In an interview with “The Daily Show” on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama took a swipe at “the money” and “the lobbyists” being marshaled by opponents of his controversial nuclear deal with Iran.
Strongly championing the accord, which is being bitterly opposed by Israel and which is being challenged by the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby, Obama urged viewers to contact their elected representatives to make sure the accord passes Congress. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other critics of the deal are vowing to try to muster sufficient support in Congress to block the accord by the two-thirds majority necessary to overcome any presidential veto.
“We were talking earlier about the Middle East and an issue like Iran,” Obama told host Jon Stewart. “I really want people to pay attention to this issue and learn about it, and then contact your elected representatives and express your opinion.”
Reiterating his assertion that there were no better terms possible for the deal, and that therefore the choice is between this deal and war — a claim consistently disputed by Netanyahu — Obama added: “This is an example of where we have a huge issue of war and peace. Either we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon through diplomacy, or potentially we have a military option. You’ve got a bunch of talking heads and pundits, and folks who are not going to be making sacrifices, if in fact you end up in a conflict, who are reprising some of the same positions we saw during the Iraq war, and if they are not hearing from citizens, then we end up making bad choices.” (Key passages are about 18 minutes into this clip.)
Obama returned to the point a little later in the conversation, again urging Americans to reach out to their Congressional representatives to ensure that “the system” responds the way it should — despite the lobbying efforts and money being used against it.
“I guarantee you, if people feel strongly about making sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, without us going to war, and that is expressed to Congress, then people will believe in that,” said the president. “And the same is true on every single issue. If people are engaged, eventually the political system responds. Despite the money, despite the lobbyists, it still responds.”
Obama was making a final appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, joking with the outgoing host about his looming retirement and the messiness of the Middle East. A recurrent theme of the conversation was the Iranian nuclear deal, signed last Tuesday in Vienna, endorsed by the UN Security Council Monday and now going to Congress.
Stewart will host his final show on August 6, after a decade and a half in the job.
In 2010, Obama became the first sitting president to appear on the show, and Tuesday marked his third appearance since entering the White House and his seventh time in total.
“I cannot believe you are leaving before me,” Obama said, joking that he would issue an executive order to stop Stewart from leaving.
“It’s being challenged in the courts,” he added, a wry reference to his repeated legal battles with Republican rivals.
When Obama made a first pitch for his diplomacy with Iran, Stewart saw an opening, asking, “Whose team are we on in the Middle East?” before laying out the amalgam of alliances and enmities that crisscross the region.
“That’s not quite right,” Obama joked, “but that’s okay,” before Stewart interrupted: “Who are we bombing?”
Obama went back repeatedly to the issue of Iran, using Stewart’s vast audience to make his pitch.
The president poked fun at opponents of the deal, joking that critics think that if only former vice president Dick Cheney had been at the negotiating table, “everything would be fine.”
Obama said Iran is an adversary that is anti-American and anti-Israel. But, he said, you don’t make peace with your friends. Obama added that the US doesn’t have to give anything up in the Iran deal and said the next president will have more options because of the agreement.