be in their interests to accept any deal offered, but no one, other than Dave and the neocons, are suggesting that we want to accept any deal. The same would apply to Iran.

    Really, where do you guys even get this idea that Obama is going to accept any deal that Iran wants? At the very least, this is not a bilateral negotiation. Is this OBS?

    Finally, yes, I know that is what the energy secretary said. So, if he is correct, they have had that ability for years and they have not done it. How much do they really want a nuke?


  • I don’t believe he’s a politician in the sense you’re thinking, steve. He has a constituency of probably fewer than 100 people and their objectives are very, very different than those of ordinary Iranians.

    There are now three rather different versions of the framework agreement: the White House’s, the EU-Iranian joint statement, and the Grand Ayatollah’s. The White House’s differs in some important ways from the EU-Iranian joint statement and they’re both different from the Grand Ayatollah’s. Why do you continue to believe the White House’s version?

    I can tell you why I believe the Grand Ayatollah’s: because his is the only vote that counts on the Iranian side.

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