Last Thursday, a junior member of the White House administration publicly took an extremely impolitic swipe at certain members of Congress, including members of her boss’s own party.
She called them warmongers.
Bernadette Meehan is a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. Meehan is someone who, until last month, showed up in Google searches more often for her role as a mentor to graduates of Boston College, her alma mater, than for her role as a policy spokesperson.
Less than two years ago, Meehan was writing a blog for the Boston College Career Center, telling BC students about her career as a Foreign Service Officer.
But last week Meehan blasted members of Congress who are actively supporting the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act – more than a dozen of whom are Democrats – labeling them the equivalent of warmongers. She attacked them for daring to proceed towards enacting legislation that cannot trigger sanctions on Iran unless Iran defaults on the alleged commitments it has made with the United States and the rest of the P5+1 (The United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany) in what is known as the Geneva Interim Agreement, an attempt to ensure that Iran ceases to enrich materials which can be used to make nuclear weapons.
And then this week, Congress’s Democratic party Whip Steny Hoyer got into the act.
Hoyer was none too pleased to have members of the White House staff criticizing his home team. The specific legislation Meehan attacked is in the Senate, but Hoyer took umbrage not only because members of his party were castigated, but also because the House already passed legislation many months ago which would increase sanctions on Iran.
On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Hoyer gave Meehan a tongue lashing, without naming any names, of course.
“There have been some that have suggested in the White House that those folks were more interested in war than they were in the resolution by peaceful means,” Hoyer said.
In addition to declaring such a position unequivocally false, Hoyer also referred to Meehan’s statement as “irresponsible” and said it should be “clarified and retracted” by those who made it.
Stating what should not have to be said out loud, but which was demanded by the situation, Hoyer flatly announced: “Nobody believes, as far as I know, that going to war with Iran is anything but a dangerous objective that none of us would seek.”
This is Meehan’s full statement about the Iran Nuclear Weapons Free Act, which was released on Thursday, Jan. 9. The language upon which most critics focused is underlined:
This bill is in direct contradiction to the Administration’s work to peacefully resolve the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program. We know that this proposed legislation would divide the international community, drive the Iranians to take a harder line, and possibly end negotiations. This bill would have a negative bearing on the sanctions regime too. Let us not forget: sanctions work because we convinced our partners to take the steps that we seek. If our partners no longer believe that we are serious about finding a negotiated solution, then our sanctions regime would suffer.
If Congress passes this bill, it will be proactively taking an action that will make diplomacy less likely to succeed. The American people have been clear that they prefer a peaceful resolution to this issue. If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so. Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus