- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2015

As a strategist who has delighted in trying to divide the Republican Party, Sen. Charles E. Schumer now finds himself a divisive figure in the Democratic Party over his opposition to the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Progressive groups are circulating online petitions denouncing the New York Democrat as a “warmonger,” pledging to withhold campaign donations to Mr. Schumer and any other Democratic lawmakers who vote against the accord, and threatening to derail Mr. Schumer’s plans to take over as leader of Senate Democrats when Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada retires.

One group, Credo Action, said Monday that it had garnered more than 160,000 signatures since Thursday night opposing the plans of Mr. Schumer, one of the most influential Jewish lawmakers in Congress.

“Tell Sen. Schumer: Don’t lead Senate Democrats into war with Iran,” spokesman Bob Fertik urged activists in an email.

The party rift widened as President Obama made more appeals Monday for Congress to support the nuclear deal with Iran and another poll showed broad discontent with the accord. In interviews, the president said Republican opponents of the agreement were acting out of knee-jerk partisanship.

“Unfortunately, a large portion of the Republican Party, if not a near unanimous portion of Republican representatives, are going to be opposed to anything that I do,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with NPR. “And I have not oftentimes based that on a judgment on the merits, but have based that on their politics.”

The president didn’t mention Mr. Schumer by name but said Democrats who oppose the Iran deal are acting more out of principle than Republicans.

“There are going to be some Democrats who end up opposing this deal, partly because the affinity that we all feel towards the state of Israel is profound, it’s deep,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with Mic.com. “When Israel’s opposed to something, a lot of Democrats as well as Republicans pay attention. The difference, though, is that most of the Democratic senators have taken time to actually read the bill and listen to the arguments. A sizable portion of the Republicans were opposed before the ink was even dry on the deal.”

He added: “That gives you some sense of the degree to which this is driven by partisan politics or ideology, as opposed to analysis.”

Even as he president tried to rally support for the deal, Mr. Obama agreed with critics such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the time needed for Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon would shrink to “a matter of months” when the agreement expires in 15 years.

Asked what Iran’s “breakout time” will be 15 years from now, Mr. Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep, “It shrinks back down to roughly where it is now which is a matter of months.” He said it was no reason to reject the accord.

“Breakout time” refers to the length of time it would take for Iran to amass enough highly enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon.

The deal includes limits on Tehran’s program intended to lengthen its breakout time to one year.

A Monmouth University poll released Monday poll shows that Americans believe Iran got the better of Mr. Obama in the nuclear deal. Only 14 percent of those surveyed believe the U.S. came out on top in the negotiations.

Just 27 percent in the survey said lawmakers should support the agreement, and 32 percent want them to reject it. The plurality — 41 percent — aren’t sure.

“The public is not convinced that Congress should reject the plan, but they can’t shake their nagging doubts that Iran has the upper hand here,” said Patrick Murray, director of the poll.

Among the Democratic Party’s activists and grass-roots supporters who favor the deal, Mr. Schumer has become the main target.

MoveOn.org said Monday that more than 23,000 activists have collectively pledged to withhold $11,015,497 in campaign contributions from Democratic candidates “who succeed in sabotaging diplomacy,” as well as from any party committee that supports such candidates.

llya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, said the group’s members “know that risking American lives in wars of choice isn’t leadership.”

“While Sen. Schumer’s decision is not unexpected, it is outrageous and unacceptable that any Democrat — especially one who wants to lead his caucus — would side with Republican partisans, war hawks and neoconservative ideologues who are trying to scrap this agreement and put us on the path to war,” she said.

Credo Action criticized Mr. Schumer as a warmonger, saying that “beating the drums for war in the Middle East is not a new role for Sen. Schumer.”

“While he has been widely criticized as a tool of Wall Street banks, there has been much less notice given to the fact that Sen. Schumer voted in 2002 to give President George W. Bush a blank check for war in Iraq,” the group said.

The White House and its allies also have made known their displeasure. Former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on Twitter last week that Mr. Schumer’s decision “will make it hard for him to lead the Dems in ‘16.”

The attacks against Mr. Schumer also are causing a backlash in the Jewish community. Tablet magazine, a Jewish publication based in New York, said in an editorial that supporters of the Iran deal are using “Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice as tools to sell a political deal, or to smear those who oppose it.”

“Accusing Senator Schumer of loyalty to a foreign government is bigotry, pure and simple,” the magazine said. “Accusing senators and congressmen whose misgivings about the Iran deal are shared by a majority of the U.S. electorate of being agents of a foreign power, or of selling their votes to shadowy lobbyists, or of acting contrary to the best interests of the United States, is the kind of naked appeal to bigotry and prejudice that would be familiar in the politics of the pre-Civil Rights Era South. This use of anti-Jewish incitement as a political tool is a sickening new development in American political discourse, and we have heard too much of it lately — some coming, ominously, from our own White House and its representatives.”

Becoming his party’s object of internal strife is an ironic position for Mr. Schumer, the Senate Democrats’ top political strategist who has made a second career out of trying to drive a wedge between the tea party and the Republican Party.

In a speech last year at the Center for American Progress, Mr. Schumer argued that wealthy tea party donors had hijacked the movement from its grass-roots supporters.

In March, Mr. Schumer said House Republican leaders would have allowed a vote on comprehensive immigration reform but balked because its tea party members “hate immigrants.”

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