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“Bipartisan Boost for Obama,” Reports NYT Correspondent From a Parallel Universe

By on 12.6.10 | 5:04PM

Under the headline "For Once, a Bipartisan Boost for Obama," Peter Baker of the New York Times blog The Caucus reports:

In an era of deep partisan polarization, President Obama will open his mailbox on Monday to find at least one letter offering bipartisan support - and bipartisan advice. The letter is from six senators, three from each caucus; they praise Mr. Obama for his tough stance on Iran and urge him not to let up.

Great! The Obama administration's policy on Iran is universally acknowledged to be awesome!

Except... no. Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy, reporting on the very same letter (albeit with only five signatures -- John McCain's name, mentioned in the NYT write-up, is missing from the copy that Rogin has), puts it into context:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week in Bahrain that Iran does have the right to a domestic uranium enrichment program for civilian purposes, if and when they prove to the international community they can do so transparently and responsibly.

But in a letter (PDF) to President Barack Obama to be delivered on Monday -- but obtained in advance by The Cable -- Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) said that the administration should make clear to Iran that domestic enrichment is not an option.

"We believe that it is critical that the United States and our partners make clear that, given the government of Iran's pattern of deception and non-cooperation, its government cannot be permitted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future," the senators wrote. "We would strongly oppose any proposal for a diplomatic endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue these activities in any form."

Overall, the letter sets down a marker to Obama to remind him that, as the administration heads down the engagement track with Iran once again, Congress will be watching and waiting to criticize any perceived weakness or concession. The negotiations may be taking place in Geneva, but the Obama team has to always keep one eye on Capitol Hill.

Unless, of course, the Obama team believes what they read in the New York Times, in which case they have nothing to worry about.

(Hat-tip to the Republican Jewish Coalition.)

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