The Pro-Israel Lobby Battles ‘Voice of God’ Morgan Freeman Over Iran
The fight over the Iran deal was already overheated—and August hasn’t even begun. Get ready for an Obamacare-level ad campaign and activist onslaught.
On one side: The self-annointed defenders of the Holy Land. On the other: the “Voice of God” and his buddy Jack Black.
Lawmakers will soon depart the Capitol for a month-long August recess. But as the temperature rises, so does heat on lawmakers who are on the fence about the nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the major world powers.
Congress has 50 days left to review an agreement that would lift sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. Over a long, hot month, lawmakers who are on the fence about the deal can expect to be harangued by activists in the District, pressured by op-eds in the hometown paper, and deluged with ads, some of them featuring Hollywood stars.
The rhetoric has already gone over the top—see GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s recent rant about the nuclear agreement leading Israelis “to the door of the oven.” And August hasn’t even begun.
It could be reminiscent of 2009’s “Obamacare Summer,” when activists turned out in droves to oppose the Affordable Care Act. Those activists later coalesced into the Tea Party. The anti-deal crowd is hoping for a similar result.
“When members of Congress are back in their districts, they are going to be hearing from people out at dinner, at their offices, and at town hall meetings,” said Josh Block, CEO of the pro-Israel group The Israel Project, which opposes the terms of the current Iran deal.
A new poll conducted for The Israel Project and exclusively obtained by The Daily Beast showed that a majority of voters—52 percent—disapprove of President Obama's handling of nuclear negotiations with Iran. Meanwhile, 62 percent want Congress to reject the deal and refrain from lifting sanctions on Iran.
In the beginning of June, just 30 percent disapproved of the framework agreement with Iran. When nearly 2,000 registered voters were surveyed over the past week, 44 percent now say they disapprove of the agreement.
Then there are the ads. Both proponents and opponents of the Iran deal are ready to put them forward. But it’s far from clear who will win out: the pro-Israel advocates who oppose the deal, or the Obama administration’s supporters, represented by the so-called Voice of God—actor Morgan Freeman.
On Tuesday, Global Zero, a group that advocates for a world without nuclear weapons and is supportive of the Iran deal, released a new ad featuring Freeman and other prominent actors actors and actresses, including Jack Black, Natasha Lyonne, and Farshad Farahat in support of the deal.
These celebrities spoke in support of the deal, interspersed with commentary by former U.S. ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering, former CIA operative Valerie Plame, and Jordanian Queen Noor Al Hussein. The video has garnered more than 200,000 views already.
“The agreement current on the table is the best way to insure that Iran doesn’t build a [expletive] bomb,” Freeman said. “The alternative [to the deal] is war.”
Meanwhile, opponents of the Iran deal are preparing to blanket the airwaves this summer: Citizens for a Nuclear-Free Iran, an advocacy group formed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is set to spend between $20 million and $40 million on a national advertising campaign. The campaign, which launched in mid-July and will continue through to September, will be primarily focused on national television but also will run local advertisements that will be seen in some 35 states.
“This is a weak deal that would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, rewards Iran with $150 billion, and strengthens a country with a record of promoting terrorism in the Middle East,” said Citizens for a Nuclear-Free Iran spokesman Patrick Dorton.
Besides supporting Citizens for a Nuclear-Free Iran, AIPAC has “a major lobbying effort in Washington this week with several hundred members, and our members will be meeting with their senators and representatives in their states and districts over the recess,” said an AIPAC source. “We are engaged in a major bipartisan educational and lobbying effort against the deal and for a better deal.” AIPAC members across the country will attend town halls in their districts to voice their concerns.
How much will the ad war matter? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) is the kind of lawmaker who will need to be convinced if opponents of the deal hope to stall it in Congress. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, he has had some friendly things to say about the nuclear agreement but hasn’t yet made up his mind. Schiff, for one, will be trying to ignore the ads.
“I would encourage people to do what I’m going to do, which is to tune it out. I have rarely found TV ads to be illuminating on the issues,” Schiff told The Daily Beast. “This issue is too important to be decided by competing 30-second advertisements. There is going to be a lot of money spent, and there very well could be a deluge out there…We just have to do our best to tune it out.”