(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential hopeful Jim Webb on Sunday criticized those in his party who have attacked Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Schumer for saying they will vote against the Iran nuclear agreement.
Reiterating his own opposition to what he described as “a bad deal” with Iran, the former Virginia senator said politicians should put the United States ahead of the party.
“I think we need to put country ahead of party,” Webb said on Fox News. “It troubles me when I see all this debate about whether this is disloyalty to the president or to the Democratic Party, particularly with what Chuck Schumer has gone through.”
Schumer, the New York senator in line to become the party’s next Senate leader, became the most senior Democrat yet to side against the Obama administration on the issue when he announced Thursday he will oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) when Congress votes on a resolution of disapproval next month.
He quickly came under fire from the administration and its supporters, with White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggesting some Democrats might reconsider their choice for Senate leader (a position shared by the New York Times editorial page.)
Former Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer was blunter. Writing on Twitter, he alluded to the White House talking point that its diplomacy with Iran is the only reasonable alternative to war: “The base won’t support a leader who thought Obamacare was a mistake and wants War with Iran.”
Webb disagreed with the administration’s characterization of a choice between embracing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or going to war: “I think those are false choices.”
He said leadership was about putting the country first, something he had always sought to do, especially on foreign policy issues.
Webb recalled having been called “wrong” for opposing the Iraq war, for wanting to bring an isolated Burma back into the international community, for questioning the Arab spring, and for opposing the military intervention in Libya.
“With all due respect, I think they were wrong, and I think they are wrong to criticize Chuck Schumer right now.”
Webb’s opposes the JCPOA, he said, because “in the end of this what we see is that they [the Iranians] could have the capability to move forward, basically with our tacit approval, with nuclear weapons.
He also expressed concern about the effect in the region, saying a very delicate balance of power between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran could be upset.
Meanwhile President Obama refused to back down from his earlier comments linking congressional Republicans with “Death to America”-chanting Iranian hardliners.
In a recorded interview aired on Sunday, he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the debate on the deal in the coming weeks should be about substance, and “not get distracted by tone, vote-counts, [or Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s feelings hurt.”
Obama said drawing the link between the Iranian hardliners and Republican caucus was accurate.
“What I said is absolutely true factually,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, inside of Iran, the people most opposed to the deal are the Revolutionary Guard, the Qods force, hard-liners who are implacably opposed to any cooperation with the international community.”
“The reason that Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the folks in his caucus who opposed this, jumped out and opposed this before they even read it, before it was even posted, is reflective of an ideological commitment not to get a deal done,” he said.
“And in that sense they do have a lot in common with the hardliners [in Iran] who are much more satisfied with the status quo.”
Obama did not say whether he placed congressional Democrats who oppose the deal in the same category.
Meanwhile MoveOn.org has announced a donor strike, calling Schumer’s stance on the JCPOA “outrageous and unacceptable.”
“No real Democratic leader does this,” it said. “If this is what counts as ‘leadership’ among Democrats in the Senate, Senate Democrats should be prepared to find a new leader or few followers.”