Why Obama Can Negotiate With Iran and Not The GOP

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Sept. 27 2013 5:28 PM

If Vladimir Putin Threatens To Nuke Houston, Should Obama Negotiate With Him?

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GOYANG, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 18: South Koreans test gas masks at a factory on October 18, 2006 in Seoul, South Korea.

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Kevin Williamson of National Review encapsulates the new conservative line on the disjoint between the White House's diplomatic breakthroughs with Iran and Russia and its stalement with the GOP:

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This, I think, misses the point. The whole reason Obama neither will nor can negotiate with John Boehner is that Boehner has the equivalent of the The Bomb. He's threatening the destruction of the American financial system unless Obama implements policies that he favors. The government of Iran doesn't have the power to make a similar threat, but the government of Russia does. Vladimir Putin could hold a press conference tomorrow and say that nuclear-armed ballistic missiles will destroy Houston, Chicago, and Indianapolis tomorrow unless Obama agrees to his list of demands.

Would it be reasonable for Obama to open a negotiation on those terms? Of course not! The content of the demands isn't even relevant. The threat is too crazy to indulge. You simply observe that such an attack would trigger a counteract and lead to tragedy on a global scale. Then you have to hope the Russians come to their senses, because if they don't something awful is going to happen.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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