Republicans are not so good at policy and actual governing, but you have to hand it to them: Hands down, they’re the best at creating fake controversies.

Cash for hostages? Nope.

You can’t blame Republicans for wanting to change the subject from their erstwhile presidential nominee, but this latest faux scandal is insultingly wrong-headed. See if you can follow:

  • When President Obama made a nuclear deal with Iran, part of the agreement was that the U.S. would return $1.7 billion owed from a 1979 arms deal. (There’s no question that we owe them the money — it was negotiated through international court at the Hague.)
  • The original amount in question was $400 million. The rest is interest. The U.S. also unfroze a much larger pool of Iranian assets (between $100-$150 billion) as part of the nuclear deal.
  • The administration shipped $400 million in cash to Iran, just as American hostages were released.
  • This isn’t “cash for hostages” (which the U.S. and most countries refuse to do, because it encourages kidnappers). The reason? This is money we owed them, and the first payment was made as the deal was sealed. We were holding their money hostage.

Remember, the administration already announced this back in January:

Ah, but the Iranian press called it a ransom payment, according to the WSJ, who broke the non-story. So that must mean it’s true — or at least, true enough for Republicans.

Senior U.S. officials told the WSJ the payment and the prisoner release wasn’t a quid pro quo. How could it be? We were only giving them back something that already belonged to them. But the Republican spin machine (who probably shaped and dumped opposition research on this non-event) created their own opportunity and went for it. Now Obama is “arming our enemies!”

But as this tweet points out, it wasn’t Obama who traded for hostages with Iran:

(AP Photo)