Chris Matthews seems generally mindful of Republican skulduggery, and, often, he's unafraid of showing it with some vigor. His vigor, however, is staunchly hierarchical — and bleeds downward. Mere Republican strategists he happily destroys on air, for they are of the lowest order on the GOP's skulduggery scale — sort of the amoebas of false politics. Elected Republicans serving on a state or local level earn a bit more respectful treatment from Matthews, but just a bit. These are the higher invertebrates, who nonetheless deserve stomping. Republican U.S. representatives? With them, Matthews can be combative, but his fighting spirit lacks an edge, since they themselves, in Matthews' mind, sit on the edge 'twixt mammal and worm.
Finally we come to the highest order — the primate level: Republican U.S. senators. Toward them, Matthews is downright solicitous; his contentious vigor is gone. Usually, no matter how serpentine these senatorial primates are, Matthews brims with respect, courtesy, and a curious deference. And last night, Sen. Bob Corker, serpent from Tennessee, earned Matthews' full, oblivious treatment.
On the Iran deal, the "Hardball" host just knew Corker, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was only trying to do his job in the best of bipartisan traditions. If Matthews asked Corker why he had decided that this particular executive agreement was in need of congressional kibitzing, I missed it. And when Matthews did challenge the senator as to what alternative to the P5 + 1 deal existed, the host readily accepted Corker's slithering response: We should just keep the interim agreement in place.
Matthews failed to remind Corker that when the interim agreement went into effect, Corker was appalled at said agreement. It was, he warned at the time, a "total victory" for Iran — a deal that would allow our foe to become "a threat to the world."
As Dana Milbank notes this morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham has undergone an identical conversion. Back in "interim" times, Graham was "very worried" about them. The temporary agreement was, he said, a ghastly deal that permitted Iran all manner of deviousness, deceit, and undue consideration. Now? "What I would suggest is, if you can’t get there with this deal, is to keep the interim deal in place."
Senator — I dare say — and presidential candidate — I gleefully say — Marco Rubio is trying a different tack to scuttle what lies within in President Obama's executive prerogative; McCainlike, he's exiting the campaign trail today and racing to Washington "to push an amendment making any Iran deal dependent on Tehran’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist." A known "nonstarter," observes the NYT. Senator Johnny Isakson, of Georgia, is attempting to link compensation for the 1979 hostage crisis to the nuclear deal, and thereby kill it. And Wisconsin's Cicero, Ron Johnson, is insisting that the executive agreement be made a "formal treaty requiring ratification by two-thirds of the Senate" — you know, just like Republican senators did when St. Ronald was engaged in nuclear negotiations with the Soviets.
How to tie together all this skulduggery? That's easy. From Bob Corker on down, no Republican senator is about to countenance President Obama doing his job. If President Romney had negotiated this deal (which he wouldn't have; by now we'd be doing a bombing countdown instead), it would breeze relatively unmolested through the Senate cloakroom, with only nine AIPAC-bought Democratic senators objecting.
Republican objections to Obama's deal at least have the merit of both ideological economy and, as Milbank puts it, consistency: "They are opposed to what Obama is doing — whatever it is." Chris Matthews should have put it to Bob Corker —senator or not — in the same way.