News, views and commentary on Long Island, state and national politics.
WASHINGTON - Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) compared Secretary of State John Kerry and the Iran deal to curb its nuclear weapon program to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his 1938 nonaggression pact with Adolf Hitler in a House hearing Tuesday.
Zeldin also told Kerry he doesn't have the power "to surrender our greatness" as a nation, and called many aspects of the deal with Iran "fantasyland," using the term Kerry applied to those who say it's possible to go back to the table with Iran to cut a better deal.
Kerry, a military veteran, former senator and the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, responded with a defense of the deal between six countries led by the United States and Iran, which Kerry said halts Iran's nuclear weapon development in return for easing of sanctions that have crippled its economy.
"President [Barack] Obama is the first president of the United States who has challenged this issue, who has actually rolled the Iranian program back significantly and stopped them in the path to get the [nuclear] weapon," Kerry said.
Zeldin, a freshman congressman and the only Jewish Republican in Congress, leveled his harsh assessment as the last questioner of Kerry at the end of four hours of often critical questioning by members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congress has 60 days to review the agreement and is expected to vote on whether to approve or disapprove it in September.
Zeldin wasted little time lighting into the deal, which he said does nothing to address Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism that is disrupting the region and falls short on such issues as its inspection of Iran nuclear development and operation sites.
Zeldin also pointed out that many Iranian leaders and allies say the United States will remain "the Great Satan" and called for its destruction.
Then he brought up the symbol of appeasement: Chamberlain signing a nonaggression pact in Munich, Germany, in 1938 with Hitler, only to see Hitler ignore it and invade Poland, plunging Europe into World War II.
"Over 70 years ago the leader of the free world held up a document, declared it 'peace for our time,' " Zeldin told Kerry.
"I'm afraid that many years from now if the American people through their representatives in Congress accept this bad deal that just like the Munich agreement of 1938 this Iranian agreement will prove not to be in the best interest of American security or the stability and safety of the free world," Zeldin said.
Then he made his criticism personal.
"I know it, the American public knows it, that there is an alternative other than war. It's a better deal. America got played like a five-string quartet," he said.
"Mr. Secretary, a lot of Americans have fought and died to make our country the greatest nation in the world. And you, sir, respectfully, you don't have the power to surrender our greatness."
Zeldin asked what Kerry would do if Congress rejects the deal when it votes on it in September, making the agreement fall apart.
"Congressman, you threw a lot there all at once," Kerry said.
Kerry said everyone takes offense at comments made by many people in Iran.
"What is important is what Iran does. Not what it says. What it does," Kerry said.
"For two years now Iran has lived by a deal that many of your colleagues here called a historic mistake," Kerry said. "But they lived by it. They've actually rolled their program back."