By Andy Cohen
Welcome to the San Diego Congressional Watch, 2015 summer recess edition! Congress has been on vacation for most of August, but San Diego’s Congressional delegation has been rather busy.
We begin with the Iran nuclear deal. As you may recall, in July, Juan Vargas (D-51) penned an Op-Ed in the San Diego UT in opposition to the diplomatic agreement with Iran to restrain that country’s nuclear weapons ambitions. This month sees two other San Diego area reps come out in favor of the deal. Last month Scott Peters (D-52) and Susan Davis (D-53) both came out in support of the pact between the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and Iran.
“After weeks of study, it is clear to me that the JCPOA [joint comprehensive plan of action] is our best tool to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon for at least the next 15 years. I will vote to support the agreement,” Peters wrote in his own UT opinion piece.
“Congressional disapproval will not realistically force a better deal, as some opponents have asserted,” Peters wrote. “The leverage for negotiations was created by the cooperation of other countries that share our goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. Our allies support the JCPOA and want to resume trade with Iran, with or without our blessing. As former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stated, it is ‘totally unrealistic’ to expect multilateral sanctions to stick should the United States reject the JCPOA.”
While Peters acknowledged that the pact will not affect Iran’s support of recognized terrorist organizations or end its civilian nuclear program, without the support of our allies U.S. sanctions alone will have little to no effect in curbing the behavior of the Iranian regime. The military option is still squarely on the table, he said.
“As another difficult decision approaches, I am convinced that after an extensive number of discussions and reviewing materials, the Iran nuclear agreement creates a viable path to reducing Iran’s nuclear weapons capability now and for the future,” Davis wrote in her opinion.
“The pending vote on the Iran nuclear deal, for me, is like the 2002 vote to invade Iraq, which is still changing the course of history and countless people’s lives,” she continued, drawing parallels between the 2002 vote to enter into a ground war in Iraq and the decision to support the Iran deal. “I opposed invading Iraq because I was convinced we had not exhausted all diplomatic options and questioned our lack of planning for the aftermath.”
Like Peters, Davis recognizes the damage that would be done to the U.S.’s credibility throughout the world and the diminution of its leadership role, particularly in economic matters, creating a distinct advantage for the Iranians. Both members point to the agreement’s basis in mistrust, rather than trust in the regime’s willingness to fully honor their responsibilities under the accord, and both agree that any notion that the U.S. maintains enough influence to force a “better deal” is pure folly.
Darrell Issa (R-49) was caught stretching the truth again by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “It’s not an accident to have 300 emails become retroactively, if you will, determined to be classified,” he told Blitzer in an August interview, referring to the controversy over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.
“Well my understanding is, those 300 emails they are looking at now, that they haven’t definitively ruled it was classified information,” noted Blitzer. “They’re going over it right now. There seems to be a dispute going on between the State Department and other agencies of the U.S. government what should have been classified, even if it had not been classified at the time. Is that your understanding as well?”
Issa reluctantly admitted the case while decrying the State Department’s determination of what was and what was not considered to be classified material during his term as Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. In the meantime, he has called for a criminal investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“If any other American had shown the same disregard for securing classified information that Hillary Clinton showed, the United States government would move quickly and decisively to hold them responsible,” Issa stated in a press release. “Months after we learned about Clinton’s secret email server, the FBI and DOJ have finally mustered the motivation necessary to take it into their custody.
“The only reasonable path forward is a criminal investigation,” he said.
Peter Boby, aide to Duncan Hunter (R-50), was arrested by Capitol Police on Aug. 4 for bringing a loaded, unregistered, unlicensed handgun onto congressional property, according to CNN. Boby is an active-duty Marine assigned as a fellow to Hunter’s congressional office. A spokesman for the Marines insisted that the incident was merely a mistake on Boby’s part, and is no way a reflection of his service in uniform.
Meanwhile, Hunter and Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines have introduced legislation to arm military recruiters in the wake of the deadly shooting of four Marines and a Navy sailor at two military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on July 16. Military policy prevents recruiters from carrying firearms in recruitment centers.
“What happened in Tennessee is an absolute tragedy,” Hunter said. “All the talk about security upgrades to recruiting offices is fine, but the simple act of arming qualified personnel in these spaces presents the most effective line of defense.”
In reality, however, armed personnel in Chattanooga would have done little, if anything, to prevent the attack.
It is doubtful Congress will act anytime soon to make it more difficult for the wrong people to obtain firearms, even in the aftermath of the June massacre in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist, or the Aug. 26 on-air murder of a TV news reporter and her cameraman in Moneta, Virginia, by a disgruntled former colleague.
—Andy Cohen is a local freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.