'Ideological' Or 'Illogical': President Obama Responds To Iran Deal Critics

Aug 10, 2015
Originally published on August 10, 2015 2:25 pm

President Obama is facing deep skepticism in Congress, which votes next month on whether to disapprove the nuclear deal with Iran. The president contends that the public will better appreciate the deal in the years after it has taken effect.

NPR's Steve Inskeep spoke with Obama about the deal in an interview that will air Tuesday and Wednesday on Morning Edition. The full video and transcript are now available here, on NPR.org.

In a speech last week, the president warned of the consequences of failure if Congress were to reject the deal, and how the world could look without it.

In his interview with NPR, the president acknowledged that some of the criticisms of the deal are true, especially the temporary nature of some of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program.

But Obama also spoke strongly of his critics, saying they were either "ideological" or "illogical." Many Republicans as well as some prominent Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, have said they will vote against the deal.

'My Passions Show Just A Little Bit More'

Inskeep also spoke to Obama about race — which the president has addressed a lot this summer, especially following the deadly shooting in Charleston, S.C.

Some see him as speaking out more forcefully on racial issues than he has in the past, but when asked about that, the president didn't fully agree.

"That I don't buy," Obama responded.

"I think it's fair to say that if, in my first term, Ferguson had flared up, as president of the United States, I would have been commenting on what was happening in Ferguson," he said.

But he did suggest that he's just a little more confident now, having been "around this track" before: "Here's one thing I will say: that I feel a great urgency to get as much done as possible. And there's no doubt that after over 6 1/2 years on this job, I probably have an easier time juggling a lot of different issues. And it may be that my passions show a little bit more, just because I have been around this track now for a while."

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Obama contends that his critics will change their attitudes toward the Iran nuclear deal. He says that will happen in the years following the deal taking effect. The president is facing some deep skepticism in Congress, which votes next month on whether to disapprove the deal. Obama spoke with our colleague Steve Inskeep in an interview that we will hear on NPR News starting tomorrow. Steve is here with me. And Steve, what were you listening for?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

I was listening for an affirmative defense of this nuclear deal. Of course, the president gave a big speech last week warning of the consequences of failure, how terrible it would be if Congress were to reject this deal. But what's the world look like if it's approved? And we went over some of the disadvantages of this deal, some of the criticisms of the deal. The president acknowledges in this interview that some of the big criticisms are true, especially the temporary nature of some of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program. But he argued that it's still a good deal. He's spoke scornfully of his critics. He said they were either ideological or illogical.

GREENE: I mean, those are strong words, Steve, considering the fact that these critics, some of them are in the president's own party.

INSKEEP: Absolutely. Democrats like Chuck Schumer of New York, Eliot Engel of New York, both prominent on national security issues and prominent supporters of Israel, are among those who have now publically said they're going to vote against this deal.

GREENE: Did you get the sense that the president was ready for this kind of skepticism coming from people who are normally allies?

INSKEEP: I think he's been ready for a while to address that skepticism. But it's been striking to me how forceful the language has been that the president himself has used. He has not said, I understand why some people are worried about this deal. He has said, it's a good deal, and my critics are just wrong.

GREENE: So you sat down with him in the Cabinet Room. And this is just before he was leaving for vacation.

INSKEEP: Yeah, it was his last interview before he goes on vacation. And in fact, as he left the room, he said, I'm going on vacation. Don't bother me for a while.

GREENE: Did that have him in a reflective mood, the fact that this was sort of the last moments before he could relax?

INSKEEP: I was hoping it would have him in a reflective mood. And so I asked him about race. This has been a summer when the president has spoken a lot about racial issues because of a number of shootings of unarmed black men, because particularly of the tragic shooting in Charleston, S.C. Some people see him as speaking out more forcefully on racial issues. Now, the president doesn't like that notion because it implies he wasn't saying very much before. But he did acknowledge this...

BARACK OBAMA: I feel a great urgency to get as much done as possible. And there is no doubt that after over six and a half years on this job, I probably have an easier time juggling a lot of different issues. And it may be that my passions show a little bit more.

INSKEEP: The president suggests he's more confident now that, as he puts it, he's been around the track a few times.

GREENE: All right, that's my colleague Steve Inskeep, who interviewed President Obama. And we will hear that interview beginning tomorrow on both MORNING EDITION and All Things Considered. Steve, thanks.

INSKEEP: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.