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Iran Report, Gaffe Provide GOP Opening

Candidates continue to hit Obama, and he isn’t making it any harder

Marc Tracy
November 08, 2011
President Obama yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
President Obama yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican candidates continue to find Israel-Iran the most favorable foreign policy battlefield as they look ahead to next year’s general election. Gov. Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Rep. Michele Bachmann have all used this week’s report on Iran’s nuclear progress to hammer President Obama’s alleged softness on the issue, and you can expect frontrunner Mitt Romney to continue his attacks along a similar theme. “The focus reflects not only competition to be regarded as the strongest ally of Israel,” according to the Times, “but also a sense that projecting toughness on Iran may offer one of the few political openings on foreign policy that Republicans can use.” Yeah.

And as if they did not have enough ammunition, you have an open-mike moment yesterday, in which French President Nicolas Sarkozy was overheard confiding in Obama (who is in Paris), of Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I cannot stand him. He is a liar.” To which Obama reportedly replied: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!” That Obama finds Bibi frustrating is about as newsworthy as the fact that the subway took too long and was too crowded this morning on my way to work. But it still serves to (further) confirm the impression that Obama and Bibi have a bad personal relationship and that, under their leadership, their countries have experienced a weakened one (surely U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro was protesting a bit much when he insisted yesterday that the “special relationship” is “stronger than ever before”); and with just a little imagination, you could call this Obama’s fault.

At this point, the list of alleged personal slights at Bibi—the missed photo-op, the 45-minute Hillary Clinton phone call, the “‘67 borders’ surprise, and on and on—is long enough that this is just another drop in the bath. But it’s what we’re talking about today instead of, say, how Obama may very well be completely committed to preventing Iran from getting the bomb, even if it means the use of U.S. military force (such is Jeffrey Goldberg’s argument in his latest column). Which means it’s a good day for the GOP.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.