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Obama Sees Long Legacy For Iran Deal; GOP's 2016 Candidates Want It Gone


The negotiating on the Iran nuclear deal is done, and now President Obama may find selling the deal to Congress is harder than negotiating it. For Obama, this agreement represents another significant moment in his presidency, potentially a lasting piece of his legacy. NPR's Tamara Keith has more.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The negotiations lasted two years, but really this Iran deal was set in motion long before when a young, idealistic presidential candidate argued the U.S. should talk to Iran. Here's then Sen. Obama in September 2007 at a debate hosted by MSNBC.


BARACK OBAMA: I make an absolute commitment that we will do everything we need to do to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. One of the things we have to try, though, is to talk directly to Iran. That's something that we have not been doing.

KEITH: Now with a deal in hand, Obama is trying to convince Congress that it's better than the alternative. Already, as he described the agreement to the American people, Obama looked past his presidency.


OBAMA: And I have no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further away from a weapon and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program.

KEITH: But at least the Republicans seeking that office want nothing of Obama's Iran deal. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker denounced it in his campaign kickoff speech before negotiators had even finished their work.


SCOTT WALKER: We need to terminate the bad deal with Iran on the very first day in office.


KEITH: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called it dangerous and deeply flawed. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said it was far worse than he dreamed, calling it a death sentence for Israel. Here he is on Fox News.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: This is like taking a can of gasoline and throwing it on a fire. This is a deal for a deal's sake.

KEITH: On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said the deal is a victory of diplomacy over saber-rattling, and Hillary Clinton spoke to reporters on Capitol Hill.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: This is an important step in putting the lid on Iran's nuclear program.

KEITH: As secretary of state, Clinton helped begin laying the groundwork for negotiations. Her initial remarks were cautious. But late last night, Clinton's campaign put out a lengthy written statement. In it, she said she supports the agreement and that with vigorous enforcement, it can make America and its allies safer. For President Obama, whether this deal goes down in history as a great diplomatic achievement depends on at least three things - whether Congress blocks it, who becomes the next president of the United States and, perhaps most significantly, whether the deal works like Obama says it should. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.