For the second time in as many days, President Barack Obama let out the rhetorical equivalent of an exasperated sigh in regards to the blockage of his legislative agenda in Congress, this time while discussing Iran.
On Saturday, at remarks delivered at Washington D.C.'s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, President Barack Obama discussed U.S.-Israel relations, where the dialogue inevitably wandering to the recent interim agreement with Iran that would ease economic sanctions in exchange for a curbing of its nuclear program. Israel, seeing Iran as an existential threat, has long sought for a complete end of uranium enrichment and total elimination of their arsenal. What could be a major diplomatic coup for stability in the Middle East for the Obama administration has been slammed by those in Israel and its supporters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the pact as a "historic mistake."
On Saturday, after Saban cited polls that suggested that 77 percent of Israelis don't believe the interim deal will stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons, Obama reiterated his faith in diplomacy. He did hedge, however, that if the end of the six months ends with no long-term deal — he called the odds at no more than 50/50 — "we are no worse off."
Obama went on to joke about the likelihood of Iran willingly halting its own nuclear program as highly improbable, and he leaned on familiar language to do so:
One can envision an ideal world in which Iran said, ‘We’ll destroy every element and facility and you name it, it’s all gone.’ I can envision a world in which Congress passed every one of my bills that I put forward. There are a lot of things that I can envision that would be wonderful.
What you need to know, when I'm speaking as president of the United States and I come to this community, is that if in fact I could solve all of these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we're also a nation of laws. That's part of our tradition.
So the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. What I'm proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic process to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. But it won't be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done.
Over the last few months, support for both Obama and Congress has nose-dived, although the administration continues to target Congress. In response to November polling data that showed record lows for Obama, the president's press secretary said that the numbers were still "sky high" compared to Congress's. The Heartland Monitor poll found just 9 percent of those polled approved of Congress's performance.