President Barack Obama lit into Sen. John McCain Saturday over the Arizona Republican's recent comments about the framework agreement with Iran about its nuclear program.
"When I hear some, like Sen. McCain recently, suggest that our secretary of State, John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran, provided exemplary service to this nation is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what's in a political agreement than the Supreme Leader of Iran, that's an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries, and we're seeing this again and again," Obama told reporters at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama.
McCain, in a Thursday radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, had called Kerry "delusional" with respect to the terms of the deal with Iran.
"It's probably in black and white that the Ayatollah [Khamenei] is probably right. John Kerry is delusional. And he came back, and in my view, I think you’re going to find out that they had never agreed to the things that John Kerry claimed that they had," McCain told Hewitt. "So in a way I can't blame the Ayatollah, because I don't think they ever agreed to it, and I think John Kerry tried to come back and sell a bill of goods, hoping maybe that the Iranians wouldn't say much about it."
After citing the open letter signed by 47 GOP senators led by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and comments by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on the administration's authority with respect to international agreements about climate change, Obama returned his attention to McCain and Kerry.
"Now we have a senator suggesting that our secretary of State is purposefully misinterpreting the deal and giving the Supreme Leader of Iran the benefit of the doubt in the interpretation," Obama said. "That's not how we're supposed to run foreign policy, regardless of who's president or secretary of State. We can have arguments, and there are legitimate arguments to be had."
"I understand why people might be mistrustful of Iran. I understand why people might oppose the deal, although the reason is not because this is a bad deal, per se, but they just don't trust any deal with Iran," Obama said. "You know, they prefer to take a military approach to it."
McCain responded to Obama's news conference with his own statement later in the evening.
"It is undeniable that the version of the nuclear agreement outlined by the Obama Administration is far different from the one described by Iran's Supreme Leader - on inspections, sanctions relief and other critically important issues," said McCain. "These widely divergent explanations of the nuclear deal must be fully explained and reconciled if we are to give serious consideration to this agreement."
Obama also said Saturday that he has spoken to both Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and current ranking Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland about Iran. He said there's important work to be done in the next couple of months on "memorializing" the agreement. That's ahead of Tuesday's scheduled markup of Corker's legislation providing for Congressional approval of any final deal between international negotiators and the Iranians.
"We don't have to speculate on what the meaning of a deal's going to be. Either there's going to be a document that Iran agrees with and the world community about, and a series of actions that have to be taken — or there's not. Part of the challenge in this whole process has been opponents of basically any deal with Iran have actually tried to characterize what the deal is without seeing it," Obama said.
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