- - Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Barack Obama just can’t resist adding things to the legacy he obsesses over, and some are strange to the point of bizarre. Now he’s the bag man of Persia, out to please the mullahs of Tehran with whom he struck the cozy deal preserving their search for the Islamic bomb.

The Wall Street Journal reports that he ransomed four Americans with $400 million, not only the money but in the cash that the mullahs preferred in several varieties — euros, francs and other currencies short of Confederate $100 notes — and he shipped it to Tehran in an unmarked cargo plane. Stealth and surprise were the order of the night, as if something snatched from a Hollywood script. The movie is no doubt coming soon to a theater not far from you.

The White House naturally insists that this ransom wasn’t really a ransom; that the money changed hands on release of the four Americans was merely a coincidence. But this is from the president who thinks he presides over 57 states and who calls radical Islamic terror “workplace violence.” Words, like cash, are fungible.

Sen. John McCain has no reluctance to call the ransom what it is, observing that it “adds $400 million to the coffers of the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism at a time when it is actively working to destabilize the Middle East and undermine U.S. national security interests.” Rep. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, says the bizarre cash payment marks “another chapter of the ongoing saga of misleading the American people to sell [his] dangerous nuclear deal.”

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, makes the common-sensical observation that paying cash to kidnappers — no doubt in unmarked bills — encourages more kidnapping, which is why the United States and other serious countries have a long history of refusing to pay ransom, however tempting it might be to save the lives of the kidnapped.

He calls the payment by its right name, “a disgrace,” and asks, “Who gets the money? I doubt it’s the people of Iran.” He observes that other Americans have been detained, and asks, “where’s it going to end?”

It’s not clear that the president has the legal authority to ship cash like that on presidential whim, but Mr. Obama has demonstrated often that he doesn’t let trifles like the law get in the way of doing what he pleases. He and his lieutenants had to scurry to collect the cash. “It’s not like you could just walk up and get $400 million out of an ATM machine,” one aide says.

The mullahs were said to “want something tangible” as a reward for dealing with the president, and unmarked bills are certainly something tangible. Maybe the president just wanted to do something nice for a mullah stepping out for a night on the town, such as a night on the town might be in Tehran. A mullah wouldn’t want strange expenses, like a visit to a massage parlor or a stealthy stop at a barbecue joint, showing up on his credit card. Cash has been used in other places to hide lots of hanky and plenty of panky.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says his committee will call in Secretary of State John Kerry for a little ‘splainin’.

The ransom payment is not likely to be the last such imaginative effort to preserve Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. The mullahs say the United States, even with its cash and carry scheme, is not living up to its side of the deal. It’s difficult to know what they’re talking about, since the deal has been revealed to include many side deals, attachments, asterisks, agreements, covenants and conventions that Messrs. Obama and Kerry don’t want to talk to Congress about. Bag men usually don’t.

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