Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said on Friday that President Obama’s controversial remarks comparing opponents of his nuclear deal to Islamist hardliners in Tehran were "ill-advised."
"Do you think that is a fair comparison? Or is President Obama at the risk of further alienating the Republicans and others who might be opposed to the deal?" MSNBC host Craig Melvin said.
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"I don't think it’s a fair comparison," Burns said. "I have great respect for the president but frankly I think that speech—the tone of it was ill-advised because what's really happening here as Congress prepares to vote just after Labor Day is really a battle within the Democratic Party."
As lawmakers have had more time to read the fine print of the nuclear deal, the bipartisan coalition opposing it has grown. The coalition of lawmakers supporting the deal has also grown, although it is composed entirely of Democrats supportive of the president.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) is the latest Democratic defection on the deal, writing that it would allow Iran to "achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power." Schumer’s announcement has riled the deal’s apologists, who have blasted him in terms no less provocative than those used by the president.
Burns also took issue with the president’s claim that the choice before Congress was the choice between his costly nuclear deal and war.
"To suggest opponents are all Iraq War supporters or warmongers, to suggest if the deal is disapproved than war is inevitable—I don't think the facts support those contentions," Burns said.
Obama’s top military adviser testified previously that the president’s was presenting a false choice between his deal and war.