Monday night, in what was billed as an “Emergency Town Hall Meeting,” Congressman Scott Garrett told a crowd of 250 at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck that he strongly opposed the agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 powers.
“The administration originally said that a bad deal is worse than no deal,” said Congressman Garrett, a Republican whose district includes much of Bergen County. “Instead, it delivered this bad deal to the American people.”
The evening’s host, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, strongly agreed.
“In American history we have Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘Square Deal,’ Franklin Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal,’ Harry Truman’s ‘Fair Deal,’” Rabbi Pruzansky said. “Going forward, we have to label this the ‘Bad Deal.’”
“In the deal, the administration played complete deference to the Iranian parliament and paid no deference to the U.S. Congress. The actual language of the deal recognizes that certain provisions cannot be implemented unless the Iranian parliament takes affirmative action. It makes absolutely no reference to our procedures,” Mr. Garrett said.
In his reading of the Constitution, the agreement is a treaty that should require a ratification by two-thirds of the Senate, Mr. Garrett said. “The administration shouldn’t be able to just put a different sticker on it,” he added. But he admitted that he has been unable to convince the Republican leadership in the Senate of his position. “Unfortunately, this Senate, like past Senates, have not insisted on its prerogative.”
Mr. Garrett lamented that even before it was presented to Congress, the deal was approved by the United Nations Security Council.
“The rest of the world has seen that the resolution has passed and now you see countries like Germany saying they’re willing to reestablish their trading relations with Iran,” he said.
“Now it will be up to the U.S. We’ll be methodically going through this with respective committees for the next 60 says, while the world community will be saying that the U.S. is on board, the administration is on board, the U.N. is on board. If we vote to override” the president’s promised veto of a Congressional vote to disapprove the agreement, “that would be a great thing. The world will know that though the president is going in this left direction, the House and the Senate, speaking for the American people, are going on the right position on these issues. Even if this won’t go through, if we can’t override the veto, we have the power to tell the State Department that they can’t use any of the dollars appropriate to do X, Y, or Z to implement the agreement.”
Rabbi Pruzansky labeled the agreement “a historic betrayal not only of Israel and our Sunni allies” — such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq — “but of democracy around the world. Going forward, it is destructive to America.”
So what to do?
Rabbi Pruzansky offered four suggestions.
“First of all, make calls to Congress. Tell them of your opposition. You do not need to be constituents. They respond to calls much more than emails. If the staff of a congressman is getting 30 or 40 calls an hour and can’t get anything done, they get the message.
“Second, don’t make it about President Obama. That will only make them circle the wagons. It’s not about Obama, his administration; it’s about the bad deal.
“Thirdly, don’t be depressed and don’t assume failure is ahead. People have changed their mind over the course of time, especially when they realize they made mistakes and see the level of interest on the part of the citizenry. Keep your spirits up.
“Fourth, don’t be alone and silent. Don’t say that whatever happens, it’s all in Hakodesh baruch hu’s” — God’s — “hands. It’s true that it’s in God’s hands. But he relies on us, on those of us who are active. God helps those who help themselves.”
“All those points are exactly on target,” Congressman Garrett said.
“Emails are probably on the bottom of the list” in terms of effectiveness. “Phone calls are next. You can call two places for a congress person: the district office and the D.C. office as well. Next up for impact is letter writing. It’s not the form letters. Actually take the 10 minutes and write down why you are passionate about this. People were coming into my office in May about the Corker bill” — which mandated Congressional input into an Iran deal — “and they were saying, ‘I’m Jewish, I have family members in Israel, this is personal for me, this is existential.’ Try to bring the issue home.
“The best — if you have the time — you have 60 days to do it — is to be in their face. If you’re able to get down to D.C., fantastic. If not, schedule a meeting with the district representative,” Mr. Garrett said.
And what about rallies?
“Very important, if the rallies are sizable. I encourage you to go. Sometimes on some issues people say, ‘I went to a rally’ or ‘I came here to this Town Hall meeting tonight’ so I did my part. Don’t let that happen. Make the rally just item five on the agenda.”