I am a Democrat primarily for this reason: I don’t want to be confused with the other party. I agree with conservatives on several issues and find their reasoning behind certain policy perspectives to be reasonable, logical and often times correct. However, when 47 Republican Senators write an open letter to a foreign nation in an effort to undermine the President of the United States, my president, as well as jeopardize the efforts of the U.S., my country, in complex multilateral negotiations, I want absolutely no confusion as to why I am not a Republican.
A message to Republican leadership: These reckless political games you insist on playing undermine your arguments when it comes to negotiating other substantive issues in which we need your voice. For this whole democracy “thing” to work, we need a legitimate counterpart to Democrats — not one that is going to scorch the earth to achieve its own goals. In other words, you can’t burn down the entire forest to save the cabin from a possible fire.
For years we have heard political pundits talk about something being “a new low”; In some cases this is whoopee-cushion cable television, while in some cases it is spot-on accurate. For instance, Congressman Joe Wilson’s yelling at the President, “You lie!” in the middle of a joint session of Congress was a new-low moment. Last week, the Speaker of the House inviting the head of a foreign nation to address the U.S. government, without the consultation of the President, marked a new, new low. However, nothing compares to the letter written and signed by 47 Republican Senators this week to Iran.
I want to state now that I admire anyone who is willing to put their name on a ballot for elected office. That is an admirable, courageous act, almost universally done out of genuine care for one’s country, and it is something that should be applauded.
That being said, I do not mean to undercut my respect for his willingness to serve or even his qualifications, but the author of this letter, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, has spent two years in the House of Representative, plus just over two months — less than 70 days — in the Senate, and this man has the audacity to insert himself into one of the most complicated multilateral negotiations of recent decades.
Senator Cotton, who was elected with less than 500,000 total votes, wants a seat at the negotiating table with President Obama, the rest of the United Nations Permanent Five Members of the Security Council (P5) — China, France, Great Britain and Russia — and Germany.
Media outlets have struggled to find any sort of comparable act in American history. NBC News suggested the what-if analogy “Imagine Democrats micro-managing the START talks in the ’80s by sending an open letter to Gorbachev.” I would like to suggest that this is more like a senator in October of 1962 writing to Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Union explaining that any deal President Kennedy makes is subject to Senate approval, plus it could be ignored by the next President … so keep sending those missiles to Cuba!
The key problems with the letter, both substantive and implied include the following:
The commander-in-chief, from this day forth, has no authority to negotiate foreign affairs on behalf of the United States.
Any international agreements can be changed by the next president, or pretty much whenever we feel like it.
We only observe the U.S. Constitution; International law is more like a suggested guideline.
The thousands of agreements in which the U.S. has entered into with other governments are now open for debate.
Two centuries of U.S. domestic politics ending at water’s edge are over; feel free to hang your dirty laundry anywhere you’d like.
At the core of this issue is that Republicans, for various reasons and motivations, are trying to undermine President Obama as he negotiates with five of the world’s most powerful nations. However, the complaints about the possible “deal” are hasty, at best, and disingenuous or nefarious, at worst.
First, there is no “deal” to oppose. Anyone who argues that this is a “bad deal,” as Isreali Prime Minister Netanyahu did last week, is being disingenuous because there is no deal. You can not be opposed to something that does not exist!
Some also like to argue that they do not trust Iran to comply with any deal. I do not know if they are trustworthy or not, but I would ask, would you prefer to completely cut off any opportunity to gain access to the country? Do you even know what possible “inspections” would entail? What if it is not just inspecting enrichment facilities but also governmental correspondence — internal communications — regarding the nuclear program? We need to not presume to know what “inspections” actually mean before we are opposed to them.
Furthermore, the U.N. inspectors leading up to the Iraq War did a wonderful job finding all of the weapons that did not exist. I believe we should give that an honest try again, and if Iran does not comply with a deal, would it not be better to have the next five world superpowers on our side ready to respond?
Next, Republicans are big fans of using “arbitrary deadlines” when criticizing the president for ending a war (or withdrawing troops from an endless war). However, when it comes to the lead-up-to war, they’re like a child with a red permanent marker coloring with five fingers. We created a deadline for Iraq to disarm themselves of weapons they did not obtain, so we bombed them. We cannot let Republicans create another arbitrary deadline as a build up to war.
Finally, by questioning the motives of those who found Netanyahu’s speech inappropriate, or who have the desire to see what international deal can be made before possible military action, you are accusing them (including the 50-plus members of Congress who skipped Netanyahu’s speech last week, as well as myself) of siding with Iran over Israel. First, I have been to Israel and seen the Gaza strip — where Israeli soldiers told us we could sit and watch multiple rockets be fired from daily — as well as toured the Golan Heights — where families told us of lost loved ones and being displaced from their homes in times of conflict with Syria. You can form your own opinions, but you would be wrong to question my sympathy for and commitment to Israel’s security.
Furthermore, I put the interests of America first. This is my country. And while I believe deeply in the commitment to our friends around the world, wherever they may be, I refuse to put their interests before ours. I understand Israel’s security is in our interest, but when their Prime Minister comes to our country to undermine our president, he has crossed a line. In other words, I do not believe in blindly following Netanyahu into the depths of whatever conflict he decides to take Israel.
The list of adjectives that describe this Republican letter includes, but is not limited to, offensive, reckless, condescending, embarrassing, scary, idiotic, unprecedented, contemptible and indefensible.
I also feel it is important to acknowledge and applaud the seven GOP senators who did not sign the Cotton letter: Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Dan Coats, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski and Thad Cochran.