One of many startling statements in President's Obama interview with Tom Friedman is his assertion that he's seeking “to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.”
Even granting that this is an opportunity, why is it a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity? By his own account, it's not. There is, he claims, a basic structural and strategic case for the deal on both sides. It's a case that would presumably hold two or five or ten years from now, and for that matter it's one that presumably held two or five or ten years ago.
But the deal is, I think authentically in Obama's mind, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why? When you think about it, his reasoning is obvious, though unstated: It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because Barack Obama is now president. And he'll only be president for a little while longer.
Obama has learned not to repeat the grandiose claims of his first-term Cairo speech about what a difference he himself being president can make. Indeed, he's learned to cloak his deep narcissism in a matter-of-fact pseudo-realism of the kind he displays in the Friedman interview. But the "once-in-a-lifetime" claim is the giveaway. The claim doesn't make any sense unless he thinks that once he, Barack Obama, is no longer president, the opportunity will be gone. Only he, Barack Obama, can pull this off. Not Hillary Clinton or Marco Rubio a few years from now, after the biting sanctions of 2012 have been allowed time to put more pressure on the Iranian regime. No. It has to happen now if it's to happen at all. Because only Barack Obama, Barack Obama truly believes, can make this historic and transformative deal happen.
So the public, the Congress, and our allies should butt out. They should suspend disbelief and refrain from asking the obvious questions and insisting on clear answers. For in this special moment, in this once-in-a-lifetime moment, all should step aside, and all should defer to our once-in-a-lifetime president.