Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the U.S. Congress at the invitation of Weeper of the House John Boehner for a campaign speech (the election in Israel is this Saturday), in which “Bibi” essentially said that no deal with Iran will ever be acceptable to him — which means that the only thing that is acceptable to Bibi is war with Iran — fought by the U.S. military on behalf of Israel.
Republican members of Congress stood and cheered wildly for Bibi’s proposal for war with Iran.
It is surreal to see what is for all purposes a client state of the U.S. dictate to the U.S. Congress what our foreign policy should be. It is equally disturbing to see members of Congress under the delusion that they are assigned the constitutional duty of conducting the foreign policy of the U.S., rather than the president and executive branch. Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states otherwise.
This is yet another attempt by Tea-Publicans to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama (should a Republican be elected president in 2016, Dick Cheney’s Unitary Executive Theory will be back with a vengeance. Tea-Publicans will pull an Emily Litella: “Never mind!” — because only Tea-Publicans are legitimately elected president in their minds).
This Tea-Publican Congress has abandoned Michigan Sen. Arthur Vandenberg’s admonition that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge,” when he cooperated with the Truman administration in forging bipartisan support for the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and NATO.
This Tea-Publican Congress is actively working hand-in-glove with Bibi Netanyahu to undermine U.S. foreign policy to benefit his conservative Likud Party. Despite his hubris, Bibi Netanyahu does not speak for all Israelis and all Jews worlwide with one voice (hopefully the election this Saturday will demonstrate this). If this was any country other than Israel, some would dare call what Tea-Publicans are doing treason.
“GOP lawmakers, without so much as a hint of embarrassment, are openly trying to derail international diplomatic talks with Iran, and Republicans had no qualms about partnering with a foreign government to undermine American foreign policy.” Playing with fire: Senate GOP tries to sabotage nuclear talks:
The GOP gambit [Netanyahu’s speech] arguably marked a new low. But after hitting the bottom of the barrel, Republicans dug a hole and fell just a little further.
A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office. […]
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system…. Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
Josh Rogin’s report makes clear that the signatories “hope that by pointing out the long-term fragility of a deal with no congressional approval … the Iranian regime might be convinced to think twice” about striking a deal with Americans and our negotiating partners.
The letter was organized by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a right-wing freshman who has spent months bragging about his hopes of destroying any diplomatic agreement intended to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The list of the 47 GOP senators who signed on to the letter is online here. Note, that list features several presidential hopefuls, including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. (Only seven Senate Republicans decided not to endorse the letter: Lamar Alexander, Dan Coats, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and Lisa Murkowski.)
Norm Ornstein noted this morning that he’s “flabbergasted” by the “astonishing breach of conduct.” That’s clearly the appropriate response. But I’m also struck by how dangerous the Republicans’ conduct is.
As we discussed back in January, when the broader sabotage campaign came into focus, there is no real precedent for this in the American tradition. The U.S. system just isn’t supposed to work this way – because it can’t. Max Fisher explained that we’re looking at “a very real problem for American foreign policy.”
The Supreme Court has codified into law the idea that only the president is allowed to make foreign policy, and not Congress, because if there are two branches of government setting foreign policy then America effectively has two foreign policies.
The idea is that the US government needs to be a single unified entity on the world stage in order to conduct effective foreign policy. Letting the president and Congress independently set their own foreign policies would lead to chaos. It would be extremely confusing for foreign leaders, and foreign publics, who don’t always understand how domestic American politics work, and could very easily misread which of the two branches is actually setting the agenda.
The United States and our allies have reached a delicate stage of diplomacy on a key issue, but as far as congressional Republicans are concerned, the United States isn’t really at the negotiating table at all – the Obama administration is. Republican lawmakers not only disapprove of the process, they also feel justified conducting their own parallel, freelance foreign policy, which includes partnering with foreign governments and sending a message to the very rival the United States and our allies are negotiating with.
In other words, for the first time anyone can remember, we’re watching American elected officials brazenly trying to sabotage American foreign policy.
Under the circumstances, it’s no longer ridiculous to wonder whether GOP lawmakers are violating the Logan Act [The Act prohibits United States citizens without authority from interfering in relations between the United States and foreign governments. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with imprisonment of up to three years.]
As for the GOP’s legal argument to Tehran, [Harvard Law Professor] Jack Goldsmith added, “It appears from the letter that the Senators do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements”:
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” (my emphasis). 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.”
Iran and its negotiating partners must agree to broad principles on limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities no later than March 24, and reach an agreement on the technical aspects of the deal by June 30.
In an interview aired on Sunday, President Obama Said Nuclear Deal Offered to Iran Tests Whether It Is Serious:
President Obama said that he and other world leaders have offered Iran an “extraordinarily reasonable deal” that will test whether the leadership of the Islamic nation is serious about at last resolving the dispute over its nuclear program.
Even as negotiators appear close to an agreement, Mr. Obama highlighted the challenge of what comes next: ensuring that any pact forged in Geneva can pass muster in Tehran, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has expressed deep skepticism about a settlement with the outside world.
“We have made progress in narrowing the gaps, but those gaps still exist,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “And I would say that over the next month or so, we’re going to be able to determine whether or not their system is able to accept what would be an extraordinarily reasonable deal, if in fact, as they say, they are only interested in peaceful nuclear programs.”
* * *
Asked if a deal was imminent, Mr. Obama seemed to suggest it may be. “I think it is fair to say that there is an urgency because we now have been negotiating for well over a year,” he said.
He said Iran must decide whether it is willing to open up in the way such an agreement would require. “If we are able to verify that in fact they are not developing weapons systems, then there’s a deal to be had,” Mr. Obama said. “But that’s going to require them to accept the kind of verification and constraints on their program that so far, at least, they have not been willing to say yes to.”
He added that he would not accept a bad deal. “If there’s no deal, then we walk away,” he said.