The recent brouhaha over the 47 Republican senators' letter to Iranian leaders concerning negotiations over Iran's nuclear ambitions has been disheartening for three reasons.
One, it indicates significant lack of knowledge on the part of the public concerning the nation's constitutional frame of government and the country's recent diplomatic history.
Two, it reveals a willingness on the part of some of the nation's top leaders to distort and deceive the public in order to enhance and further the designs of imperial and/or banana republic executive power at the expense of constitutional law.
Three, it includes a brash assertion that the United States must conform to what others, including our enemies, say is international law, absent the constitutionally required Senate ratification of treaties.
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The letter made no reference to any particulars or agendas of negotiations between the United States and Iran nor issued any value judgments regarding the particulars. It noted this fact: that unless there was a treaty ratified by Congress, any agreement could be abrogated by future presidents at will.
Democratic politicians, newspaper editors and professors said the letter was purely a partisan ploy to undermine the president's hand and any future president's ability to set foreign policy. If the letter does, then so does the Constitution.
The New York Daily News labeled the letter senders as traitors. A Louisville resident in a letter to the Herald-Leader agreed that the letter was sedition and said, since the only alternative to a treaty debated by the Senate after negotiations was war, the Republican senators were making a de facto declaration of war.
Apparently, the writer had not yet read Secretary of State John Kerry's eventual acknowledgment to the Senate of the obvious: that he and the president were not working on a treaty but a "not legally binding plan."
Kerry had asserted that the senators' letter was unprecedented in American history. Actually there is a whole lot of precedent of presidential opponents challenging ongoing negotiations.
In 1979, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd did not bother with a letter but went to the Soviet Union to tell the leaders there that any SALT II agreement would require Senate approval.
In 1985, Kerry, then a senator, traveled to Nicaragua to tell the communist leader there that he was busy opposing the president's policies regarding Nicaragua.
In 1990, Jimmy Carter wrote a letter to the United Nations opposing an American resolution under consideration. In 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flew to Damascus to lend her support to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Most telling of all in terms of hypocrisy and deceit, in the 2008 presidential campaign, Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden placed on their election website an assertion that any security accord with Iraq had to have congressional approval.
Washingon Post columnist David Ignatius approvingly quoted the Iranian foreign minister: "The authors [of the letter] may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of the respective states ... Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran's peaceful nuclear program."
That is just the opposite of what Kerry has now said he was doing. Apparently until now the Iranians thought they were on the same page as the administration. In other words, if the rest of the world says that whatever a president does requires no ratification and is henceforth binding on the nation, the United States should ignore its own frame of government, allow the president alone to set our destiny and go along — a longtime dream of American progressives.
Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth made this abundantly clear, saying that the senators' letter told the other nations they could not trust the president and future presidents or the nation as a whole to live up to what those other nations wanted. According to this reasoning, the nation was committed forever once Obama said so.