It is quite remarkable and unfortunate when members of Congress decide to insert themselves in the diplomatic process, overstepping their powers and running the risk of political backlash.
In the latest episode of lawmaker-turned-executive, 47 Republican senators wrote an open letter addressed to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
They not only completely disregarded protocol, they took their political disagreements with President Obama outside this country and contacted Iran’s leaders whom they, themselves, deplore as terrorists.
The senators want to block an agreement on nuclear technology with Iran. But rather than try to build public opinion or engage in dialogue with the president, they decided to become diplomats.
Democrats haven’t been innocent when it comes to overstepping their role, going all the way back to Ronald Reagan’s presidency, as the New York Times pointed out, when Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright was accused of interfering when he met with leaders in Nicaragua’s contra war. Three House Democrats traveled to Iraq in 2002 before President George W. Bush’s invasion and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi headed to Syria in 2007 to meet with President Bashar al-Assad when the Bush administration was trying to isolate him.
Two wrongs, three wrongs, a litany of wrongs don’t make this letter by Republican senators right.
And that’s not to mention that there isn’t even an agreement to object to. Obama is working with leaders of five other world powers on a deal that would prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb. While the details are still be negotiated, the agreement would curb Iran’s nuclear program for at least 10 years and, in return, sanctions would be lifted.
We’ll hold off arguing the merits of an agreement until there is one. But we can say that what the Republicans did by reaching out to Iranian leaders was just plain wrong. The letter was drafted by Sen. Tom Cotton, a freshman from Arkansas, and signed by all except seven members of the Senate Republican caucus. It claimed that a deal with the current president of the United States is good only while he is president:
“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.”
Thank you for that civics lesson. Now, let’s go back to the democratic channels we have in place and leave diplomacy where it belongs – in the executive branch.