Senate Republicans, obsessed as always with carrying out the agenda of the Israeli government and leading the U.S. into more militarism and war, yesterday wrote a letter to "the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran" designed to derail an international agreement governing that country's nuclear program. Numerous leading Democrats -- in Congress and the media -- are today using the language of criminality, sedition and even treason to denounce that letter, insisting that it is a violation of American "norms" and possibly American law for members of Congress to "undermine" the President's conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy.
Harry Reid, sounding (as usual) like the love child of George Bush and Joe Lieberman, said: "Republicans are undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs." The New York Daily News put mugshot-like photos of four of the GOP signatories above the headline "TRAITORS." The Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore called it "sedition in the name of patriotism." The Washington Post's Paul Waldman said it is "appalling" because it shows Republicans "can act as though Barack Obama isn't even the president of the United States." The most predictably hackish party apparatchiks over at MSNBC accused Republicans of "conducting their own parallel, freelance foreign policy" and argued that felony charges should be considered under the Logan Act.
GOP efforts to sabotage a peace deal with Iran are heinous on the substance: the combination of dogmatic religious fervor for Israel, a cartoon-like Manichean view of the world, and a bottomless thirst for war continues to lead them to a commitment to rogue militarism -- though there are plenty of Democrats who share all of those views. Tom Cotton, the prime author of the letter, is at least as much a dangerous religious fanatic as anyone in the Iranian government, and certainly a more militaristic one. (And just by the way, Rand Paul's signing of the Cotton letter further exposes what a shallow fraud is his pretense to having some sort of heterodox foreign policy positions).
But on the "decorum" question -- whether there has been some sort of terrible or possibly criminal breach of protocol due to GOP interference with Obama's foreign policy -- the irony and hypocrisy here are infinite. Most similar controversies from the past involved prominent Democrats engaging in discussions with foreign leaders which Republicans pilloried as a dangerous and possibly criminal threat to the GOP President's power to carry out foreign policy. Indeed, it was a staple of the Bush-era debates for Republicans to accuse Democrats of undue and unconstitutional "interference" in President Bush's constitutional power to carry out foreign policy.
To see how thoroughly Democrats have adopted the GOP's Bush-era authoritarian rhetoric about not "undermining the commander-in-chief," and to see how craven is GOP behavior now on Iran, just look at what was being said in 2007 when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syria and met with President Bashar Assad. The Bush administration was furious about that meeting because its strategy at the time was to isolate Assad as punishment for his alleged aid to Iraqi insurgents fighting against U.S. occupying forces, and the right-wing media and even mainstream media precincts attacked Pelosi in ways quite redolent of today's attacks on the Senate Republicans over Iran.
In April, 2007, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by right-wing law professor Robert Turner, headlined "Illegal Diplomacy," declaring that "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may well have committed a felony in traveling to Damascus this week, against the wishes of the president, to communicate on foreign-policy issues with Syrian President Bashar Assad."
Dick Cheney called Pelosi's trip "bad behavior" and said in an interview with Rush Limbaugh: "The president is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House." Writing in National Review, then-Minority Whip Eric Cantor complained that "Mrs. Pelosi usurped the executive branch's time-honored foreign-policy authority"; "at such a critical moment in the volatile Middle East," he inveighed, "this is no time for the United States to be sending out mixed signals to our enemies." The right-wing extremist Congressman Steve King actually introduced legislation to bar Pelosi from traveling to "terrorist states," arguing:
The Speaker of the House is not the President of the United States. Nancy Pelosi does not represent the Administration. In fact, her policy positions seek to contravene the foreign policy of the United States. Nancy Pelosi, by defying the specific request of the administration to refrain from traveling to Syria, blatantly infringed upon the Constitutional duties of the President. Additionally, I believe her trip was the most blatant violation of the Logan Act by a top elected official in the history of our country. . . . Nancy Pelosi thinks it's her job to conduct foreign policy in defiance of the President. She is wrong on the Constitution and wrong on the law.