By Fred Fleitz
President Obama will be speaking at American University today to offer a defense of his controversial nuclear agreement with Iran. White House spokesman Josh Earnest compared the speech to one President John Kennedy gave at this same school in 1963 in which Kennedy proposed nuclear disarmament and a nuclear test-ban treaty.
This reminds me of the famous smack-down in a 1988 vice presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle when Bentsen mocked Quayle for comparing himself to Kennedy by saying: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
There’s also no comparison either between Kennedy or Obama or the Partial Test Ban Treaty that resulted from the 1963 speech and Obama’s Iran deal.
Kennedy was, in his day, a president who promised to fight any foe to defend freedom in the mold of relatively hardline New Deal/Cold War Roosevelt-Truman–Scoop Jackson Democrats.
Obama has conducted “apology tours” in which he gave speeches in Cairo and Istanbul blaming past U.S. policies for anti-Americanism in the Arab and Muslim worlds. His comments on Iran in successive speeches at the U.N. General Assembly have treated Iran as a victim of past U.S. policies and failed to say Iran is a state sponsor of terror.
Both the Partial Test Ban Treaty and the Iran deal required major compromises by the United States. However, Kennedy’s test-ban treaty was negotiated and submitted for Senate ratification as a treaty as the U.S. Constitution requires. President Kennedy had to work with the Senate to win its support for this treaty, which approved it on October 10, 1963 by a vote of 80–19.
By contrast, President Obama refuses to submit the Iran deal as a treaty for ratification by the Senate even though this agreement clearly meets the requirements of a treaty. Critics of the Iran deal claim the U.S. made too many concessions and the agreement will seriously undermine global security. Unlike the Kennedy administration, the Obama administration has tried to work around Congress and voted for a U.N. Security Council resolution to implement the Iran deal in defiance of pleas by Democratic and Republican lawmakers to wait for the completion of a 60-day review mandated to the Corker-Cardin bill.
President Kennedy’s 1963 American University speech resulted in an arms-control treaty that gained bipartisan support and remains in force today. President Obama’s American University speech will defend an executive agreement with growing bipartisan opposition that is near certain to be torn up on January 20, 2017 if a Republican is elected president next year.
President Kennedy was a leader who employed serious policies to defend the United States against dangerous foes. He abided by the Constitution and worked with Congress to win bipartisan support for his national security policies, including the Partial Test Ban Treaty.
President Obama, you’re no Jack Kennedy.
— Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs for the Center for Security Policy. He followed the Iranian nuclear issue for the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee during his 25-year government career. Follow him on Twitter @fredfleitz.