Executive Summary Sample

Executive Summary for the Week of 16/5/2012 – 23/5/2012

Egypt: Elections

All of the Think Tanks summarized below hold very different viewpoints concerning the same issue, the Egyptian elections; although, there are some statements that hold true throughout all of the think tanks. All believe that this is a very important time for Egypt and that the outcome of this election is very detrimental, possibly even predictive of the future of Egypt. The pieces primarily examine parliament and the role of the Islamists in Egypt. The Brookings Institution conducted a poll that is telling of what Egyptians want and see in their future, which shown alongside the Gallup poll can be disconcerting. The Gallup poll shows a more pessimistic view of the current political climate, whereas The Brookings Institution is more optimistic, this however can be attributed to the types of questions asked, as well as the depth of the questions. Both the Center for American Progress and Washington Institute for Near East Policy examined the role America can play in the transition process. The Center for American Progress, being more progressive, took a centrist approach to reinstating ties with the new Egyptian government; it was also the only report to provide more detailed background knowledge about the candidates. In contrast, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, under the guise of fostering stability, took a very American Exceptionalist approach to the elections, assuming the worst and even regretting the inability for the Obama administration to get involved. The second report from WINEP also indicates concern with the ability of Egyptians to monitor the elections for fairness and vote rigging. The Plofchan report from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, although not the first to talk about the Salafis and The Muslim Brotherhood, it was the first to chronicle, however briefly, the beginnings of the split between the two groups, as well as state some of the differences in beliefs amongst the two. Lastly, the Council on Foreign Relations report was the only report to put a face to a people, speaking of the obstacles Egypt may face and providing a more in depth look at what many Egyptians may be feeling.

Think Tank: Brookings Institution

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 21/5/2012

Author: Shibley Telhami

Type: Report

Title: What Do Egyptians Want? Key Findings from the Egyptian Public Opinion Poll

Address: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2012/05/21-egyptian-election-poll-telhami

The Brookings Institution has conducted a poll surveying the Egyptian public about political preferences, leaders and regional issues, during May 4-10, 2012 in light of the first presidential election. The Brookings Institution places great emphasis on the importance of the inaccuracies of probable predictions, as there is no analytical model of voting behaviour as of yet. Egyptian voters have also shown a difference in criteria by which they judge parliamentary and presidential candidates.

Poll Results:

  • Abul-Fotouh led the polls with 32%, followed by Mousa (28%) then Shafiq (14%), Morsi and Sabahi at (8%).
  • In parliamentary elections, 24% a favoured political party determined their vote, whereas in presidential elections, personal trust is a determining factor for 31%.
  • Christians supported Mousa the most, with 43%, as well as voters outside of cities with 31% of the vote.
  • Abul-Fotouh led among university graduates with 35% and among youth, under age 25, with 36%.
  • 54% believe Turkey to be the model reflection in terms of Islam in politics, followed by Saudi Arabia with 32%
  • A majority of those polled hold very unfavourable views of the U.S., with 68% and 73% support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.
  • 66% of Egyptians support Sharia as the basis of Egyptian law, but 83% believe Sharia should be adapted to modern times.
  • A majority of Egyptians admired the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, with 63%. When asked to include Egyptian leaders, Erdogan fell to 15%, with Sadat at 35% and Abdel Nasser at 26%.
  • Brokering Middle East peace and establishing a Palestinian State ranked highest (66%) in regards improving U.S. favourability, followed by stopping military and economic aid to Israel as 46%.
  • While 55% believe there will be no lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis, 46% would like to maintain the peace treaty with Israel and 44% would like to see it cancelled.
  • The two countries that pose the biggest nuclear threat are Israel (97%) and the U.S. (80%).
  • Egyptians have been in support of the rebels against Assad and the Syrian government, but only 18% wish to see external military interventions, 15% support a Turkish Arab military intervention and 43% wish to see no military intervention.

Think Tank: Center for American Progress

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 23/5/2012

Author: Brian Katulis

Type: Brief

Title: Previewing Egypt’s 2012 Presidential Elections

Address:  http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/05/egypt_elections.h tml/#1

This report by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank dedicated to public policy research, provides a brief description of Egypt’s first democratic presidential election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, as well as recommendations for the American government to restore and reinforce ties with the new Egyptian government. In addition, the brief lists and describes the presidential candidates.

According to the report, it is believed that “no candidate will receive more than 50% of the vote,” which would lead to run-off elections in mid-June between the two top candidates. By June’s end a new president will be sworn in for a four-year term and military rulers will hand over power to the new government. However, the transition is still incomplete as a new constitution is to be written and their remains questions over:

  • The economy- Candidates have addressed unemployment and inflation, but have yet to address public-sector debt, the currency crisis, and energy and food subsidies.
  • Security, Law and Order- The drafting of the new constitution has been halted due to Egypt’s disunities over the identity of their new political system; ie. The role of Islam in the government and legislation.

The drafting of the constitution is set to take six-months to draft, although it could take longer to get approved and gain public support. The new constitution may also address a checks and balances system, as well as the role of parliament. The role Egypt is to take in the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional security is also a source of debate amongst the candidates.

The report suggests that the American government conduct a “major interagency review of its Egypt policy.” This review will prepare the U.S. administration for dialogue with the new Egyptian administration later this year. The dialogue should consist of:

  • A renegotiation of “basic terms of the relationship.”
  • Enhance bilateral relationship through common interests.
  • “Build a more stable foundation for U.S.-Egyptian bilateral ties.”

Results of these dialogues would redefine ties and include more parts of the Egyptian government that were not included in past years.

Egypt Presidential Candidate Profiles

  • Amr Moussa- He served under the Mubarak regime as Egypt’s Foreign minister, as well as the secretary general of the Arab League. His platform consists of a centrist political strategy. He has been labelled as a remnant of the Mubarak regime. He is known for his anti-Israel and America statements and has campaigned as the “alternative to Islamist candidates.”
  • Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh- His candidacy is opposed by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is an Islamist activist and “would implement Sharia as a formal legal code.” His platforms are “populist economics and “people first” economics.” He served on the Muslim Brotherhoods decision-making council for twenty-two years. He has the support of leaders from the Salafi Nour Party.
  • Ahmad Shafiq- He has served as prime minister, and air force commander under Mubarak, causing him speculation amongst “revolution minded voters.” His platform is to “restore law and order within 30 days of being elected.” Public perception of him has been negative. He is running as an “alternative to Islamist candidates. “
  • Hamdeen Sabbahi- He has nationalist ideologies, basing his campaign on criticism of the U.S. and Israel. He founded social and political organizations and worked as a journalist, in which he was arrested for his “public confrontation” with former President Sadat concerning “rising food prices.” He did not serve under the Mubarak regime and is not an Islamist. He has proposed an alliance with Iran and Turkey and severing ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • Muhammad Mursi- He is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Leader. He has served in Egypt’s Parliament and is the Brotherhood’s leading spokesman. He plans to amend the peace treaty with Israel “to create a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and have Israel recognize the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees.”

Think Tank: Council on Foreign Relations

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 21/5/2012

Author: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh

Type: Expert Brief

Title: A New Presidential Authority in Egypt

Address: http://www.cfr.org/egypt/new-presidential-authority-egypt/p28308

This brief takes a more optimistic approach to the Egyptian elections, summarizing the possible obstacles for the newly elected official, obstacles pertaining to religion in politics, and while also providing a look at the voters’ demands and desire for dignity.

While Egypt has witnessed violence, protests and authority turnover in the last sixteen months, it has empowered Egyptians to take part in their political system. Current polls show “a clear majority of Egyptians continue to hold the military in high regard,” although not nearly as many Egyptians “support a military-dominated political system.” The SCAF has been contested by the public for the “Selmi principles,” granting “autonomy from elected civilian officials,” as well as for their “application of the State of Emergency.”

The Muslim Brotherhood votes are split between two candidates, Aboul Fotouh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood, and Morsi, who has been behind in the polls. Despite the parliament being a Brotherhood majority, the Brotherhood is not leading in the presidential polls, possibly due to a Brotherhood announcement against running in the presidential race, that was later followed by Morsi’s presidential bid.

Egyptians demand more accountability of politicians. Although economic strife “helped create an environment of misery,” in years prior to the uprising, “Egyptians were demanding freedom, justice, and dignity when they brought Hosni Mubarak down.”

One thing that may delay the transition process will be the role of Islam in politics. Within that lies the issue of whether the Salafis or the Islamists are to speak for Islam. It is anticipated that whomever wins the election must negotiate between different religious groups. If the organised labour parties can emerge in large-scale, they can be very influential in the economic and social policymaking.

Think Tank: Gallup World via The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 18/5/2012

Author: Mohamed Younis and Ahmed Younis

Type: Report

Title: Support for Islamists Declines as Egypt’s Election Nears

Address: http://www.gallup.com/poll/154706/Support-Islamists-Declines-Egypt-Election-Nears.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=World

According to the Gallup poll, spanning from July 2011 until April 2012 the Islamists have seen a steady increase, followed by a sharp decline in overall support as well as in the areas of prime minister appointment and constitution drafting.

  • July 2011 saw Muslim Brotherhood support at 17%, steadily increasing and peaking at 63% in February, then sharply declining to 42% in April.
  • In July 2011 Salafi support was at 5%, steadily increasing and peaking at 37% in February, then sharply declining to 25% in April.
  • The Nour Party saw 5% support in July, peaking at 40% in February and declining to 30% in April.
  • The Freedom and Justice Party saw 15% support in July, peaking at 67% in February and declining to 43% in April.
  • In February 2012, 62% of Egyptians felt comfortable with parliament writing the constitution, in April 2012 that percentage fell to 44.
  • In February 2012, 46% of Egyptians believed the party that wins the most seats in the parliament should appoint the prime ministers. Egyptians supporting the newly elected president appointing the prime minister next summer was 27%.
  • In April 2012, 27% of Egyptians believed the party that wins the most seats in the parliament should appoint the prime ministers. Egyptians supporting the newly elected president appointing the prime minister next summer was 44%.
  • In February 2012, 62% of Egyptians thought a parliament influenced by the Brotherhood was a good thing; 27% thought it was a bad thing.
  • In April 2012, 36% of Egyptians thought a parliament influenced by the Brotherhood was a good thing; 47% thought it was a bad thing.

This dissatisfaction can be attributed to the economic decline and bouts of violence. The transition has been twisted by power struggles within parliament, as opposed to reversing “financial decline and working to hold former regime members accountable.”

Think Tank: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 22/5/2012

Author: Eric Trager

Type: Policy Analysis

Title: Presidential Elections Will Not End Egyptian Instability

Address: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/presidential-elections-will-not-end-egyptian-instability

This WINEP analysis focuses on American interests within the Egyptian elections and states that given the economic situation of Egypt and the lack of clarity in the role of a new president, the elections will not provide stability in Egypt, but could further instability. Trager states that Sabahi is considered a favourite amongst expatriate voters, and while Mousa appears to be leading in the polls, there is no anticipated winner. With 75% of the parliament being Islamists, “ongoing instability has damaged the Islamists’ popularity and raised the profile of former regime candidates,” such as Shafiq, who has sought the votes of former Mubarak supporters.

The analysis concentrates on the shift from an American friendly regime to the current stance of the candidates that express anti-Western platforms, with the exception of Shafiq who is the only candidate who is not anti-Western or pro-Sharia. 

Fair elections will not likely cause stability as the parameters of the role of the newly elected president are undefined, as the new constitution has not been drafted. The proposals to allow the SCAF “to retain absolute powers in reviewing its internal affairs, including its budget,” and the ability of the president’s power to dissolve parliament, are likely to “ignite a severe confrontation between the military and the Islamists.”

The Obama administration has not declared support for any candidate. Washington should insist the SCAF conduct the elections fairly and to “follow a credible constitutional process,” otherwise mass protests could occur. Such protests could suppress stability restoration. Concerned that Islamists may play a role in an uprising against the SCAF, Washington should “use its $1.3 billion in military aid as leverage,” to ensure proper SCAF administration.

Think Tank: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 22/5/2012

Author: David Schenker

Type: Policy Analysis

Title: Egyptian Elections: Beyond Winning

Address: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/egyptian-elections-beyond-winning

This policy analysis of the Egyptian elections by WINEP, often criticised for being pro-Israel, discusses the credibility and speculation surrounding the actual voting process in Egypt. Concern is raised over an Islamist sweep within the new government, as Islamists are the majority of the new parliament. WINEP believes that regardless of the election process, a group of Egyptians may not accept the results if their candidate does not win.

Egyptians have been to the voting polls four times in fifteen months, causing concern that Egyptians may be losing their enthusiasm to vote. The constitutional referendum in March 2011 saw 41.2% of eligible voters vote, but Shura Council elections in January and February 2012 saw only 6.5% of voters in the first round and 12.2% voters in the second. About 54% of voters cast their ballots for the People’s Assembly elections. The high turn out rate is thought to be because some Egyptians believed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would fine them for not voting. The threat of SCAF imposing an “interim constitution” could discourage voters or encourage voters to vote.

The Carter Center, the only American based democracy promotion organisation currently in Egypt  “will not be allowed to observe any single polling station for more than thirty minutes.” Thousands of Egyptians have volunteered to monitor the polling stations.

WINEP believes that in the event Shafiq or Mousa win, there may be “claims of SCAF fraud,” accompanied by mass protests. The key to stabilizing Egypt is in the credibility of the voting process.

Think Tank: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 16/5/2012

Author: Thomas K. Plofchan III

Type: Report

Title: Egypt’s Islamists: A Growing Divide

Address: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/islamists/egypt’s-islamists-growing-divide

This report chronicles and examines the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi rivalry from the fall of Hosni Mubarak until more recently into the elections. The two organisations originally held similar positions on issues after the fall of Mubarak, although began to divide mid-2011.

Three Salafi organisations, The Nour Party, being the biggest, joined the Brotherhood led Democratic Alliance that soon dissolved afterwards. The Salafis then formed the Islamic Bloc that won approximately 27% of the parliament vote, despite political inexperience. “The Nour Party won 111 of the 508 parliamentary seats, making it the second largest part in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament.” The Brotherhood won 40% of the vote. Both parties have stated little interest in forming an Islamist alliance in the parliament.

The media has recently depicted the Brotherhood in a negative light due to entering the presidential candidacy after stating they wouldn’t. The Salafi party supports Aboul Fotouh, an expelled Brotherhood leader, while the Brotherhood’s Morsi is behind in the polls.

Salafis “oppose the use of alcohol and exposure of women’s bodies,” in regards to tourism standards; The Nour Party encourages cultural tourism contrasting to resort tourism and the Brotherhood “have distinguished between Egyptians and foreigners traveling in the country.” The biggest contrast deals with the role of Sharia in the new political system. The Brotherhood supports the principles of Sharia in legislation, whereas the Salafis support Sharia judgment.

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TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Professor Allan Lichtman, “State of the Race 2016: An overview of the 2016 Elections for foreign correspondents covering their first U.S. election”

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH ALLAN LICHTMAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND FREQUENT POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND ELECTORAL FORECASTER

TOPIC:  STATE OF THE RACE 2016: AN OVERVIEW OF THE 2016 ELECTIONS FOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS COVERING THEIR FIRST U.S. ELECTION

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2015, 11:00 A.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR:  Hello and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center.  Today I would like to welcome Professor Allan Lichtman, American University professor of history and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster, back to the Washington Foreign Press Center for another in his series of elections and political briefings.  This briefing is titled “The State of the Race, 2016:  An Overview of the 2016 Elections for Foreign Correspondents Covering Their First U.S. Election.”  Professor Lichtman’s views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Department of State. 

Without further ado, here is Professor Lichtman.

MR LICHTMAN:  In fact, my views don’t represent anyone except me, so don’t attribute it to American University, the federal government, the United States, or anyone else except Allan Lichtman. 

How many of you were here for my 2014 briefing?  A few of you.  Remember I said three things mattered in midterm elections, right?  Turnout, turnout, and turnout, and I predicted if the turnout was low, the Republicans were going to win the 2014 midterms, and that’s exactly what happened. Turnout was low and it was a very good year for Republicans.  However, things change in presidential election years.  The turnout is something along the lines of 50 percent higher than it is in midterm elections and doesn’t tend to vary quite as much from election to election. 

And obviously, unlike midterm elections where turnout can be highly dependent on what’s going on in an individual state – do you have a real tight race in that state – in a presidential year, of course, turnout is determined by the top of the ticket, the presidential contest.  But the basic dynamic is still very much the same:  High turnout tends to benefit Democrats and low turnout tends to benefit Republicans, whether in a presidential year or a midterm year.  And particularly high turnout of minority voters tends to favor Democrats; higher turnout of white voters tends to favor Republicans.

We have a very racially and ethnically polarized electorate in the United States, and it is virtually uniform.  There are variations in numbers, but the pattern is almost uniform across all the states with white voters giving majorities to Republicans and African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians giving majorities to Democrats.  There’s a slight exception to that in Florida where there’s a very strong Cuban American population that has been traditionally Republican, but that has been changing.  The older anti-Castro Cold War generation is dying out and the new generation is much less Republican, and Florida is also experiencing strong immigration from other parts of Latin America.  So today, the Hispanic vote in Florida is about 50/50; everywhere else, it tends Democratic.  And of course, the African American vote is 90 percent or more Democratic.  So turnout matters and turnout of whites versus minorities matter a great deal in this election.

I’ll turn first to the presidential contest and what’s going on in each primary.  The Democrats ought to be building a monument to Vice President Joe Biden because of what he didn’t do – that is, he didn’t get into the presidential race.  Why is that important?  Because it means there is much less likely to be a contest within the Democratic Party for the nomination.  Bernie Sanders fires up about a quarter to a third of the Democratic primary electorate.  There are a lot of people who will walk through brick walls for Senator Bernie Sanders, but he has a great deal of trouble expanding beyond that 25 to 30 percent.  He does really well in Iowa and New Hampshire – small, primarily white states – but he is being swamped in the polls by Hillary Clinton in all of the big states where there’s very strong minority voting in Democratic primaries, where money organization and name recognition matters.  You’re not going to go door to door in California, New York, and Florida. 

So it looks like, unless something really bizarre happens – and that does happen in politics – that Hillary Clinton is cruising to become the consensus Democratic nominee.  And she was helped not only by Joe Biden getting out of the race, but greatly helped by her Republican opposition.  The more things change, the more they remain the same in politics.

Some of you may even remember back to the crisis facing her husband, President Bill Clinton, the only president since Andrew Johnson in 1868 to be impeached by the U.S. House while the Republicans pressed too far.  And it made it look like – even though Bill Clinton had done some pretty dastardly things – that the Republican campaign against him was political, it was political revenge and was being sought for political advantage, not for the good of the republic.

Guess what?  The Republicans have made exactly the same mistake in going after Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi tragedy and the emails.  Yes, Hillary and the State Department made some pretty serious errors, but it has been pursued so relentlessly for so long with so little new information coming up that now, the American people overwhelmingly believe – 75 percent – that this – these investigations of Hillary Clinton are being motivated by partisanship.  And a couple of Republicans have even come out and greatly helped Hillary Clinton by saying, yeah, these hearings were designed to drive her poll numbers down or hurt her electability. 

So the Republicans have done something that Hillary Clinton could never have done by herself – make this ice lady look sympathetic and appealing and beleaguered and persecuted.  And that had greatly helped her campaign along with an absolutely superb performance in the Democratic debate and just showing she was a marathon runner in coming out of 11 hours of grilling in the Benghazi hearings absolutely unscathed.

Why does it matter that Hillary Clinton is going to be the consensus Democratic nominee?  The reason is history.  History teaches that the worst thing that can happen to the party holding the White House, which of course is the Democratic Party even though Barack Obama is not eligible to run again – the worst thing that can happen to the party holding the White House is an internal, bitter party fight.

The last time the party holding the White House survived a major internal fight for the nomination was, guess what, 1880 when James Garfield won the presidency by about one-tenth of 1 percent in the popular vote.  Since then, major internal party fights have been the kiss of death for the party holding the White House.  I need only remind you of 2008; the Republicans had a big fight, or 1980 when Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter, or 1976 when you had the bitter battle between Ronald Reagan and the sitting president, Gerald Ford.

So the reason avoiding a party fight is so critical in this election is not necessarily because Hillary Clinton is the most electable candidate.  In fact, going for the most electable candidate is about the worst strategy any party could ever adopt because you don’t know who is electable.

I remind you of 2004 when the Democrats opted for John Kerry, Senator Kerry, not because they loved him but because they thought he was electable and, of course, he lost to a very weak president who was really faltering, George W. Bush, in 2004.

So very good news for the Democrats with Joe Biden’s withdrawal and the recent resurgence of Hillary Clinton.  If form holds and Hillary Clinton becomes the consensus nominee, that’s very positive for the Democrats going into the general election.

Now, what is also interesting historically is it’s entirely different for the challenging party, for the party that does not hold the White House.  They can fight all they want and historically it makes absolutely no difference.  I point you to 2008, right, when the Democrats were the out party.  The Republicans were holding the White House and there was a long, protracted – one of the longest and most tract – protracted nomination struggles in modern history between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and that did not stop the challenging candidate, Barack Obama, from handily winning the White House.

So the pundits have it all wrong.  It doesn’t matter that there’s this big squabble among Republicans.  It doesn’t matter that there is no clear consensus nominee and this could be a long struggle.  The pundits have no sense of history.  They have no theory of how a presidential election works.  They’re operating from the seat of their pants and they are absolutely wrong.

That said, the real action and the real interest is on the Republican side, and what is astonishing about the Republican struggle – it’s still early, but not too soon to be astonished – is that the only candidates in double digits, and they’re both over 20 points in the polls; the next highest are 8 or 9 – so the two candidates who are absolutely sweeping the Republican field now – doesn’t mean they’re going to be nominated, but it’s not that early; it’s getting close to 2016 – are two candidates who not only have never been elected to anything, who have never held public office, and that is Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who together, according to the polls, hold the support of more than 50 percent of likely Republican primary voters.

Now, you may think, oh, it’s the Republican Party.  They are the party that challenges Washington.  This is not surprising for the Republican Party.  Nonsense.  When was the last time the Republican Party nominated someone who had never held any kind of public position?  The answer is never.  The answer is never.  You have Dwight Eisenhower, who was never elected, but of course he was General of the Army.  You have Herbert Hoover, who wasn’t elected, but he was Secretary of Commerce.  You have William Howard Taft, who wasn’t elected, but he was Secretary of War and Governor General of the Philippines.  Never has the Republican Party reached out to someone who not only has never stood for election but never held public office. 

In fact, if you look at the more recent history of the Republican Party, they have always nominated a mainstream figure with lots of experience and standing within the party.  Look at their nominees: Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts; John McCain, senator from Arizona; George W. Bush, governor of Texas, son of a President; George H. W. Bush, vice president; Bob Dole, leader of the Senate; Ronald Reagan, governor of California; Richard Nixon, former senator and vice president; even Barry Goldwater, the maverick far conservative who was nominated in 1964, was still a U.S. senator from Arizona.

So you are looking at two candidates who might not seem surprising, but who are actually incredibly surprising because they completely break the mold both of the long history of the Republican Party, and even more pointedly, the recent history of the Republican Party.  They have not nominated anyone with the profile, or non-profile, of a Ben Carson or a Donald Trump.  Got to editorialize a little bit here.  Remember, these are my own opinions only. 

Donald Trump doesn’t surprise me.  I predicted Donald Trump many, many months ago, when all the pundits were scoffing at him.  Why did I predict the rise of Donald Trump?  A number of reasons.  One, he is a great showman.  He really knows how, positively and negatively, to get attention and to attract people to pay attention to him and to listen to him.  And in a crowded field, you need a shtick.  You know what a shtick is?  It’s a Jewish term, it’s used in Hollywood a lot – something that makes you different, something that stands out, something really special.  You remember the impersonation of Sarah Palin that made Saturday Night Live really stick out.  Tina Fey just had her to a T.  It was a great shtick.  And Donald Trump has a shtick.  Now, whether that shtick will last through the primaries, who knows.  But all the pundits again were wrong who said he was a meteor who would just burn out in the atmosphere.  That hasn’t happened.  He’s been atop or, until recently, very close to the top of the polls now for a very long time.

The other thing about Donald Trump is he says things that a lot of other Republican candidates believe but are too afraid, too timid to say – such as his denigrating of immigrants.  It’s inflammatory stuff, probably a majority of Americans don’t agree with it, but there is a segment within the Republican Party that likes to hear that kind of thing and believes that Donald Trump is a non-scripted kind of candidate; he’s not a controlled, Washington-establishment type of candidate.  And if there is anything that marks the Republican Party today, it’s complete disgust with Washington. 

And it’s not just because Barack Obama, a Democrat, is president; it’s because Republicans are deeply and bitterly unhappy about their own Republican Congress.  They don’t believe that their own Republican Congress had done nearly enough either to challenge Barack Obama or to imprint Republican values and Republican policies.  There’s a big segment of the Republican Party that’s quite willing to blow everything up and start all over again.

So I get Donald Trump.  I’ll tell you who I don’t get, and that’s Ben Carson.  I cannot understand what the appeal of Ben Carson is.  Watch the debate – the man had nothing to say.  He couldn’t distinguish between the debt and the deficit.  He tried to explain medical policy – his own medical policy.  He’s a doctor and he couldn’t explain his own medical policy.  But what baffles me most about Ben Carson – have people listened to what the man actually has said? 

He embodies two things that I think are the most dangerous elements that any politician could have:  a lack of a moral compass, and a lack of a sense of history.  The man has compared the Obama Administration to Nazi Germany.  This cheapens the Holocaust.  It cheapens the deaths of tens of millions of people in World War II.  Whatever you may think of Barack Obama – love him or hate him – he didn’t kill 6 million Jews.  He didn’t start a war that killed 67 million people.  What kind of moralist are you?  What kind of sense of history do you have when you make those kinds of comparisons?

I’m a Jew, and I – and I’ve studied the Holocaust.  And I am profoundly offended by his cheapening of the Holocaust by saying if the Jews only had a few guns, they could’ve stopped the Nazi war machine.  How could you be so profoundly ignorant of history?  First of all, only a tiny fraction of the Jews who perished in the Holocaust were German Jews.  Most of the Jews were from territories occupied or influenced by the Nazis – Poland, Romania, Hungary, not Germany.  And guess what?  The Jews tried to fight the Nazis with a few guns. 

Mr. Carson never seems to have heard of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  You know how many Jews were killed?  Thirteen thousand to 20 Nazis.  Nearly 60,000 were deported to the death camps.  How you can cheapen the Holocaust, perhaps the greatest human tragedy in history, by saying it could’ve prevented – it could’ve been prevented if the German Jews had a few more guns.  I don’t get Ben Carson. 

I don’t understand how he has risen to the top of the polls, unless people just aren’t listening.  And that may be true.  Maybe he hasn’t gotten the scrutiny that a Donald Trump or a Jeb Bush has gotten, and people just think he’s this profoundly moral outsider who’s going to bring a new era to Washington.  That may well be his appeal, but I don’t get it.  I get everyone else in the Republican and Democratic field.

And the other candidate I get is Jeb Bush.  That’s the other big story, is the absolute collapse of the candidate who was considered to be the establishment favorite.  Why has the Jeb Bush campaign fallen apart to the point where some of the commentators are indicating he may even drop out of the race?  He’s already cut back on staff.  He’s already reorganized his campaign.  He already looks like a loser.  How could that possibly have happened?  Well, part of it isn’t his fault, and part of it is his fault.  What isn’t his fault is, as we’ve seen so far, this isn’t a good year for the Republican establishment.  The Republican establishment doesn’t seem to be offering anything that’s appealing to the Republican electorate.  In fact, if you put together three candidates who have never held public office and never run for anything – add Carly Fiorina to Ben Carson and Donald Trump – and you’ve got about 60 percent of the potential Republican primary electorate, with eight candidates sharing the other 40 percent.  So that is not anything that has to do with Jeb Bush personally.

But Jeb Bush has run one of the worst campaigns in modern history.  He not only commits gaffes, he doesn’t seem committed to the campaign.  He’s not crisp, he’s not sharp, he’s not appealing, he has no shtick whatsoever.  And my own pure speculation – I have no inside information on this – is the – I won’t say collapse, because remember, Lazarus rose from the dead.  John McCain rose from the dead in 2008.  Things – strange things can happen, so I won’t say collapse yet.  I’ll say terrible faltering of the Bush campaign – is he doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly.  He doesn’t seem to want this with great passion.  He seems to be pursuing it – and again, this is my speculation – because it’s his turn.  His dad was President, his brother was President; governor of Florida, hugely important swing state.  It seemed his time.  And when confronted with this extraordinary tsunami of anti-establishment sentiment within the Republican Party and the rise of these absolutely unexpected candidates, Bush has had no answer to this point.

But I wouldn’t count him out entirely yet because there is going to be an establishment candidate.  It’s not in the end, I don’t believe, going to be only Carson and Trump.  I believe one or the other will survive and thrive as we go into the primaries, but I think there is going to be an alternative.  And the smart money of course has always been on Jeb Bush, but it’s now shifted.  Smart money’s now on Marco Rubio, another Florida candidate, and that’s kind of understandable.  He’s young, he’s good-looking, he’s got – he’s articulate, he’s charismatic.  But the problem for Rubio:  Where does he break through?  Where does he make his mark and how does he make his mark?

So I think it’s entirely up in the air who is going to be the alternative to the anti-establishment candidates, and Bush – his heart is still beating, but it’s beating very, very faintly.  But there is at least some small possibility that the heart of Jeb Bush is going to be revived, but somehow the passion has got to come internally within Jeb Bush himself.

But regardless of which Republican emerges, you’re going to see real contrasts between the two parties.  Two parties agree on almost nothing today.  People talk about polarization although it was a matter of Republicans and Democrats sitting down and having a beer or having a coffee – nonsense.  You know why there’s polarization in Washington?  Because two parties don’t agree on anything.  They don’t agree on health care, they don’t agree on taxes, they don’t agree on immigration.

And the huge sleeper issue that I think may well emerge by next year – it hasn’t been much so far – is climate change, arguably the biggest challenge that humanity is facing.  California is running out of water, which not only affects tens of millions of people in California, but because of their agricultural production, they – confronts the whole country.  A study came out yesterday saying if the world doesn’t deal with climate change, there’s going to be a huge hit to the world economy and an enormous rise in poverty.  A study came out showing the states of the Persian Gulf – get this – may be facing something that has never before been seen in the history of humanity: that is, temperatures too hot for human survival.  There’s this huge meeting in Paris.  I don’t know what will come of it, but I do think climate change could become a huge sleeper issue as we get into 2016.  And once again, the parties are absolutely at odds over whether we should do anything whatsoever about this problem of climate change.

And of course, America has crumbling infrastructure – our electric grid, our roads, our bridges are badly needing repair.  Another big issue, another huge issue: the gap between not the rich and the poor anymore; it’s now the gap between the rich and everybody else – how the party is going to address that. So look forward to an election, no matter who gets nominated, where there are going to be huge ideological differences and policy differences between the parties.

Finally, I want to say a word about the other election where the action is, and that is the United States Senate.  The United States Senate is going to be of critical importance after 2016 because the next president may well have three, four, two Supreme Court nominations to make, and remember, Supreme Court justices serve for life.  President John Adams, the second President of the United States after George Washington, served one term.  He was elected in 1796.  His party, the Federalist Party, disappeared, but he appointed John Marshall as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.  John Marshall held that position for more than 30 years.  Today he is regarded as one of the two most influential chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and he put into play principles of the long-gone, long-defunct Federalist Party.  So you cannot underestimate the importance of Supreme Court appointments, and of course, the Senate ratifies all appointments including Supreme Court appointments.  So control of the Senate is absolutely critical.

One way in which the Democrats got Republicans to stop blocking not Supreme Court appointments but a lot of other court appointments that are very important was to ban the filibuster on circuit court and district court appointments, and that opened the floodgates to a lot of Obama appointees in the courts.  You cannot underestimate the courts because the courts are often where the action is because of the gridlock in the Congress and the gridlock between the Congress and the President.  As we saw in decisions like Citizens United on allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions, some of the most important policies are set by the Supreme Court. 

So you cannot underestimate the importance of control of the Senate, which has flip-flopped quite a bit in recent years.  The Democrats took the Senate in 2006, the Republicans took the Senate back in 2014, and now the Democrats have an opportunity to take the Senate back again in 2016 for two reasons.  One, it’s a presidential year – higher turnout, much higher turnout than at midterms.  And as I’ve explained to you several times, higher turnout favors Democrats. Secondly, Democrats are only defending a couple of western vulnerable seats – in Colorado and in Nevada, where, of course, the Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid is retiring, so that’s an open seat.

And Republicans are facing at least seven vulnerable seats.  I’m not going to go over all of them, but they’re in states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio – mostly states won by Barack Obama in 2012.  I think the Republicans have vulnerable seats in six states won by Barack Obama in 2012.  Democrats need – they have 46 seats now, counting the Democratic-leaning independents.  They need five to take absolute control.  They need four to have a 50/50 Senate, which would mean whoever wins the presidency controls the Senate because the vice president casts the deciding vote.

So keep your eye on these vulnerable states.  They are going to decide the fate of the Senate, and right now it’s about 50/50.  The Democrats have about a 50 percent chance to win back the Senate assuming they hold one of the two vulnerable Democratic seats, which I think is reasonable, then if they can pick up five or six of the seven or so vulnerable Republican seats, they can win back the United States Senate.  And so it’s the presidency and the Senate where the action is.

There’s an old proverb I like to talk about.  I believe it’s Chinese but I’m not certain – maybe some of you can correct me – and that is, “May you live in interesting times.”  And I don’t see how politically the times could be any more interesting than they are right now.

Thank you very much.  I’ll take any of your questions.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Please wait for the microphone and state your name and publication for the transcript.  We’ll go right there.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  As I understand —

MODERATOR:  You’re fine.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  As I understand what you tell us, you are reducing the possibilities in the Republican side.  They have two options: a populist candidate, and populist mean – I’m talking about Trump or Carson.

MR LICHTMAN:  Populist Republican.

QUESTION:  Yeah, or Jeb Bush.  I mean, could you tell us something, anything else about Rubio and the possibilities (inaudible) possibilities of Rubio?

MR LICHTMAN:  It’s very, very difficult to handicap primaries for a bunch of reasons, and those who think they know are wrong.  Reason number one is there’s so many candidates – very difficult.  The mathematics of it become asymptotically complex when dealing with multiple candidates.  Secondly, it’s not linear.  That is, one primary affects the next primary, so who – if Ben Carson, who is now well ahead in Iowa, wins Iowa, that’s going to scramble things, that’s going to change things.  If Jeb Bush comes in fifth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire, he may be done.  So one primary affects another, and that makes it very difficult to handicap.

And finally, the polls are not real meaningful.  If you think back to 2012, there were all kinds of Republicans who popped up in the polls – Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum – and none of them, none of them were nominated.  Republicans went back to the middle establishment figure.  So I don’t think it’s possible at this point to give any informed answer on who is going to be the nominee and whether it’s going to be an outsider or an insider.  I’m not in a position to make that prediction.

But I would say don’t count out the insider just because the outsiders are crushing in the polls now.  I still think – and I don’t know who it’s going to be, it could be Jeb – there will be a viable insider establishment candidate who can still win this nomination just based on long-term and recent history of the Republican Party.  They tend to love these mavericks but they never nominate them.

MODERATOR:  Okay, I’ll come right there.

QUESTION:  Stefan Grobe with Euronews, [France].  Good to see you.

MR LICHTMAN:  Good to see you again.

QUESTION:  You said you can’t explain Ben Carson. 

MR LICHTMAN:  I can’t.  Maybe you can.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Well, my question is:  How do you explain the fact that he is the darling of a very conservative white constituency, being African American —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  — and has zero support – almost zero support among African Americans?  Is that bad luck, good luck, or chance or whatever? 

MR LICHTMAN:  Well, we saw that with Herman Cain, another African American, back in 2012.  In earlier elections there was a very conservative Republican, Alan Keyes, whose support was also largely white.

I would say a couple of things.  One, nobody knows anything about Ben Carson if you look at the polls.  He seems to be this really nice guy, this really moral individual, until you really look at what he’s said and his history.  I know him really well because he’s from Maryland, my state, and I followed his actions in the Maryland struggle over abortion in the 1990s.  And he now claims to be so morally guided that he won’t even allow abortions in the case of rape or incest.  But back in the 1990s when he was actually involved in the moral struggle over abortion, he was the only player who played both sides.  He gave an anti-choice commercial and then walked back from his own commercial, said, “I really didn’t understand what I was doing,” tried to be both pro-choice and pro-life at the same time.  So it’s very hard to understand.

But in these polls, within the Republican Party, people are not voting race.  They’re voting issues and more are voting kind of these vague perceptions.  But again, don’t be deceived by the early polls.  People don’t know what Ben Carson yet stands for.  Maybe when the Republicans see what they stand for, they’ll love him.  Who knows?  But I think it’s going to be a much – if he gets the nomination, a much more difficult go for him in the general election.

MODERATOR:  We’ll come down here.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Mounzer Sleiman, al-Mayadeen TV, [Lebanon].  Can you give us just your sense of how much this campaign will be financed, compared to other campaign in the past – the presidential campaign?  And I want to ask you about Florida, because this is probably tied up to your establishment prediction.  Since two prominent person, individuals —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, Rubio and Jeb Bush.

QUESTION:  — do you think that Florida would be a factor, since Florida has been a factor in the election —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  — that could be a factor —

MR LICHTMAN:  Got it.

QUESTION:  — in the calculation of Republican to select the one in the final analysis?

MR LICHTMAN:  Very, very, very excellent questions.  First of all, on finance, the sky is the limit.  As we saw approaching a billion dollar campaign by Barack Obama last time, you can expect billion dollar campaigns on the side of both candidates.  But there’s a dirty little secret about spending in general presidential elections, not primary:  Spending doesn’t matter.  That is, there’s no particular correlation historically between who spends the most money and who wins.

And the reason is pretty simple.  In other elections, voters don’t know much, and who can get out their message by spending really matters.  But people know the presidential candidates.  You got debates, you got lots of free media.  So spending is less important.

I absolutely agree with you; Florida is critical.  And right now, both Rubio and Bush seem to be trailing in Florida.  That could knock both of them out.  One of them has got to win Florida, and then he could become the establishment candidate.  But if they both lose Florida, that could knock both of them out entirely, and that’s an early primary.  So we’re going to get some early indication. 

And by the way, when you get into the later Republican primaries after middle March, they’re winner-take-all.  So you can win those primaries with 35 percent and get every single delegate.  So things are going to change if there’s still a big contest after the middle of March.

QUESTION:  Can I have a follow-up very quickly? 

QUESTION:  That’s fine.

QUESTION:  I forgot to ask you, because I think it’s very important, to give us the difference between the caucus and the primary, please.

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  Very simply put, a primary is just like any other election – you show up at the polls and you vote.  Caucus, you have to go to meetings.  And the meetings can last all day and you have a series of votes at the meetings, ultimately leading to a tally of a statewide vote.  So the big difference is you’ve got to put in a lot more time, energy, and effort to go to a caucus.  So it involves much more committed voters.  The reason, by the way, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 is not what anyone thinks; it’s because Obama organized the caucus states.  And it was the victory in the caucus states for Barack Obama that put him over the top.  So organization really matters in the caucus states, which is why you got to take these generalized polls with a grain of salt, because the candidates might have very different operations on the ground.

QUESTION:  Thank you, professor.  Bingru Wang with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV.  This time we have seen China being brought up during the debates.  So how much does China matter during the election this time, and how China card will be played out?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  I always get these questions, and they’re really good questions, from people from particular countries.  And, of course, China is going to matter a lot more than most places, because it is – there are three great powers vying, competing in the world – China, Russia, and the United States.  So policy towards China is very important. 

But the details of policy won’t matter, because – I hate to say this – but the American people never follow the details of foreign policy.  They pay attention only when there is a big crisis or a big victory.  So they’ll pay attention to the Iran nuclear treaty law.  I promise you they can’t tell you the details of it.  And what they might be paying attention to is the potential tensions and conflicts.  There’s this big issue over these islands, and the United States is not recognizing those islands as legitimate Chinese territory.  If that flares up into something more, that can become a big issue in the campaign.  But beyond that, the details of policy are going to shoot over most people’s heads.

MODERATOR:  Gentleman in back, in the glasses?  No, no; back, back; glasses.

QUESTION:  Oh.  (Laughter.)

MR LICHTMAN:  Got to get the back row.

MODERATOR:  Got to be fair to the back.  Sorry, guys.

QUESTION:  Hi, hi.  This is Ryan Hermelijn from NOS News TV, [The Netherlands].  I was wondering about the general election.  Specifically you outlined a couple of themes, but I didn’t hear the culture wars.  We have had the advancement of several liberal ideas such as the advancement of gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, assisted suicide is popping up.  There’s a backlash with Hobby Lobby and Kim Davis and such.  So how do you think that will play out in the 2016 elections?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  Before I answer that, let me – it’s related to your question.  There’s a debate tonight and do you know where it is?

QUESTION:  Boulder.

MR LICHTMAN:  Colorado.  And what is one of the biggest rising industries in the state of Colorado?  The pot industry.  Last I saw, it was a $700 million industry employing lots of folks.  Are the Republicans going to talk about the pot industry in Colorado?  And Republicans have an interesting dilemma on some of these things like pot.  Because on the one hand, the Republican Party is the party of what – free enterprise, right?  Business – they should be encouraging the pot industry, right, as a classic example of entrepreneurship and the American way.  But on the other hand, as you say, they also harbor a lot of social conservatives who obviously look askance at the use of pot and other recreational drugs. 

So it’ll be interesting to see if they say anything about this at all.  If I were the moderator, I would certainly ask them about it, because it does pit two Republican values – the problems with the social issues is people’s positions are pretty well set.  You’re not going to change someone’s mind about abortion.  You’re not going to change someone’s mind about gay marriage.  And these issues, while they play to the Republican primary electorate, don’t play to the general electorate.  The most amazing social trend in America in the past decade has been the extraordinary acceptance of gay and lesbian rights.  If you had told anyone 10 years ago that a majority of Americans would favor gay marriage, they would’ve told you you’re living in never-never land.  Just huge shifts on these social issues, so I don’t suspect the Republicans are going to pound them.

Interestingly, the Democrats might.  Democrats might try to play the abortion issue against the Republicans, particularly if you have a candidate who is coming out like Ben Carson and saying not even in cases of rape or incest are we going to allow abortions.  That’s like a 20 percent position within the electorate.

MODERATOR:  Okay, come down here.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper Estado Sao Paolo.  Going to the historical perspective, one thing that is often told is that the last time the Democrats won the White House after being in the White House for two terms in a row was 19th century, with the exception of FDR.  Like, how important it is to see this historical theme play there?

And another question:  Like, who would be the best and who would be the worst candidate on the Republican Party from the Democrat perspective?

MR LICHTMAN:  Let me answer – yeah, I got you.  Let me answer the – the second question first, and that is the one word that I would throw out of the dictionary is electability.  You have no idea who is electable in advance of an election.  As I said, parties have gone to the candidates they thought were the most electable and they’ve crashed and burned and lost.  Presidential elections – and you’ve got to read my book, The Keys to the White House; the sixth edition will be coming out in early 2016 – a system for explaining and predicting presidential elections that has not been wrong ever.  I’ve been predicting since 1984, since I was nine.  I’ve hit every election – (laughter) – correctly.

I got to tell you a little story about cultural divide.  A few years ago I was in India and Korea, giving lectures on The Keys to the White House.  And India’s this really loose, kind of chaotic, exciting place, and Korea is much more controlled and stable and sober.  And the Indians would get my jokes, but somehow some of the Koreans wouldn’t get my jokes.  And I swear, one guy, after I gave my lecture made this point and raised his hand and said, “Professor Lichtman, can you please explain to me how you were able to predict elections when you were nine?”  (Laughter.)  So real cultural divides in the world.

So according to my theory, presidential elections are referenda on the performance of the party holding the White House.  That’s why things like foreign policy successes and failures, the fate of the Iran treaty, the state of the economy, policy change, social unrest matter, and the identity of the candidate doesn’t matter.  But the pundits – who are always wrong, but I’ll have to give you the pundits’ view – they think Marco Rubio is probably the most electable Republican.  But they have no basis, really, for saying that.

In terms of winning a third consecutive term, that’s hard.  It’s not an absolute bar, but it’s hard, because one of my keys to the White House is whether or not the sitting president is running for re-election.  And after two consecutive terms, under the amendment to the Constitution, you can’t run for a third term.  So it is harder to win three consecutive terms than it is to win two consecutive terms, but it’s obviously one factor and one factor only.

QUESTION:  Thank you, professor.  Rita Chen from Central News Agency, Taiwan.  You just say the (inaudible) matter.  I wondered how possibly the issue of gender could play a role once the – it’s closing to the voting day, and —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, very interesting.  I’ve spent a lot of time in Taiwan, and —

QUESTION:  And – sorry, I have a second question:  And how important the Vice President for both party if they choose the – anyone —

MR LICHTMAN:  Gotcha.  All right.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  First, gender.  Very difficult to say.  In 2008, I predicted an Obama victory.  In fact, I became notorious because I used my keys to the White House in 2005, three years before the election, to say things are going so badly for the Republicans that the Democrats could pick a name out of the phone book and elect that person.  They kind of did.  Whoever heard of Barack Obama at that point?  But a lot of people said to me, “Your keys are going to be wrong because they don’t take into account race” – obviously not, since we’ve never had an African American candidate – and it turned out the keys were spot on.  They got the election exactly right and race made no difference.

Will gender make a difference?  Probably not, but it’s very, very hard to say.  My wife, who’s a leading women’s rights advocate, tells me gender creates more prejudice than even race, but it’s hidden.  People are not going to come out and say, “I’m not going to vote for a woman president.” 

So my overall answer is I don’t think it’s going to override other factors, but you never know because these things are impossible to measure.

QUESTION:  Hi, Zhang Yue for China Daily, [China].  I was late so I didn’t know you were talking about this earlier.  And do you agree that – the saying that the dynasty, the Bush and the Clinton, and also the unlimited campaign finance, as signs of erosion of American democracy?  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  No, I don’t think dynasties erode American democracy, as our people still pick the president; there’s no dictator or dictatorial cabal picking the president.  And the truth is Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, whatever you may think of their policies or their characters, by background and by history, are eminently qualified to run for president of the United States.  I do think money is a much bigger problem though.  I do think you’ve put your finger on something very important.  I do think unlimited money and the expense of campaigns has eroded American democracy, not so much the presidential level – as I said, money matters least – but at every other level, money matters a whole lot.  Even to win a puny seat on a county commission or city council, you have to spend upwards of $100,000.  That is a lot of money for an ordinary American.  To win a congressional seat, you probably have to spend millions of dollars in a contested – that’s just one of 435 congressional seats. 

Ninety-nine percent of Americans are priced out of the political market.  To run for office today, you either have to be reasonably affluent or tied into affluent special interests.  So we have vastly constricted the political choice and political opportunities open to Americans because of the overriding importance of money at every level below the presidency, and that is a huge problem, and it’s not going to be solved because the Supreme Court has interpreted money as speech.  As long as that decision stands and the Citizens United decision on unlimited corporate spending stands, it’s not going to be solved.

By the way, I didn’t answer the lady’s question about the vice presidential nominee.  How much does it matter?  Zero.  The worst vice presidential nomination in modern history was not Sarah Palin, it was Dan Quayle, the nominee of George H. W. Bush, who had the most embarrassing moment in the history of presidential debates when he compared himself – because he was young and inexperienced, he compared himself to John Kennedy, and Lloyd Bentsen, the experienced Democratic vice presidential nominee turned and said, “Sir, I knew John Kennedy.  John Kennedy was a friend of mine.  And with all due respect, sir, you are no John Kennedy.”  It was just a complete, utterly deflating moment.  Did it make any difference whatsoever in the presidential election?  No.  There’s no evidence that the vice president matters.

MODERATOR:  Gentleman in the white shirt in the middle.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, professor.  My name is [Koya] Ozeki; I work for Japan’s Yomiuri.  I have two questions.  My understanding is that until a few decades ago, primaries and caucuses were much more restricted to party elites.  It was a much more restricted process.  And back in those days, I guess candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson had much less chance of coming up like today.  But do you hear any arguments pointing that fact out?  And do you hear any arguments calling for change of the system?

MR LICHTMAN:  Got it.

QUESTION:  Changing it back to the primary system.  And actually there’s another question.  Millennials.

MR LICHTMAN:  That was a pretty long one.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  I know.  Sorry about that. 

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, we’re running out of time, so —

QUESTION:  Millennials.  Just – and the second question is very short.  I’m interested in the Millennials.  Do they – how do they impact 2016?  Thank you very much.

MR LICHTMAN:  Let me answer your first question.  Yes, there has been a revolution in how the parties select their presidential nominees, and the revolution dates back to the Democratic nomination in 1968 when the country was so deeply divided over the Vietnam War.  You may recall the sitting President was Lyndon Johnson, who dropped out.  He was eligible to run again, but he dropped out of the election because of the divisions over the war.  And it looked Bobby Kennedy – anti-war candidate – particularly after he won the California primary would be nominated, but on the very eve of winning that primary Kennedy was assassinated.  And the result was someone who had entered no primaries, Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President, was nominated and the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party was outraged. 

And as a concession to those folks, the Democratic Party set up a commission on delegate selection headed by a very famous liberal who would be the next party nominee, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, and they completely changed the rules for nomination.  Now the only way you could get a delegate was in open primaries and open caucuses.  It used to be there were a lot of states were the party bosses, behind closed doors, would pick the nominee, as you pointed out.  And the Democratic Party adopted this open system and the Republicans followed suit.  And since then, conventions haven’t mattered a wit.  Nominees get selected in the primaries and caucuses and by the voters.  And there has been tons of complaints about it.  Let’s go back to the old system of having these gray, wise, old men sit in a smoke-filled room and pick the nominee; it’s not going to happen.  This system is firmly in place.  No one is going to disenfranchise the voters.

As far as the millennials, I resist all that kind of breaking down the electorate in these ways.  The electorate moves in one piece generally.   Yes, there are huge differences within the electorate, but the electorate is going to make one decision and one decision only:  Have the Democrats governed well enough to get four more years in the White House, or have they governed poorly enough so that voters want a change?  That is the theory behind the keys to the White House.  And to get the scoop, as I said, my book will be out in about four months, sixth edition.

MODERATOR:  We have time for one or two more.

QUESTION:  Hello.  Oliver Grimm for the Austrian newspaper, Die Presse.  Could you briefly talk about the House and particularly in light of how the Republican Party there has – sorry, disintegrated?  Does it actually make a matter if there’s a formally Republican majority there if they can’t really decide on the things that it really wants?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, I haven’t talked about the House.  Let me talk a little bit about the house.  The House, of course, is entirely different than the Senate where you’re elected in districts within the states.  And there’s one word to describe the House, and that word is gerrymander.  Do you all know what a gerrymander is?  It’s where you concoct the districts to favor one party.  And the truth is today, 85 to 90 percent of House districts aren’t competitive in the general election.  The voters don’t decide the election; the line drawers fix the districts so they’re clearly going to win for one party or the other.  And both parties do it.  Republicans have been better because they won the 2010 midterms and the last redistricting was right after that, so – strange places like Pennsylvania that’s a Democratic state that has an overwhelming Republican majority in the House.

But that also means something else.  Where’s the action, then, if it’s not in the general elections in the primary?  And this has led to the election of a lot of very conservative Republican members of the House, the so-called Tea Party Coalition.  And that’s the conflict you’re seeing within the House, between the Tea Party Coalition and the more mainstream Republicans who are more willing to possibly work with the Democrats to some extent and accommodate them.  And by the way, that same division is present within the Republican electorate itself.  There’s a small majority of Republicans, when they’re polled, who say don’t compromise; stick to principles.  But 30 to 45 to 40 percent of Republicans say we should compromise.

So you’re absolutely right, there is a real division within the Republican Party.  And while having a consensus speaker like Paul Ryan’s going to paper it over temporarily, the conflicts within the House are not going to end.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  We’ve got time for one more question.  We’ll go to (off-mike).

QUESTION:  Thank you. Jane with China’s Sina News.  My question is about social media.  How do you think the social media changed the dynamic of the presidential campaign?  And secondly – quick question – how important is the endorsement from the celebrity, congressmen, politician to the presidential candidate?  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  I’ll answer your last question first.  Endorsements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.  And that’s been true for a long time historically.  The classic example historically is Edmund Muskie, who had run for vice president on the Democratic ticket in ’68.  Had every single endorsement of everyone, had all the money, and his candidacy completely collapsed to the insurgent campaign of George McGovern.  Certainly Ben Carson and Donald Trump are not leading the field because of endorsements.  Jeb Bush would be ahead if you went solely with endorsements.  So I don’t think endorsements really matter one bit.

And what was your other question? 

Social media.  They’ve changed campaigns very little to this point.  Everyone says, “Oh, social media’s going to take over the campaign.”  Nonsense.  The overwhelming bulk of money by candidates – at every level, really – if you can afford it, is still spent on traditional media, particularly television.  And the vast bulk of campaign contributions do not come in through social media; they come in through traditional fundraising methods.

That said, however, social media is becoming increasingly important.  It hasn’t taken over yet, but I think it will be more important in this campaign than ever before because of one very simple fact:  Today, more people get their news from social media than they do from any other source.  And so people do go to social – they go to scores of different places, but social media is displacing everything else as a source of news.  So I do think it will be more important in this campaign than ever before.

Thank you all very much.

MODERATOR:  Thank you all for coming.  This event is now concluded. 

# # #

 

Washington Foreign Press Center

U.S. Department of State


WHAT:          Washington Foreign Press Center On-The-Record Briefing

 

TOPIC:          State of the Race 2016: An overview of the 2016 Elections for foreign correspondents covering their first U.S. election

 

BRIEFER:      Professor Allan Lichtman, American University Professor of History and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster

 

WHEN:          Wednesday, October 28, 2015, at 11:00 a.m.

 

WHERE:        National Press Building, 529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800

 

RSVP:            Interested media should respond to FPCOwner@state.gov. 

 

BACKGROUND:  Allan Lichtman, American University Professor of History and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster, will provide an overview of the ‘state of the race’ for the 2016 presidential, Congressional, and state elections on the morning of the upcoming October 28 Republican Party debate in Boulder, CO.  Professor Lichtman will discuss the state of the race for the current slate of Democratic, Republican, and third party candidates. He will also address which House and Senate races are competitive this election cycle, and whether the Democratic Party will win back the House or the Senate.  In addition, Lichtman will forecast which battleground states are competitive this election cycle and whether they are leaning red or blue.  Lastly, Lichtman will lay out a series of issues to watch, from the perspective of foreign media who are covering their first U.S. election and want to quickly get up to speed on the ways in which U.S. politics are different from other parliamentary systems around the world. 

NOTE:  All briefings are subject to change.  Please call (202) 504-6300 or visit the FPC website at http://fpc.state.gov for the latest information on this and other FPC programs.

 

BROADCASTERS:  Download a digital copy of the video at www.dvidshub.net/USDOS. 

Washington Foreign Press Center
National Press Building
529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800

Washington, DC  20045 Phone: (202) 504-6300 || Fax: (202) 504-6334

Secretary of State John Kerry Nuclear Agreement with Iran September 2, 2015

 

 

 

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 REMARKS

September 2, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry Nuclear Agreement with Iran

September 2, 2015

National Constitution Center

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

SECRETARY KERRY:  Dick, thank you so much for a generous introduction.  I’ll say more about it, but I want to say good morning to all of you here.  It is great for me to be able to be here in Philadelphia.  I am delighted to see so many young people with us.  I know school has started and I know the choice between coming here and sitting in class was a very tough one.  (Laughter.)  We’re glad you made the choice you did.

I am particularly grateful that Senator Lugar chose to come here this morning in order to introduce me and to reaffirm his support for this agreement.  But I’m even more grateful for his service to our country over a course of a lifetime.  As a former colleague of his on the Foreign Relations Committee, which he referred to in his introduction, I can bear witness that Dick Lugar is one of the true legislative pathfinders of recent times, with a long record of foreign policy accomplishments.  And what he and Sam Nunn did is a lasting legacy of making this world safer.  He is also someone who has consistently placed our country’s interests above any other consideration, and he has a very deep understanding of how best to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands.  He is one of our experts when it comes to that judgment.

So it is appropriate that the senator is here with us this morning, and I think every one of us here joins in saying thank you to you, Dick, for your tremendous service.  (Applause.)  It’s also fitting to be here in Philadelphia, the home ground of this absolutely magnificent Center to the Constitution, the Liberty Bell, and one our nation’s most revered founders, Benjamin Franklin.  And I must say I never quite anticipated, but this is one of the great vistas in America, and to be able to look down and see Independence Hall there is inspiring, I think, for all of us here.

I would say a quick word about Ben Franklin.  In addition to his many inventions and his special status as America’s first diplomat, Franklin is actually credited with being the first person known to have made a list of pros and cons – literally dividing a page in two and writing all of the reasons to support a proposal on one side and all of the reasons to oppose it on the other.

And this morning, I would like to invite you – all of you, those here and those listening through the media – to participate in just such an exercise.

Because two months ago, in Vienna, the United States and five other nations – including permanent members of the UN Security Council – reached agreement with Iran on ensuring the peaceful nature of that country’s nuclear program.  As early as next week, Congress will begin voting on whether to support that plan.  And the outcome will matter as much as any foreign policy decision in recent history.  Like Senator Lugar, President Obama and I are convinced – beyond any reasonable doubt – that the framework that we have put forward will get the job done.  And in that assessment, we have excellent company. 

Last month, 29 of our nation’s top nuclear physicists and Nobel Prize winners, scientists, from one end of our country to the other, congratulated the President for what they called “a technically sound, stringent, and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance … that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.”  The scientists praised the agreement for its creative approach to verification and for the rigorous safeguards that will prevent Iran from obtaining the fissile material for a bomb.

Today, I will lay out the facts that caused those scientists and many other experts to reach the favorable conclusions that they have.  I will show why the agreed plan will make the United States, Israel, the Gulf States, and the world safer.  I will explain how it gives us the access that we need to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains wholly peaceful, while preserving every option to respond if Iran fails to meet its commitments.  I will make clear that the key elements of the agreement will last not for 10 or 15 years, as some are trying to assert, or for 20 or 25, but they will last for the lifetime of Iran’s nuclear program.  And I will dispel some of the false information that has been circulating about the proposal on which Congress is soon going to vote.

Now, for this discussion, there is an inescapable starting point – a place where every argument made against the agreement must confront a stark reality – the reality of how advanced Iran’s nuclear program had become and where it was headed when Presidents Obama and Rouhani launched the diplomatic process that concluded this past July.

Two years ago, in September of 2013, we were facing an Iran that had already mastered the nuclear fuel cycle; already stockpiled enough enriched uranium that, if further enriched, could arm 10 to 12 bombs; an Iran that was already enriching uranium to the level of 20 percent, which is just below weapons-grade; an Iran that had already installed 10,000-plus centrifuges; and an Iran that was moving rapidly to commission a heavy water reactor able to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for an additional bomb or two a year.  That, my friends, is where we already were when we began our negotiations.

At a well-remembered moment during the UN General Assembly the previous fall, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had held up a cartoon of a bomb to show just how dangerous Iran’s nuclear program had become.  And in 2013, he returned to that podium to warn that Iran was positioning itself to “rush forward to build nuclear bombs before the international community can detect it and much less prevent it.”  The prime minister argued rightly that the so-called breakout time – the interval required for Iran to produce enough fissile material for one bomb – had dwindled to as little as two months.  Even though it would take significantly longer to actually build the bomb itself using that fissile material, the prime minister’s message was clear: Iran had successfully transformed itself into a nuclear threshold state.

In the Obama Administration, we were well aware of that troubling fact, and more important, we were already responding to it.  The record is irrefutable that, over the course of two American administrations, it was the United States that led the world in assembling against Tehran one of the toughest international sanctions regimes ever developed.

But we also had to face an obvious fact: sanctions alone were not getting the job done, not even close.  They were failing to slow, let alone halt, Iran’s relentless march towards a nuclear weapons capability.  So President Obama acted.  He reaffirmed his vow that Iran would absolutely not be permitted to have a nuclear weapon.  He marshaled support for this principle from every corner of the international community.  He made clear his determination to go beyond what sanctions could accomplish and find a way to not only stop, but to throw into reverse, Iran’s rapid expansion of its nuclear program.

As we developed our strategy, we cast a very wide net to enlist the broadest expertise available.  We sat down with the IAEA and with our own intelligence community to ensure that the verification standards that we sought on paper would be effective in reality.  We consulted with Congress and our international allies and friends.  We examined carefully every step that we might take to close off each of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb.  And of course, we were well aware that every proposal, every provision, every detail would have to withstand the most painstaking scrutiny.  We knew that.  And so we made clear from the outset that we would not settle for anything less than an agreement that was comprehensive, verifiable, effective, and of lasting duration.

We began with an interim agreement reached in Geneva – the Joint Plan of Action.  It accomplished diplomatically what sanctions alone could never have done or did.  It halted the advance of Iran’s nuclear activities.  And it is critical to note – you don’t hear much about it, but it’s critical to note that for more than 19 months now, Iran has complied with every requirement of that plan.  But this was just a first step.

From that moment, we pushed ahead, seeking a broad and enduring agreement, sticking to our core positions, maintaining unity among a diverse negotiating group of partners, and we arrived at the good and effective deal that we had sought.

And I ask you today and in the days ahead, as we have asked members of Congress over the course of these last months, consider the facts of what we achieved and judge for yourself the difference between where we were two years ago and where we are now, and where we can be in the future.  Without this agreement, Iran’s so-called breakout time was about two months; with this agreement it will increase by a factor of six, to at least a year, and it will remain at that level for a decade or more. 

Without this agreement, Iran could double the number of its operating centrifuges almost overnight and continue expanding with ever more efficient designs.  With this agreement, Iran’s centrifuges will be reduced by two-thirds for 10 years. 

Without this agreement, Iran could continue expanding its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is now more than 12,000 kilograms – enough, if further enriched, for multiple bombs.  With this agreement, that stockpile will shrink and shrink some more – a reduction of some 98 percent, to no more than 300 kilograms for 15 years. 

Without this agreement, Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak would soon be able to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium each year to fuel one or two nuclear weapons.  With this agreement, the core of that reactor will be removed and filled with concrete, and Iran will never be permitted to produce any weapons-grade plutonium.

Without this agreement, the IAEA would not have assured access to undeclared locations in Iran where suspicious activities might be taking place.  The agency could seek access, but if Iran objected, there would be no sure method for resolving a dispute in a finite period, which is exactly what has led us to where we are today – that standoff.  With this agreement, the IAEA can go wherever the evidence leads.  No facility – declared or undeclared – will be off limits, and there is a time certain for assuring access.  There is no other country to which such a requirement applies.  This arrangement is both unprecedented and unique. 

In addition, the IAEA will have more inspectors working in Iran, using modern technologies such as real-time enrichment monitoring, high-tech electronic seals, and cameras that are always watching – 24/7, 365.  Further, Iran has agreed never to pursue key technologies that would be necessary to develop a nuclear explosive device. 

So the agreement deals not only with the production of fissile material, but also with the critical issue of weaponization.  Because of all of these limitations and guarantees, we can sum up by saying that without this agreement, the Iranians would have several potential pathways to a bomb; with it, they won’t have any. 

Iran’s plutonium pathway will be blocked because it won’t have a reactor producing plutonium for a weapon, and it won’t build any new heavy-water reactors or engage in reprocessing for at least 15 years, and after that we have the ability to watch and know precisely what they’re doing.

The uranium pathway will be blocked because of the deep reductions in Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity, and because for 15 years the country will not enrich uranium to a level higher than 3.67 percent.  Let me be clear:  No one can build a bomb from a stockpile of 300 kilograms of uranium enriched only 3.67 percent.  It is just not possible. 

Finally, Iran’s covert pathway to a bomb will also be blocked.  Under our plan, there will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities.  As soon as we start the implementation, inspectors will be able to track Iran’s uranium as it is mined, then milled, then turned into yellow cake, then into gas, and eventually into waste.  This means that for a quarter of a century at least, every activity throughout the nuclear fuel chain will receive added scrutiny.  And for 20 years, the IAEA will be monitoring the production of key centrifuge components in Iran in order to assure that none are diverted to a covert program.

So if Iran did decide to cheat, its technicians would have to do more than bury a processing facility deep beneath the ground.  They would have to come up with a complete – complete – and completely secret nuclear supply chain: a secret source of uranium, a secret milling facility, a secret conversion facility, a secret enrichment facility.  And our intelligence community and our Energy Department, which manages our nuclear program and our nuclear weapons, both agree Iran could never get away with such a deception.  And if we have even a shadow of doubt that illegal activities are going on, either the IAEA will be given the access required to uncover the truth or Iran will be in violation and the nuclear-related sanctions can snap back into place.  We will also have other options to ensure compliance if necessary.

Given all of these requirements, it is no wonder that this plan has been endorsed by so many leading American scientists, experts on nuclear nonproliferation, and others.  More than 60 former top national security officials, 100 – more than 100 retired ambassadors – people who served under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, are backing the proposal – as are retired generals and admirals from all 5 of our uniformed services.  Brent Scowcroft, one of the great names in American security endeavors of the last century and now, served as a national security advisor to two Republican presidents.  He is also among the many respected figures who are supporting it.  Internationally, the agreement is being backed, with one exception, by each of the more than 100 countries that have taken a formal position.  The agreement was also endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on a vote of 15 to nothing.  This not only says something very significant about the quality of the plan, particularly when you consider that 5 of those countries are permanent members and they’re all nuclear powers, but it should also invite reflection from those who believe the United States can walk away from this without causing grave harm to our international reputation, to relationships, and to interests. 

You’ve probably heard the claim that because of our strength, because of the power of our banks, all we Americans have to do if Congress rejects this plan is return to the bargaining table, puff out our chests, and demand a better deal.  I’ve heard one critic say he would use sanctions to give Iran a choice between having an economy or having a nuclear program.  Well, folks, that’s a very punchy soundbite, but it has no basis in any reality.  As Dick said, I was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when our nation came together across party lines to enact round after round of economic sanctions against Iran.  But remember, even the toughest restrictions didn’t stop Iran’s nuclear program from speeding ahead from a couple of hundred centrifuges to 5,000 to 19,000.  We’ve already been there.  If this agreement is voted down, those who vote no will not be able to tell you how many centrifuges Iran will have next year or the year after.  If it’s approved, we will be able to tell you exactly what the limits on Iran’s program will be.

The fact is that it wasn’t either sanctions or threats that actually stopped and finally stopped the expansion of Iran’s nuclear activities.  The sanctions brought people to the table, but it was the start of the negotiating process and the negotiations themselves, recently concluded in Vienna, that actually stopped it.  Only with those negotiations did Iran begin to get rid of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.  Only with those negotiations did it stop installing more centrifuges and cease advancing the Arak reactor.  Only then did it commit to be more forthcoming about IAEA access and negotiate a special arrangement to break the deadlock. 

So just apply your common sense:  What do you think will happen if we say to Iran now, “Hey, forget it.  The deal is off.  Let’s go back to square one”?  How do you think our negotiating partners, all of whom have embraced this deal, will react; all of whom are prepared to go forward with it – how will they react?  What do you think will happen to that multilateral sanctions regime that brought Iran to the bargaining table in the first place?  The answer is pretty simple.  The answer is straightforward.  Not only will we lose the momentum that we have built up in pressing Iran to limit its nuclear activities, we will almost surely start moving in the opposite direction.

We need to remember sanctions don’t just sting in one direction, my friends.  They also impose costs on those who forego the commercial opportunities in order to abide by them.  It’s a tribute to President Obama’s diplomacy – and before that, to President George W. Bush – that we were able to convince countries to accept economic difficulties and sacrifices and put together the comprehensive sanctions regime that we did.  Many nations that would like to do business with Iran agreed to hold back because of the sanctions and – and this is vital – and because they wanted to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  They have as much interest in it as we do.  And that’s why they hoped the negotiations would succeed, and that’s why they will join us in insisting that Iran live up to its obligations.  But they will not join us if we unilaterally walk away from the very deal that the sanctions were designed to bring about.  And they will not join us if we’re demanding even greater sacrifices and threatening their businesses and banks because of a choice we made and they opposed.

So while it may not happen all at once, it is clear that if we reject this plan, the multilateral sanctions regime will start to unravel.  The pressure on Iran will lessen and our negotiating leverage will diminish, if not disappear.  Now, obviously, that is not the path, as some critics would have us believe, to a so-called better deal.  It is a path to a much weaker position for the United States of America and to a much more dangerous Middle East.

And this is by no means a partisan point of view that I just expressed.  Henry Paulson was Secretary of Treasury under President George W. Bush.  He helped design the early stages of the Iran sanctions regime.  But just the other day, he said, “It would be totally unrealistic to believe that if we backed out of this deal, the multilateral sanctions would remain in place.”  And Paul Volcker, who chaired the Federal Reserve under President Reagan, he said, “This agreement is as good as you are going to get.  To think that we can unilaterally maintain sanctions doesn’t make any sense.”

We should pause for a minute to contemplate what voting down this agreement might mean for Iran’s cadre of hardliners, for those people in Iran who lead the chants of “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” and even “Death to Rouhani,” and who prosecute journalists simply for doing their jobs.  The evidence documents that among those who most fervently want this agreement to fall apart are the most extreme factions in Iran.  And their opposition should tell you all you need to know.  From the very beginning, these extremists have warned that negotiating with the United States would be a waste of time; why on Earth would we now take a step that proves them right?  

Let me be clear.  Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran; it would be broadcasting a message so puzzling most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend.  After all, they’ve listened as we warned over and over again about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program.  They’ve watched as we spent two years forging a broadly accepted agreement to rein that program in.  They’ve nodded their heads in support as we have explained how the plan that we have developed will make the world safer.

Who could fairly blame them for not understanding if we suddenly switch course and reject the very outcome we had worked so hard to obtain?  And not by offering some new and viable alternative, but by offering no alternative at all.  It is hard to conceive of a quicker or more self-destructive blow to our nation’s credibility and leadership – not only with respect to this one issue, but I’m telling you across the board – economically, politically, militarily, and even morally.  We would pay an immeasurable price for this unilateral reversal.  

Friends, as Dick mentioned in his introduction, I have been in public service for many years and I’ve been called on to make some difficult choices in that course of time.  There are those who believe deciding whether or not to support the Iran agreement is just such a choice.  And I respect that and I respect them.  But I also believe that because of the stringent limitations on Iran’s program that are included in this agreement that I just described, because of where that program was headed before our negotiations began and will head again if we walk away, because of the utter absence of a viable alternative to this plan that we have devised, the benefits of this agreement far outweigh any potential drawbacks.  Certainly, the goal of preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon is supported across our political spectrum and it has the backing of countries on every continent.  So what then explains the controversy that has persisted in this debate?  

A big part of the answer, I think, is that even before the ink on the agreement was dry, we started being bombarded by myths about what the agreement will and won’t do, and that bombardment continues today.

The first of these myths is that the deal is somehow based on trust or a naive expectation that Iran is going to reverse course on many of the policies it’s been pursuing internationally.  Critics tell us over and over again, “You can’t trust Iran.”  Well, guess what?  There is a not a single sentence, not a single paragraph in this whole agreement that depends on promises or trust, not one.  The arrangement that we worked out with Tehran is based exclusively on verification and proof.  That’s why the agreement is structured the way it is; that’s why sanctions relief is tied strictly to performance; and it is why we have formulated the most far-reaching monitoring and transparency regime ever negotiated.  

Those same critics point to the fact that two decades ago, the United States reached a nuclear framework with North Korea that didn’t accomplish what it set out to do.  And we’re told we should have learned a lesson from that.  Well, the truth is we did learn a lesson.  

The agreement with North Korea was four pages and only dealt with plutonium.  Our agreement with Iran runs 159 detailed pages, applies to all of Tehran’s potential pathways to a bomb, and is specifically grounded in the transparency rules of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which didn’t even exist two decades ago when the North Korea deal was made because it was developed specifically with the North Korea experience in mind.  Lesson learned.

The reality is that if we trusted Iran or thought that it was about to become more moderate, this agreement would be less necessary than it is.  But we don’t.  We would like nothing more than to see Iran act differently, but not for a minute are we counting on it.  Iran’s support for terrorist groups and its contributions to sectarian violence are not recent policies.  They reflect the perceptions of its leaders about Iran’s long-term national interests and there are no grounds for expecting those calculations to change in the near future.  That is why we believe so strongly that every problem in the Middle East – every threat to Israel and to our friends in the region – would be more dangerous if Iran were permitted to have a nuclear weapon.  That is the inescapable bottom line.

That’s also why we are working so hard and so proactively to protect our interests and those of our allies. 

In part because of the challenge posed by Iran, we have engaged in an unprecedented level of military, intelligence, and security cooperation with our friend and ally Israel.  We are determined to help our ally address new and complex security threats and to ensure its qualitative military edge. 

We work with Israel every day to enforce sanctions and prevent terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah from obtaining the financing and the weapons that they seek – whether from Iran or from any other source.  And we will stand with Israel to stop its adversaries from once again launching deadly and unprovoked attacks against the Israeli people. 

Since 2009, we have provided $20 billion in foreign military financing to Israel, more than half of what we have given to nations worldwide. 

Over and above that, we have invested some 3 billion in the production and deployment of Iron Dome batteries and other missile defense programs and systems.  And we saw how in the last Gaza War lives were saved in Israel because of it.  We have given privileged access to advanced military equipment such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to which the United States has sold this fifth-generation aircraft.  The President recently authorized a massive arms resupply package, featuring penetrating munitions and air-to-air missiles.  And we hope soon to conclude a new memorandum of understanding – a military assistance plan that will guide our intensive security cooperation through the next decade. 

And diplomatically, our support for Israel also remains rock solid as we continue to oppose every effort to delegitimize the Jewish state, or to pass biased resolutions against it in international bodies.  

Now, I understand – I understand personally there is no way to overstate the concern in Israel about Iran and about the potential consequences that this agreement – or rejecting this agreement – might have on Israel’s security.  The fragility of Israel’s position has been brought home to me on every one of the many trips I have made to that country.

In fact, as Secretary of State, I have already traveled to Israel more than a dozen times, spending the equivalent of a full month there – even ordering my plane to land at Ben Gurion Airport when commercial air traffic had been halted during the last Gaza War; doing so specifically as a sign of support.

Over the years, I have walked through Yad Vashem, a living memorial to the 6 million lost, and I have felt in my bones the unfathomable evil of the Holocaust and the undying reminder never to forget.

I have climbed inside a shelter at Kiryat Shmona where children were forced to leave their homes and classrooms to seek refuge from Katyusha rockets. 

I visited Sderot and witnessed the shredded remains of homemade missiles from Gaza – missiles fired with no other purpose than to sow fear in the hearts of Israeli families.

I have piloted an Israeli jet out of Ovda Airbase and observed first-hand the tininess of Israel airspace from which it is possible to see all of the country’s neighbors at the same time.

And I have bowed my head at the Western Wall and offered my prayer for peace – peace for Israel, for the region, and for the world.

I take a back seat to no one in my commitment to the security of Israel, a commitment I demonstrated through my 28-plus years in the Senate.  And as Secretary of State, I am fully conscious of the existential nature of the choice Israel must make.  I understand the conviction that Israel, even more than any other country, simply cannot afford a mistake in defending its security.  And while I respectfully disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the benefits of the Iran agreement, I do not question for an instant the basis of his concern or that of any Israeli.

But I am also convinced, as is President Obama, our senior defense and military leaders, and even many former Israeli military and intelligence officials, that this agreement puts us on the right path to prevent Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon.  The people of Israel will be safer with this deal, and the same is true for the people throughout the region. 

And to fully ensure that, we are also taking specific and far-reaching steps to coordinate with our friends from the Gulf states.  President Obama hosted their leaders at Camp David earlier this year.  I visited with them in Doha last month.  And later this week, we will welcome King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Washington.  Gulf leaders share our profound concerns about Iran’s policies in the Middle East, but they’re also alarmed by Iran’s nuclear program.  We must and we will respond on both fronts.  We will make certain that Iran lives up to its commitments under the nuclear agreement, and we will continue strengthening our security partnerships.

We’re determined that our Gulf friends will have the political and the military support that they need, and to that end, we are working with them to develop a ballistic missile defense for the Arabian Peninsula, provide special operations training, authorize urgently required arms transfers, strengthen cyber security, engage in large-scale military exercises, and enhance maritime interdiction of illegal Iranian arms shipments.  We are also deepening our cooperation and support in the fight against the threat posed to them, to us, and to all civilization by the forces of international terror, including their surrogates and their proxies. 

Through these steps and others, we will maintain international pressure on Iran.  United States sanctions imposed because of Tehran’s support for terrorism and its human rights record – those will remain in place, as will our sanctions aimed at preventing the proliferation of ballistic missiles and transfer of conventional arms.  The UN Security Council prohibitions on shipping weapons to Hizballah, the Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in Yemen – all of those will remain as well.

We will also continue to urge Tehran to provide information regarding an American who disappeared in Iran several years ago, and to release the U.S. citizens its government has unjustly imprisoned.  We will do everything we can to see that our citizens are able to safely return to where they belong – at home and with their families.

Have no doubt.  The United States will oppose Iran’s destabilizing policies with every national security tool available.  And disregard the myth.  The Iran agreement is based on proof, not trust.  And in a letter that I am sending to all the members of Congress today, I make clear the Administration’s willingness to work with them on legislation to address shared concerns about regional security consistent with the agreement that we have worked out with our international partners.

This brings us to the second piece of fiction: that this deal would somehow legitimize Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  I keep hearing this.  Well, yes, for years Iran has had a civilian nuclear program.  Under the Nonproliferation Treaty, you can do that.  It was never a realistic option to change that.  But recognizing this reality is not the same as legitimizing the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  In fact, this agreement does the exact opposite.  Under IAEA safeguards, Iran is prohibited from ever pursuing a nuclear weapon. 

This is an important point, so I want to be sure that everyone understands:  The international community is not telling Iran that it can’t have a nuclear weapon for 15 years.  We are telling Iran that it can’t have a nuclear weapon, period.  There is no magic moment 15, 20, or 25 years from now when Iran will suddenly get a pass from the mandates of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – doesn’t happen.  In fact, Iran is required by this agreement to sign up to and abide by the IAEA Additional Protocol that I mentioned earlier that came out of the North Korea experience.  And that requires inspections of all nuclear facilities.

What does this mean?  It means that Iran’s nuclear program will remain subject to regular inspections forever.  Iran will have to provide access to all of its nuclear facilities forever.  Iran will have to respond promptly to requests for access to any suspicious site forever.  And if Iran at any time – at any time – embarks on nuclear activities that are incompatible with a wholly peaceful program, it will be in violation of the agreement forever.  We will know of that violation right away and we will retain every option we now have to respond, whether diplomatically or through a return to sanctions or by other means.  In short, this agreement gives us unprecedented tools and all the time we need to hold Iran accountable for its choices and actions.

Now, it’s true some of the special additional restrictions that we successfully negotiated, those begin to ease after a period – in some cases 10 or 15, in others 20 or 25.  But it would defy logic to vote to kill the whole agreement – with all of the permanent NPT restrictions by which Iran has to live – for that reason.  After all, if your house is on fire, if it’s going up in flames, would you refuse to extinguish it because of the chance that it might be another fire in 15 years?  Obviously, not.  You’d put out the fire and you’d take advantage of the extra time to prepare for the future. 

My friends, it just doesn’t make sense to conclude that we should vote “no” now because of what might happen in 15 years – thereby guaranteeing that what might happen in 15 years will actually begin to happen now.  Because if this agreement is rejected, every possible reason for worry in the future would have to be confronted now, immediately, in the months ahead.  Once again and soon, Iran would begin advancing its nuclear program.  We would lose the benefit of the agreement that contains all these restrictions, and it would give a green light to everything that we’re trying to prevent.  Needless to say, that is not the outcome that we want, it is not an outcome that would be good for our country, nor for our allies or for the world

There is a third myth – a quick one, a more technical one – that Iran could, in fact, get away with building a covert nuclear facility because the deal allows a maximum of 24 days to obtain access to a suspicious site.  Well, in truth, there is no way in 24 days, or 24 months, 24 years for that matter, to destroy all the evidence of illegal activity that has been taking place regarding fissile material.  Because of the nature of fissile materials and their relevant precursors, you can’t eliminate the evidence by shoving it under a mattress, flushing it down a toilet, carting it off in the middle of the night.  The materials may go, but the telltale traces remain year after year after year.  And the 24 days is the outside period of time during which they must allow access.

Under the agreement, if there is a dispute over access to any location, the United States and our European allies have the votes to decide the issue.  And once we have identified a site that raises questions, we will be watching it continuously until the inspectors are allowed in. 

Let me underscore that.  The United States and the international community will be monitoring Iran nonstop.  And you can bet that if we see something, we will do something.  The agreement gives us a wide range of enforcement tools, and we will use them.  And the standard we will apply can be summed up in two words: zero tolerance.  There is no way to guarantee that Iran will keep its word.  That’s why this isn’t based on a promise or trust.  But we can guarantee that if Iran decides to break the agreement, it will regret breaking any promise that it has made.

Now, there are many other myths circulating about the agreement, but the last one that I’m going to highlight is just economic.  And it’s important.  The myth that sanctions relief that Iran will receive is somehow both too generous and too dangerous.

Now, obviously, the discussions that concluded in Vienna, like any serious negotiation, involved a quid pro quo.  Iran wanted sanctions relief; the world wanted to ensure a wholly peaceful nature of Iran’s program.  So without the tradeoff, there could have been no deal and no agreement by Iran to the constraints that it has accepted – very important constraints.

But there are some who point to sanctions relief as grounds to oppose the agreement.  And the logic is faulty for several reasons.  First, the most important is that absent new violations by Iran the sanctions are going to erode regardless of what we do.  It’s an illusion for members of Congress to think that they can vote this plan down and then turn around and still persuade countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, India – Iran’s major oil customers – they ought to continue supporting the sanctions that are costing them billions of dollars every year.  That’s not going to happen.  And don’t forget that the money that has been locked up as the result of sanctions is not sitting in some American bank under U.S. control.  The money is frozen and being held in escrow by countries with which Iran has had commercial dealings.  We don’t have that money.  We can’t control it.  It’s going to begin to be released anyway if we walk away from this agreement.

Remember, as well, that the bulk of the funds Iran will receive under the sanctions relief are already spoken for and they are dwarfed by the country’s unmet economic needs.  Iran has a crippled infrastructure, energy infrastructure.  It’s got to rebuild it to be able to pump oil.  It has an agriculture sector that’s been starved for investment, massive pension obligations, significant foreign reserves that are already allocated to foreign-led projects, and a civilian population that is sitting there expecting that the lifting of sanctions is going to result in a tangible improvement in the quality of their lives.  The sanctions relief is not going to make a significant difference in what Iran can do internationally – never been based on money.  Make no mistake, the important thing about this agreement is not what it will enable Iran to do, but what it will stop Iran from doing – and that is the building of a nuclear weapon.

Before closing, I want to comment on the nature of the debate which we are currently engaged in.  Some have accused advocates of the Iran agreement – including me – of conjuring up frightening scenarios to scare listeners into supporting it.  Curiously, this allegation comes most often from the very folks who have been raising alarms about one thing or another for years.  

The truth is that if this plan is voted down, we cannot predict with certainty what Iran will do.  But we do know what Iran says it will do and that is begin again to expand its nuclear activities.  And we know that the strict limitations that Iran has accepted will no longer apply because there will no longer be any agreement.  Iran will then be free to begin operating thousands of other advanced and other centrifuges that would otherwise have been mothballed; they’ll be free to expand their stockpile of low-enriched uranium, rebuild their stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, free to move ahead with the production of weapons-grade plutonium, free to go forward with weaponization research.    

And just who do you think is going to be held responsible for all of this?  Not Iran – because Iran was preparing to implement the agreement and will have no reason whatsoever to return to the bargaining table.  No, the world will hold accountable the people who broke with the consensus, turned their backs on our negotiating partners, and ignored the counsel of top scientists and military leaders.  The world will blame the United States.  And so when those same voices that accuse us of scaremongering now begin suddenly to warn, oh, wow, Iran’s nuclear activities are once again out of control and must at all costs be stopped – what do you think is going to happen?  

The pressure will build, my friends.  The pressure will build for military action.  The pressure will build for the United States to use its unique military capabilities to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, because negotiating isn’t going to work because we’ve just tried it.  President Obama has been crystal clear that we will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  But the big difference is, at that point, we won’t have the world behind us the way we do today.  Because we rejected the fruits of diplomacy, we will be held accountable for a crisis that could have been avoided but instead we will be deemed to have created.

So my question is:  Why in the world would we want to put ourselves in that position of having to make that choice – especially when there is a better choice, a much more broadly supported choice?  A choice that sets us on the road to greater stability and security but that doesn’t require us to give up any option at all today. 

So here is the decision that we are called on to make.  To vote down this agreement is to solve nothing because none of the problems that we are concerned about will be made easier if it is rejected; none of them – not Iran’s nuclear program, not Iran’s support for terrorism or sectarian activities, not its human rights record, and not its opposition to Israel.  To oppose this agreement is – whether intended or not – to recommend in its policy a policy of national paralysis.  It is to take us back directly to the very dangerous spot that we were in two years ago, only to go back there devoid of any realistic plan or option.

By contrast, the adoption and implementation of this agreement will cement the support of the international community behind a plan to ensure that Iran does not ever acquire or possess a nuclear weapon.  In doing so it will remove a looming threat from a uniquely fragile region, discourage others from trying to develop nuclear arms, make our citizens and our allies safer, and reassure the world that the hardest problems can be addressed successfully by diplomatic means.

At its best, American foreign policy, the policy of the United States combines immense power with clarity of purpose, relying on reason and persuasion whenever possible.  As has been demonstrated many times, our country does not shy from the necessary use of force, but our hopes and our values push us to explore every avenue for peace.  The Iran deal reflects our determination to protect the interests of our citizens and to shield the world from greater harm.  But it reflects as well our knowledge that the firmest foundation for security is built on mobilizing countries across the globe to defend – actively and bravely – the rule of law.

In September 228 years ago, Benjamin Franklin rose in the great city of Philadelphia, right down there, to close debate on the proposed draft of the Constitution of the United States.  He told a rapt audience that when people of opposing views and passions are brought together, compromise is essential and perfection from the perspective of any single participant is not possible.  He said that after weighing carefully the pros and cons of that most historic debate, he said the following:  “I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”

My fellow citizens, I have had the privilege of serving our country in times of peace and in times of war, and peace is better.  I’ve seen our leaders act with incredible foresight and also seen them commit tragic errors by plunging into conflicts without sufficient thought about the consequences.

Like old Ben Franklin, I can claim and do claim no monopoly on wisdom, and certainly nothing can compare to the gravity of the debate of our founding fathers over our nation’s founding documents.  But I believe, based on a lifetime’s experience, that the Iran nuclear agreement is a hugely positive step at a time when problem solving and danger reduction have rarely been so urgent, especially in the Middle East.

The Iran agreement is not a panacea for the sectarian and extremist violence that has been ripping that region apart.  But history may judge it a turning point, a moment when the builders of stability seized the initiative from the destroyers of hope, and when we were able to show, as have generations before us, that when we demand the best from ourselves and insist that others adhere to a similar high standard – when we do that, we have immense power to shape a safer and a more humane world.  That’s what this is about and that’s what I hope we will do in the days ahead.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

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