TIME politics

Secret Service Officer Arrested for Destruction of Property

His identity has not yet been released

A secret service officer has been arrested in Washington, D.C. and charged with destruction of property.

The man, who works in the Foreign Missions Branch, has not yet been publicly named, Reuters reports. He has been placed on administrative leave, and his security clearance has been suspended.

The arrest is the latest of many embarrassments for the Secret Service, from allowing someone breach the entrance to the White House to two agents crashing a car into a security barrier.


TIME politics

Sorry, Californians: No More Lawns

Aerial view overlooking houses in San Diego on April 4, 2015.
Sandy Huffaker—Getty Images Aerial view overlooking houses in San Diego on April 4, 2015.

Ellen Hanak is a senior fellow and director at the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center.

But you can still take showers

When California Governor Jerry Brown announced a sweeping set of policies to address a fourth year of severe drought, he stood on a bare mountain meadow that most years would have been covered in five feet of snow. But the dry winter, combined with record heat, means the state has almost no snow in reserve. No snow in April is a big deal for California. Like many western states, California relies on mountain snowpack for a large share of annual water supplies — in California’s case, about a third. The snow melts into rivers and streams just as the long, dry summer rolls in.

State officials are right to be concerned that the current weather pattern is a glimpse of the future – or what some have called the “new normal.” Climate change models predict increasing temperatures (3 F to 8 F by the late 21st century) and declining snowpack in this part of the country, as well as more variability – longer droughts and more frequent floods. Indeed, this year’s record-low snowpack resembles modeling predictions for the late 21st century. This makes it prudent to improve California’s ability not only to get through this drought, but also to better handle the next one.

Many of Brown’s new policies aim to prepare California by making lasting changes in how the state uses and manages water. Most newsworthy is a first-ever statewide mandate requiring Californians to reduce water use in cities and suburbs by 25%. Last January, Brown asked Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 20%, but they only got about halfway there. The new mandate ups the ante, and makes it likely that some communities – and some residents – will face fines if they don’t comply.

So, does this mean California is ushering in an era with fewer showers, dusty yards, and no room for newcomers, as some pundits have suggested? Not quite. On average, residential water use is still quite high in California – at around 110 gallons per person per day. And the regulations will ask for smaller reductions in places where water use is already low, like the coastal cities of Santa Cruz and San Francisco. As a point of comparison, California households still use more than twice more per person than Australians, who have a similar climate and economy.

How can people save water in ways that preserve quality of life? There’s still room for reducing indoor water use. Over the past two decades, most California communities have made great progress in this area, thanks to the installation of low-flow plumbing devices and appliances, like toilets, showerheads, and washing machines. But for buildings that haven’t yet made the switch, this is a great time to upgrade, because many utilities are offering rebates to help cover the costs.

Even bigger savings can come from trimming back on outdoor watering. Most Californians don’t realize that fully half of all water use in the state’s cities and suburbs goes to landscaping, and in many of the hotter, inland communities, such as Bakersfield or Palm Springs, that share is even higher. This has happened because Californians have been accustomed to landscaping with thirsty plants like lawns that are better suited for regions where it rains in the summer. One technological innovation of the 1970s – the automatic sprinkler – compounds the problem by encouraging overwatering. People don’t think to turn it off when the weather is milder and the plants need less water.

Californians are starting to realize that it’s possible to have beautiful communities while using much less water for landscaping. This means switching out lawns and other thirsty plants for more “California friendly” plants that do well with less water, and turning to more modern irrigation systems like drip irrigation and “smart sprinklers” that don’t overwater. This doesn’t mean getting rid of all lawns, but rather keeping lawns where people use them, such as in the back yard, and replacing lawns that are just for show with beautiful, drought-tolerant plants. Here, too, it’s a good time to look for rebates, as many utilities are offering “cash for grass.” The results: a beautiful facelift for landscapes in our communities, significant water savings, and a way to be ready for the new normal.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Hillary Clinton Gets in on Iron Throne Action With 2016 Announcement

Marla Aufmuth—Getty Images; HBO

Clinton is coming

Hillary Clinton will reportedly announce her campaign for President of the United States Sunday, which, suspiciously, is the same time Game of Thrones and Veep—two very different shows about power brokering—return to HBO.

Fans of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy Veep will recall that Vice President Selena Meyers was sworn in as Commander-in-Chief last season. But considering how often Selena’s people bungle delicate situations, perhaps Hillary would prefer the Game of Thrones comparison. Is House Clinton trying to associate itself with the ruthless fantasy characters in their own bid for the American throne? People on Twitter seem to think so, joking that the timing is, well, pretty perfect.


TIME politics

I Thought Legalizing Pot Would Be a Disaster. But It Turned Out To Be Wonderful.

Bruce Barcott is the author of "Weed the People, the Future of Legal Marijuana in America."

We no longer arrest 12,000 people every year for possessing marijuana in Washington state

In a California courtroom earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller wondered what exactly was at stake in the federal government’s defense of marijuana prohibition. Mueller is hearing a case that challenges the government’s Schedule I classification of pot, a status that ranks it alongside heroin as one of the world’s most dangerous drugs. As the case wrapped up – a decision is expected this month – she put a question to the U.S. attorneys defending the federal ban. “If I were persuaded” that marijuana’s status was unconstitutional, “what would you lose here?”

As we approach April 20, the goofy global pot holiday, an ever-increasing number of Americans are asking the same question. Polls show that more than half of all Americans now support the legalization of marijuana for adults. On Capitol Hill, the issue has been joined by Senators Rand Paul, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker, who recently introduced a bill to federally decriminalize medical marijuana in states where it’s already legal.

What would be lost? I can answer that question. I’m a middle-aged non-stoner who’s been living in a marijuana-legal state for two years. Here is what’s lost when pot goes legal: fear and destruction. Fear of the unknown, fear of skyrocketing use rates, fear of reefer madness. Here in Washington, as in Colorado, we’ve stopped destroying the lives of people who possess a drug that’s less harmful than alcohol. What we’ve gained are new opportunities for responsibility, honesty, and freedom.

That’s not what I expected, but it’s the truth. A little more than two years ago, I was anti-pot. I hated marijuana. I hadn’t really touched the stuff since college. Moreover, I didn’t want my teenage children to have easier access to pot. Instinct told me to vote no to legalization.

Then a friend swayed my vote. Legalization wasn’t about whether I loved or hated pot, she said. “This is a race issue. It’s a civil rights issue.” Generations of African-American men sat in prison “because they were caught with a substance that’s less harmful than alcohol,” she said. “You’re a white guy, so you don’t have to worry about it. Others do.”

Fair enough, I thought. I held my nose and voted yes. The next morning I awoke to find that we’d legalized pot. My first thought involved the word holy and is inappropriate for a family publication. My second thought was this: What in the world did we just do?

I spent the next two years searching for the answer. I’m a science journalist. I’ve sifted through peer-reviewed research and weighed competing claims on everything from climate change to brain science. So I went to work. A tide of research on pot and the developing brain flooded my office. I embedded within Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. At the 2014 Cannabis Cup in Denver, I achieved the status of Only Man Sober. At Children’s Hospital Colorado, I saw frustrated doctors dealing with the CBD craze, with parents desperate to calm their child’s seizures with marijuana-derived cannabidiol. I vaped, I ate, and I smoked – legally – with no untoward effects. And I observed how the rollout of legal, regulated pot affected my family, my friends, and my community.

Here’s what I found. Legal, well-regulated marijuana has had an overwhelmingly positive change for my state, my community – and yes, my family. That’s not the answer I expected.

There have been bumps. Pot-infused edibles have been a problem for some people – Google “Maureen Dowd” and “bad trip” – but state regulators quickly reduced the allowed dosage and increased controls on the products. The solution was market regulation, not mass incarceration.

The upside? We no longer arrest 12,000 people every year for possessing marijuana in Washington state. Those are 12,000 people who kept their jobs, went to college, supported their kids, and enjoyed happy and productive lives. State-licensed pot farmers have driven illegal growers out of the state. Mexican cartel pot has no market here. Thousands of new jobs have been created. We’ve seen no pot-inspired crime wave, no mass conversion of citizens into stoners. Parents know more about pot than we did two years ago; when we talk to our kids about avoiding it, we come from a place of knowledge, not fear. My family is safer and healthier because marijuana is regulated and legal.

Other states and municipalities are about to reap those same benefits. In Washington D.C., which implemented pot legalization last month, police made more than 5,700 arrests for marijuana in 2011. The racial disparity in those arrests is shocking. D.C.’s black residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than their white neighbors. This despite the fact that use rates are virtually identical. In D.C., as in so many other American cities, marijuana laws have become nets that harvest young black men into the industrial prison system.

In Seattle and Denver, those nets no longer exist. Earlier this year they disappeared from Washington, D.C. That’s what the rest of America stands to lose. If you want to experience the gains, visit us out here in safe, sane, and regulated Washington State. Come see how we’re thriving. And see what the rest of America has to lose.

Adapted from the new book “Weed the People, the Future of Legal Marijuana in America,” from TIME Books, available wherever books are sold, including Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound.

Read next: The Business of Pot

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

This Is What the Framers Said About the Senate’s Power to Offer Advice and Consent

The Constitution
Fotosearch / ;Getty Images Facimile of The Constitution For The United States Of America

But what did they really want? No one can be sure

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s choice to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General, has been awaiting senatorial confirmation for almost five months. The second clause of Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution states that presidential appointments of “public Ministers and Consuls” depend on “the Advice and Consent of the Senate,” and Republicans in the Senate are jealously guarding their power by denying consent.

The same clause also states that presidential treaty-making powers are subject to “the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” Forty-seven Senate Republicans place such stock in their constitutional power that they pointed it out to “The Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” In weeks to come, this corps will be offering President Obama a full dose of advice as it withholds consent for the nuclear deal with Iran.

“Advice and Consent”—what, exactly, did the framers have in mind?

That’s what members of the First Federal Congress tried to figure out, and they stumbled from the start—even though half of the first Senate’s twenty members were framers themselves, along with eight representatives in the first House.

On June 16, 1789, a Tuesday, the House of Representatives considered the framework for a Department of Foreign Affairs, to be headed by a secretary who would be “removable from office by the President of the United States.” This phrase, which followed a list of the secretary’s duties, excited far more interest than the duties themselves, and Alexander White of Virginia moved to strike it out. White and several others reasoned that “if the Senate are associated with the President in the appointment, they ought also to be associated in the dismission from office.” Based on logic alone, Congress had “no right to deprive the Senate of their constitutional prerogative.”

This was also sound policy, they argued. Senators served longer than the president in order to provide stability. (“President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades,” the 47 senators informed Iranian leaders.) “A change of the Chief Magistrate, therefore, would not occasion so violent or so general a revolution in the officers of the Government, as might be expected if he were the sole disposer of offices.”

James Madison disagreed. The Constitution was “silent” on the matter, he noted, but the first sentence of Article II stated, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President.” Each branch was to remain distinct unless otherwise stipulated, and although the Constitution did allow some instances of shared power, whenever these were not explicitly stated, executive functions, including removal of executive officers, must revert to the executive department, headed by the president.

Like his opponents, Madison argued that his approach was not only constitutionally sound but also good policy. If the president required the concurrence of the Senate before removing an executive officer, that officer could ensure his tenure in office by courting the approval of the majority of senators. The secretary of foreign affairs and other such officials would come under the sway of legislators, and executive accountability would be lost. Department heads could endure in office indefinitely, while the president had to stand for reelection every four years. The entire notion of a single chief executive would thus be undermined—in Madison’s dramatic words, “the power of the President” would be reduced “to a mere vapor.”

The dispute continued. With the original document “silent,” each representative had a chance to say his piece, and many did. Speakers on both sides vied with each other for who could best convey the overwhelming sense of gravitas. “The decision that is at this time made, will become the permanent exposition of the constitution; and on a permanent exposition of the constitution will depend the genius and character of the whole Government,” Madison said. “I own to you, Mr. Chairman, that I feel great anxiety upon this question … because I am called upon to give a decision in a case that may affect the fundamental principles of the Government under which we act, and liberty itself.” Not to be outdone, Georgia’s James Jackson declared, “The liberties of my country may be suspended on the decision of this question,” but top honors probably went to Virginia’s Richard Bland Lee. “The day on which this question shall be decided will be a memorable day, not only in the history of our own times, but in the history of mankind,” Lee predicted. “On a proper or improper decision, will be involved the future happiness or misery of the people of America.”

Notwithstanding the hyperbole and seemingly pervasive sense of self-importance, this was in fact an issue of lasting significance. If Congress decided one way, any department head, with skillful navigation, could create a fiefdom that might rival the office of the presidency and last through multiple presidential administrations; if it decided the other way, department heads would be under the direct command of the president, and there would in fact be a single chief executive.

Late on Friday afternoon, after four full days of debates (outlined in 125 pages of the Annals of Congress), the motion to strike “to be removable from office by the President of the United States” failed by a vote of 20 to 34. No other phrase, clause, or sentence commanded such attention or excited such passion during the First Federal Congress; even the Bill of Rights, the lack of which had almost doomed the Constitution, failed to occupy Congress as fully as the great removal debate.

And that debate was not yet over. After passing the House, the president’s power to remove the secretary of foreign affairs (and by implication other department heads) was taken up by the Senate, where it faced tougher resistance. Senators, unlike representatives, had a stake in the matter: they would gain immeasurable influence over the governmental apparatus if they won on a share of removal power. The Senate debate commenced on July 14 and lasted three days, but because the Senate met behind closed doors, the only record of their debates can be found in the colorful journal of Senator William Maclay, from Pennsylvania. By his accounting, Vice President Adams played a major role, not by making speeches but by cajoling wavering senators. “Everybody believed that John Adams was the great converter,” Maclay wrote, and Adams did more than convert. The final vote was ten in favor and ten opposed, so Adams, exercising for the first time his Constitutional authority as presiding officer of the Senate to break a tie, settled the matter in favor of the president’s exclusive removal power. For want of a single vote in the Senate, the federal government’s balance of powers would have been fundamentally altered.

Less than a month after the removal debate, the other “advice and consent” clause faced its first challenge. President Washington wanted to stabilize relations with Indian nations on the southern borderlands so they wouldn’t ally with Spain, which controlled the Mississippi River. Today, we assume that the president first concludes a treaty and then brings it to the Senate for “consent.” At the time, though, Washington and anybody else who took the Constitution at face value reasoned that “by and with the advice … of the Senate” required him to seek senatorial input before or during treaty negotiations, not just afterwards.

So on the morning of August 22, 1789, a Saturday, President Washington and Henry Knox, acting Secretary of War, entered the Senate chamber to seek that body’s advice. Washington composed a letter explaining the recent history of white-Indian relations in the region, followed by an extensive list of specific issues he wished senators to consider—a dozen concerning the Creeks and three that addressed relations with Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctaws.

According to William Maclay, Washington handed his introductory remarks to John Adams, who read them aloud. Adams “hurried over the paper” in such a manner that nobody could hear: “Carriages were driving past, and such a noise, I could tell it was something about ‘Indians,’ but was not master of one sentence of it.” Robert Morris asked Adams to read the letter again, and then, immediately, Adams repeated the first item and “put the question: ‘Do you advise and consent, etc.?’ ” When nobody rose to speak, Maclay, who relished the role of gadfly, stepped up. If he had not done so, he worried, “we should have these advises and consents ravished, in a degree, from us.”

“The business is new to the Senate,” Maclay said. “It is of importance. It is our duty to inform ourselves as well as possible on the subject. I therefore call for the reading of the treaties and other documents alluded to in the paper before us.” Although Washington evinced “an aspect of stern displeasure” at this attempt to slow down the process, senators began to address the items point by point. There were so many documents to be read and points to be considered, however, that they decided to send the matter to a committee and take it up at their next session, two days hence. “This defeats every purpose of my coming here,” Washington reportedly said. The president then “cooled by degrees,” but he departed soon thereafter with “a discontented air.”

Washington’s appearance on the Senate floor was a flop by anybody’s standards. Maclay thought it inappropriate for the president “to bear down our deliberations with his personal authority and presence,” while Washington must have been equally displeased. He was no stranger to seeking advice, but not in a venue such as this. On countless occasions during the Revolution, the Commander-in-Chief had convened his war council; never did he take that body’s advice lightly, and often he allowed it to overrule him. Then, he was dealing with colleagues who shared both the information he had at his disposal and a certain level of professional expertise relevant to the items under consideration; now, members of the Senate were ill informed and not particularly conversant in the matters placed before them. Collectively, they saw themselves as a deliberative body; individually, each valued philosophical correctness and speechifying, sometimes at the expense of taking action. Was the upper house of the legislature really the right body to issue advice? And even if it were, what was to be gained by the president sitting through the arduous process?

“Advice and consent” is a handy phrase, but the brief encounter on August 22 revealed that offering advice and granting consent are two very different activities. To give meaningful advice, senators would have to understand the intricacies of councils with Indian and European nations. A handful of delegates to the Federal Convention had wanted to create an executive council to handle such matters, but the idea never gained traction. Instead, senators were assigned the role of advisors, and this proved unworkable the first time it was put to the test.

In truth, the framers had not thought through how “Advice and Consent” might work in treaty-making, much as they had failed to stipulate who had the power to dismiss “public Ministers and Consuls.” This is understandable. Neither of the “Advice and Consent” stipulations was placed on the floor of the Federal Convention until September 4, 1787, after delegates had been deliberating for over three months; by then they were in a rush to adjourn, and they would do so thirteen days later. The Committee of Detail’s draft, submitted on August 6, had stipulated: “The Senate of the United States shall have power to make treaties, and to appoint Ambassadors, and Judges of the Supreme Court.” That draft, too, had stated that the president would be selected by Congress and serve a non-repeatable 7-year term. When a committee consisting of one delegate from each state restructured the entire edifice on September 4, the rest of the framers were so overwhelmed that they discussed the many changes only briefly. On September 7 James Wilson suggested giving the House as well as the Senate a role in ratifying treaties, but only Pennsylvania, his own state, liked the idea. The same day, Wilson and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina argued against involving the legislature in executive matters, but their concern was quickly dismissed. In short order, state delegations approved both the treaty-making and appointment clauses unanimously. That was all the attention “Advice and Consent” received at the Federal Convention.

Through the turbulent 1790s Americans tried to sort this out, dividing along partisan lines much as we do today. In 1793 Alexander Hamilton, writing as Pacificus, argued that the executive department, without the Senate, was the sole “organ of intercourse between the Nation and foreign Nations,” although five years earlier, writing as Publius in The Federalist #75, he had stated that it was “utterly unsafe and improper … to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States.” In 1795 opponents of Jay’s Treaty argued unsuccessfully that the treaty was invalid since the Senate had not been asked for its advice; further, they claimed it required the approval of the House as well as the Senate, since only the House was empowered to initiate the appropriation of funds that Jay’s Treaty required. The founding generation seemed as confused about such matters as we are today; then, as now, constitutional arguments were conjured to facilitate desired political outcomes.

All of which leaves us on our own, more so than many would prefer. Perhaps the greatest flaw with the doctrine of Original Intent is that the framers, individually and collectively, were not always clear in their own minds what they intended. They had ideas, they constructed drafts, they debated and changed these, and in the end they settled for the last draft standing, admitting as they granted their assent that flaws would emerge and future citizens would have to work things out, as we must do now.

Ray Raphael’s most recent books are “Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) and “Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right” (The New Press, 2013). The tenth anniversary revised edition of “Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past” was published by The New Press in 2014.

TIME politics

Guy Wears Polo Shirt to Meeting Not Realizing Obama Would Be There

Carolyn Kaster—AP In this April 3, 2015, file photo, President Barack Obama, center, participates in a roundtable about clean energy with Judy Fisher, clockwise from Obama, Marvin Lance Futch, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Harry "Buddy" Briesmaster III, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Michelle Fisher at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

At least wear a tan suit

A man who wore a white polo shirt last week to a meeting with President Barack Obama at Hill Air Force Base north of Salt Lake City, Utah, is making headlines because of his unintentionally casual attire.

Lance Futch told the Associated Press he thought he would just be meeting a senior White House official. Turned out he was sitting one seat away from the commander-in-chief at a table that also included U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R).

The White House asked Vivant Solar to send someone with a military affiliation to discuss job opportunities for veterans in solar energy, so the company sent Futch, a member of the Utah Air National Guard.

“If I had known it was my commander in chief, I definitely would have been wearing my blues,” referring to the guardsman uniform.

Or at least a tan suit.


Bye-Bye Great Satan

Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost. His weekly TIME column, "In the Arena," covers national and international affairs.

A deal with the U.S. undermines Iranian hardliners, and gives reformers hope

There comes a moment at an Iranian Passover seder when people gleefully start beating one another with leeks to celebrate the Jewish people’s liberation from Egypt. Go figure. I was expecting a particularly brutal whupping from my friends Roya Hakakian and Dr. Ramin Ahmadi on the night after the Iran nuclear-deal framework agreement was announced. They know I favor the deal; I figured they would oppose it. Both are refugees from the Islamic Republic. Ramin, in particular, has been cited in the Iranian press as a subversive agent, paid by the CIA to conduct secret antiregime training sessions for young Iranians in Dubai and elsewhere.

The charges are laughable: Ramin is an Iranian leprechaun, if such a thing is possible–born a Muslim but converted to Judaism when he married Roya. He’s on the Yale University medical faculty, a poet and writer. He does favor regime change, but through peaceful means–and he has trained more than 200 young Iranians in nonviolence workshops. His students have gone home to lead the Tehran street protests in recent years. So I asked with some trepidation, “What do you think of the deal?”

It’s fantastic!” Ramin said, with a slightly naughty smile. “It’s very positive.” Really? “Yes,” he said. “It totally undermines the regime’s credibility.” For years, the hard-liners who actually run the show–the Supreme Leader and his Revolutionary Guards Corps generals–have presented America as the Great Satan. It was the prime rationale for repression: order and discipline were necessary to meet the U.S. threat. This was an argument that seemed to hold little water with the majority of Iranians, who favor reform; in my experience, and according to some polls, Iranians are the most pro-American Muslims in the region. Western news and culture–fed by satellite dishes, which are ubiquitous–are dominant in the society. “The question is,” Ramin went on, “how can America remain the Great Satan if you’re making deals with them?” That’s why people were dancing in the streets of Tehran. “It was the prospect of a better economy, for sure, but it was also the hope that this was the beginning of the end of the Islamic Republic.”

Ramin’s argument was bolstered by an obscure but significant point raised by Mehdi Khalaji, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who is the son of an Iranian ayatullah who has been imprisoned by the regime. Khalaji, writing with Patrick Clawson, notes that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani used the word tavafogh rather than a more legal formulation to describe the nuclear deal. “Tavafogh by itself resonates in Iranians’ ears as something more than a legal agreement,” they write. “The word is also used to describe conciliation between two people who have been at odds. In addition, it has the connotation of peace, as contrasted with strife.”

That is why the elected Iranian government–Rouhani and his Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif–will face opposition from the more extreme factions of the regime, like General Mohammad Reza Naqdi of the Basij religious militia, who suddenly popped up after the deal, calling the Americans “liars,” and also said “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable.” The Basij is a domestic street gang known for unprovoked attacks on students and journalists; Naqdi is the Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Iran, and he gave immediate ballast to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refrain that the Iranians can’t be trusted. Given the surprising strength of the deal–especially the reduced number of centrifuges allowed to enrich uranium for peaceful use–Netanyahu needed all the help he could get. He was forced to resort to the spurious argument that the framework would launch a nuclear-arms race in the region. Actually, that’s what will happen if a deal isn’t reached–and this deal could still, easily, collapse over the not-so-small print.

The weird ideological confluence between Likudnik neoconservatives and the Iranian hard-liners in opposition to the deal is instructive. It is reflexive, uninformed, pessimistic. By contrast, Ramin Ahmadi’s view seems improbably fresh and fiendishly delightful. Over dessert, after the leek beating had subsided, he laid out the uncertain new landscape that the Iranian left suddenly had in common with the desperately-seeking-Satan hard-liners. The left–which has tolerated the regime because it hates American imperialism–was now liberated to hate both the regime and the Americans, which was perverse good news: they might join the moderate opposition in the streets. The hard-liners were split, awaiting definitive word from the Supreme Leader. “The people dancing in the streets believe their lives will immediately improve. But the sanctions won’t go away overnight–and even then, it will take time for the economy to recover,” Ramin concluded. “Nothing crushes a dictator more effectively than rising expectations.”

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

Read next: U.S. Cannot Be Trusted, Iran’s Supreme Leader Says

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This appears in the April 20, 2015 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

The ‘Obama Doctrine’ Echoes Kennedy and Nixon

President Barack Obama Hosts Easter Prayer Breakfast
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg / Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama smiles while speaking during the Easter Prayer Breakfast in the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 7, 2015.

Where does the “Obama doctrine” fit in with the history of presidents and foreign policy?

In a recent New York Times interview with Thomas Friedman, President Obama enunciated an “Obama doctrine” for dealing with nations such as Cuba and Iran: “We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.” By “engage,” he meant engage diplomatically; by “capabilities,” he meant our overwhelmingly superior military. Following the example of President James Monroe, a great many modern Presidents have enunciated explicit or implicit doctrines, including Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and George W. Bush. Some of them pushed the United States further forward in the world; others represented something of a step back. Putting Obama’s doctrine in historical perspective suggests that he is returning to an earlier tradition of American foreign policy represented above all by those two great rivals, Kennedy and Nixon—but, typically, Obama used vaguer, gentler language than any other President, continuing his endless, so far fruitless search for consensus.

The Truman Doctrine, presented to Congress and the world in a March 1947 speech, set the tone for the next 40 years of American foreign policy. Confronted with a civil war in Greece, President Truman argued that the United States should give aid to allied governments that were resisting internal rebellions aided by outside forces. While he did not specifically identify Moscow as the ultimate enemy, the speech became the basis for the containment strategy that ruled our foreign policy until 1989. And in fact, the Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter and Reagan doctrines were all simply extensions or modifications of containment. Eisenhower in 1957 announced that the United States would resist Communist encroachment in the Middle East. Nixon in 1969 stated that the United States would no longer send ground forces to help third-world allies threatened by Communist aggression, but would use naval and air power. Carter in 1980 announced that the United States would forcibly resist any Soviet attempt to move into the Persian Gulf region. Going a step beyond containment to liberation, Reagan in the 1980s declared that the United States would assist guerrillas fighting Communist regimes in the Third World.

More broadly, however, different Presidents enunciated different principles behind the ends and means of their foreign policy, particularly towards the Soviet Union. Thus, in his American University speech in June 1963, John F. Kennedy called for peaceful coexistence between the United States and the Soviet Union, founded on mutual respect for one another’s institutions and even beliefs. The Test Ban treaty followed in short order. Nixon not only enunciated his own doctrine, but declared, echoing Kennedy, that there could be no winners in a nuclear war, and embarked upon détente with the Soviet Union and arms-control treaties based upon equality. Reagan on the other hand declared, through subordinates, that the United States must prepare to fight and “prevail” in a nuclear war with the Soviets, whom he often argued, until the advent of Mikhail Gorbachev, could not be trusted.

The collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War in 1991 opened up new vistas for foreign policy. George H. W. Bush essentially unveiled a new approach to aggression in response to Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait, using the United Nations to form an overwhelming coalition to roll back Saddam’s aggression without trying to overthrow him. (It is interesting that neither Kennedy nor Bush the elder, whom I consider the two most effective diplomats to have occupied the White House in my lifetime, saw fit to enunciate a “doctrine” that might serve as a substitute for case-by-case analysis.) In 1999 Bill Clinton went a fateful step further, undertaking the Kosovo war without the full support of the U.N. Security Council, and establishing a precedent that Vladimir Putin loves to invoke. But the real shift came in 2002, when George W. Bush’s administration, in a new National Security strategy, announced that the United States would use its overwhelming military power to prevent dangerous or hostile states from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, without regard to the rest of world opinion. This doctrine led us into Iraq, and had Iraq gone more smoothly, it might well have led us into Iran and North Korea as well.

The Obama doctrine seems to represent an explicit, although vaguely stated, return to a policy of containment and deterrence, in the tradition of Kennedy and Nixon. It repudiates not only preventive war, but also the fantasy that economic sanctions can bring down or fundamentally alter hostile regimes. Our sanctions against Castro have lasted the whole of Barack Obama’s natural life, without result. While the agreement with Iran may not work out as planned, Obama said, “Iran understands that they cannot fight us.” That argument—that Iran can be, and is being, effectively deterred from war by American power—trumps, in the President’s mind, Iran’s ideological stance, and especially its rejection of Israel’s right to exist. The President rejected Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand that Iran be required to accept Israel’s existence as part of the deal. In the same way, Nixon and Kennedy (although not Reagan) made important agreements with Soviet leaders without trying to insist that they renounce their ideology.

Iran has in fact made remarkable concessions for the sake of the agreement. Because successive Presidents have declared that Iran must not have a nuclear weapon, we tend to forget that nothing in international law forbids them from enriching uranium, and only the Nonproliferation Treaty, which the Iranian government signed but could denounce, as North Korea did, forbids them from developing weapons. The Iranian government, a proud and militant regime, is surrendering a good deal of its sovereignty for the sake of improving its economy and its relations with the West.

The President is moving towards a new, more realistic approach to the Arab world, one that does not demand a wholesale capitulation to American policies and values as the price of any cooperation with the United States. Given the intense opposition that he faces at home, however, I do not know if he can bring this shift about without using less tentative and more inspiring language than he did in his interview with Friedman. Both Kennedy and Nixon, following parallel courses in their dealings with Moscow, spoke boldly of a new era of peace and a potential end to a nuclear nightmare. Today’s President remains “No drama Obama.” The shift he is proposing is truly dramatic, especially against the background of the last 15 years, but it may need more inspiring rhetoric to turn his vision into reality—lest his opponents’ jeremiads against the dangers of the agreement drown out his very sensible arguments for it.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

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