Inviting a foreign head of state to Congress to undermine American foreign policy was childish and dumb. This idiotic letter from 47 Senators to the Iranian government is even worse. As reckless as this move appears on its face, there is an even more worrying message lurking between the lines.
Worded as a condescending children’s primer on treaty law, the real message of the letter is more subtle. Looking past the embarrassing Constitutional error they made in the document itself and the grave Constitutional violation in their decision to write the letter in the first place, the real shocker in this incident is what it says about Republican ambitions.
Clearly, at least 47 Republican Senators are convinced that the party will never again hold the White House.
Let’s be clear. This has never happened before. We’ve had Congressmen visit countries against the wishes of the executive branch. We’ve even had a few instances where individual outreach from a specific Congressman complicated US diplomatic efforts. We’ve had Jane Fonda crawling around on North Vietnamese anti-aircraft guns. None of those incidents compare.
There has never been an instance in which an organized partisan bloc in the Legislative branch disregarded the separation of powers in order to publicly and intentionally undermine US foreign policy. Disagreements over foreign policy have often been bitter, but they have been tempered by an understanding that they can be resolved by elections. I may not like a President, but undermining the office itself will haunt me when my party finally wins.
It seems clear that many Republicans have lost their belief that the party can compete for the Presidency. No other logic explains their willingness to burn down the office itself. The demographic realities are brutal and the Blue Wall looms large. This kind of behavior will only get worse, and more dangerous, in 2017.
Seven Republican Senators declined to sign this letter. They deserve some recognition.
Lamar Alexander (TN)
Susan Collins (ME)
Bob Corker (TN)
Dan Coats (IN)
Jeff Flake (AZ)
Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Thad Cochran (MS)
As a quick postscript, here’s the text of the Logan Act:
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
Quick thought exercise. Imagine that a clutch of Democratic Senators had sent a letter like that to Saddam Hussein in 2002. How many of them would still be in Guantanamo today?