If the Republican attempt to kill peace talks with Iran isn’t treason, it’s pretty damn close

The Obama administration, in hopes of derailing conservative plans for war with Iran, is presently working with our nation’s allies to broker a diplomatic solution that would allow the Iranians to pursue a non-military nuclear program while putting in place a framework of strict international oversight. Republicans in Washington, not wanting to see a peace deal struck between our countries, however, have begun to push back hard. First it was House Speaker John Boehner going around the President to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on what Boehner called “the serious threat that Iran poses, and the serious threat of radical Islam.” And, today, we have news that 47 Republican senators, in violation of American diplomatic protocol, have sent a letter to “the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” in hopes of undermining efforts on the part of the Obama administration to avoid war between our countries. [The Republican letter, which was signed by the likes of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, can be found here.]

Beginning with the condescending phrase, “you may not fully understand our Constitutional system,” the letter, initiated by Tom Cotton, the freshman senator from Arkansas, goes on to explain that the President cannot legally enter into an agreement without the approval of Congress. Not only is this a shocking offensive breach of protocol, but it’s incorrect. The following comes from Harvard Law School professor, and former U.S. Assistant Attorney General, Jack Goldsmith, who described the letter as “embarrassing,” on his blog, Lawfare.

The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification.” Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.” Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented… is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”

So, the President, should he choose to do so, is well within his legal rights to enter into an agreement with Iran that, in exchange for peace, would allow the country to pursue a non-military nuclear energy program under the eye of a team of international inspectors. And, for what it’s worth, it would seem that the Iranians understand this. Asked about the letter earlier today, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded by saying, “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.”

And that, I think, is a great point. Not only are the Republicans in the Senate seeking to undermine the President in his attempts to avoid war and broker a deal, but they’re doing so before even hearing what an agreement between our countries may entail. Nothing short of war, it would seem, will satisfy them. And, in that regard, they’re very much like their conservative counterparts in Iran. This similarity, by the way, was pointed out today by President Obama, who said, “I think it is somewhat ironic that Senate Republicans are making common cause with hard liners in Iran.”

Try to imagine, if you can, Senate Democrats reaching out to Mikhail Gorbachev toward the end of the cold war, as he was entering into negotiations with President Reagan, telling the leader of the Soviet Union that the President did not have the authority to broker any kind of deal.

As the editorial board at the Detroit Free Press wrote earlier today, “To disagree with a sitting president is one thing, even if that disagreement is loud, even if it is raucous. A deliberate attempt to undermine a sitting president’s efforts to discharge his constitutional obligations is something else entirely.”

Is it technically treason, I doubt it. I suppose, as some are suggesting, it might be a violation of the Logan Act, which bars unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign powers, but, as they aren’t really negotiating, I suspect it would be difficult to make the case. It does, however, make one wonder where the loyalty of these Republicans lies. Clearly it is not with our President, or the American people, who elected Barack Obama not once, but twice, to represent their interests in such matters.

As disgusting as it is, I’ve come to accept that hard line Republicans have decided to govern as though Obama is not, in fact, a legitimate American president, worthy of the respect that comes with the office. Naively, I think, I first attributed this to racism on the part of Republican legislators. Now, though, thanks in part to this most recent international development, I’m seeing it as something considerably more complicated. It’s not just that these men hate Obama, and have made the decision not to show him the respect to which he’s entitled. It’s not even that they’re racist. All of that is secondary. No, when you get right down to it, it’s all about money. It’s all about achieving their objectives of keeping us at war, decreasing taxes, breaking unions, and deregulating industry. And they’ll do whatever they can to get there. Racism is just a means to an end, a way to get buy-in from an uneducated, fearful electorate. They’ll push whatever racist buttons they have to in order to legitimize their actions. They’ll violate whatever protocols they have to in order to get their way. We’ve seen it locally with the unprecedented legislative moves by Republicans during lame duck sessions in Lansing. And we’re seeing it now in Washington. This is why they’ve gone to such lengths these past several years to push the idea that Barack Obama is not a “legitimate” president. This is why they keep floating the idea that he does not “love” America. It’s all so that they can justify their attempts to circumvent the office of President. This, my friends, isn’t just a few backward, racist Republicans not respecting a black president. No, this is an attempted coup.

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  1. Demetrius
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    We now have members of the Senate who have gone “rogue” — and who have decided to bypass a sitting president, to negotiate on their own with a dangerous foreign nation.

    We have a Governor (Snyder) who has decided to bypass the mandate of the electorate (who voted against having State-imposed “Emergency/Financial managers”) and went ahead anyway, re-imposing them on numerous Michigan communities and school districts.

    And, we have self-appointed loons who have taken it upon themselves to assert their “first amendment” rights by terrorizing attendees at a school-children’s recital.

    Three very different scenarios … but all stemming from the same idea: The right-wing in our nation is figuring out that they can basically do anything they want, irrespective of common-sense, or even “the law” … because they know that while the left will whine and wring their hands and talk about how “shocking” and “terrible” this all is – ultimately, they aren’t going to do anything about it.

    And so, in the early days of the 21st Century, the prevailing ethic seems to be ” might makes right.”

  2. Meta
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Joe Biden:

    “In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country — much less a longtime foreign adversary — that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments — a message that is as false as it is dangerous.”

    “The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.”

    Read more:

  3. Posted March 10, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Well, yes, that’s what Republicans do. They go in and complain and obstruct while not offering substantive solutions.

  4. Lynne
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Demetrius is right. They do this because they can get away with it and it is what the lobbyists want. Until the average person starts voting, nothing will change. I am not entirely sure it will change even then though. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Human beings are very prone to voting based on emotion. Goodness knows I am not immune to that. It makes it hard to make rational decisions about who to vote for and it makes it very easy for politicians to play on our fears, whatever they are.

  5. Anonymous Mike
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Not all Republican senators signed. Bob Corker, the Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for instance, did not sign.

  6. Posted March 10, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    One of the first things I learned as a teacher was that actions had to have meaningful consequences. If there are no consequences, or if you do the “I’mma count to 3” thing, the behavior will continue. In other words, Demetrius and Lynne are right on.

    One problem is that I don’t know what consequences would impact these folks. Start impeachment proceedings? Doubt that would happen. Find out their major donors and threaten boycotts? Would that even make a difference? Wait outside the Senate and smack them upside the head? I mean, what?

  7. Meta
    Posted March 11, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    An interesting historical footnote.

    In less than a week, Congressional Republicans have taken two unprecedented steps to undermine the foreign policy of a sitting American president. Last Tuesday, they offered Capitol Hill as a global stage to a foreign leader–Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel–to sabotage the U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran. And this weekend, 47 GOP Senators sent a letter to the leadership in Tehran warning the Islamic Republic that Congress-or the next president-could blow up any nuclear deal at any time.

    But one Republican leader–Dick Cheney–furiously condemned Congressional interference with the President’s policy towards Iran. Condemned it, that is, provided the President was Ronald Reagan and the issue wasn’t limiting Iran’s arsenal, but enhancing it.

    That’s right. In the wake of the arms-for-hostages scandal that engulfed President Reagan in 1986, the minority Republican response to the Congressional Iran-Contra investigation declared that Congress, not the White House, had done something wrong.

    Read more:

  8. Tony
    Posted March 11, 2015 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    This letter not only undermines negotiations, but think what other world leaders are thinking. Assuredly, they’ve figured out 47 US senators don’t understand their role in making treaties. And, thinking, “Wow, these guys are total asshats.”

    I’m ok with all of this except the fact they probably also feel sorry for Obama. The last thing I want our President to get is pity. Talk about negotiating from a position of weakness, knowing the poor guy has to deal with an incompetent legislative branch.

  9. charlieFuckinRomeo
    Posted March 11, 2015 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Why aren’t the wall street or progressive democrats inviting the leader of Iran to speak to congress to refute the fascist diatribe of Netenyahu ?


    Senator Tom Cotton was a punk-bitch Harvard educated lawyer before he was a tin-plated phony fuck patriot traitor. I wonder how many gook/Iraqui heads he blew off defending our American way of life ?


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