Salem News: Our view: An open approach to volatile Iran issue

Since he decided to run for office two years ago, Seth has promised he would keep an open mind and take a thoughtful, reasoned approach to the tough issues of our day. We don't need political posturing or soundbites. We need representatives who are really willing to engage on the issues and make tough decisions - even when they are not politically expedient. Seth's approach to the Iran Deal is a prime example:



Read the Original in the Salem News

Congressman Seth Moulton walked into the lion’s den Friday at Temple Emmanu-El in Marblehead, and again on Monday at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore. 

Moulton was there to tell representatives of the Jewish community in the 6th District exactly what many of them did not want to hear: that he plans to vote in favor of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

The deal will end economic sanctions against Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program designed to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. The deal is opposed by the Israeli government, which considers it a deal with the devil — a devil that poses a serious threat to the safety and security of Israel. The agreement has the support of the European community and President Obama, who consider it an imperfect but viable way to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power in the tinderbox that is the Middle East.

The deal is a volatile issue in Congress, which will vote on it next month. Republican opponents denounced the deal the minute it was announced — indeed, some tried to intervene while the United States and its allies (United Kingdom, Russia, China, Germany, France and the Europoean Union) were still negotiating with Iran. That’s set up an unusual situation where many in the Jewish community, usually considered a liberal voter bloc, find themselves allied with the nation’s most conservative politicians.

And in the 6th District, that voter bloc is a large and vocal one. Just ask former Congressman John Tierney, the liberal Democrat who lost the primary to Moulton in 2014 after serving nine terms in Congress. Though not the most significant factor in the election, Tierney’s loss of support among Jewish voters in the 6th District was certainly a factor. He had angered and disappointed many of them by calling for an end to Israel’s siege and embargo of Gaza and failing to support some other pro-Israeli initiatives.

So Moulton knows exactly the kind of political repercussions he could face by failing to support Israel’s stance in opposition to the Iran deal. Although The Salem News editorial board opposes the Iran deal, what we do like is that Moulton faced a roomful of angry voters head on; he listened to their concerns and he explained not only where he agrees, but where he differs.

Moulton had already announced his support for the Iran deal before he took a congressional trip to Israel earlier this month and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those discussions didn’t change his mind, he explained. He had also made calls to local rabbis telling them he planned to support the agreement, meeting with what he described as a mixed reaction.

Then he decided to speak directly with voters in the Jewish community, many of whom were not happy. As Rabbi David Meyer commented at the end of the event on Friday, “I would love to send people off happier than they came in. Unfortunately, it’s not a happy conversation.”

That’s not to say that everyone there was opposed to the Iran deal; there were some supporters as well. And nationally, Moulton said, polling of the American Jewish community is running 60-40 in favor of the deal. But there are prominent 6th District voters, and many others, opposed to it.

In the end, Moulton makes a reasoned case for the lack of viable alternatives to the current deal — more sanctions, which he says are already crumbling, or military action, something the former Marine, who served four tours of duty in Iraq, does not favor.

Whether a voter agrees or disagrees with Moulton’s position, he has demonstrated a thoughtful approach, a willingness to listen and the courage of his conviction — and that’s really what voters can, and should, expect of a congressman.

Helen Gifford

Managing Editor

The Salem News