Scandalmongering the Letter of the 47

Syndicated columnist Michael Gerson has the goods on the GOP and is here to tell us “The true scandal of the GOP senators’ letter to Iran“:

“The true scandal of the Tom Cotton letter to Iranian leaders is the manner in which the Republican Senate apparently conducts its affairs.”

Opinions vary; many liberals think the true scandal was that the letter was a treasonous violation of the Logan Act. Right-winger Michael Gerson will set them straight by telling us the true nature of the scandal.  The manner in which they’ve conducted themselves, you see, not the content of the letter.  Not what they did, but how they did it.  So what was wrong with the manner in which they “apparently” conduct their affairs?

“The document was crafted by a senator with two months of experience under his belt.”

We know we’re off to a bad start when the very first sentence to address the nature of this “scandal” turns out to be an ad hominem swipe at the author. Sure, 101st Airborne combat veteran Senator Tom Cotton, the author of the letter, is a freshman, but does Gerson really mean to imply that it’s a scandal that this freshman Senator would pen this letter and pass it around for signatures? Know your place, uppity newbie!

“It was signed by some members rushing off the Senate floor to catch airplanes, often with little close analysis.”

The interesting question this raises is whether Gerson thinks this (alleged) cursory attention to detail in some way exonerates the signatories – as in, hey, you can’t blame them, they didn’t know what they were signing!

“Many of the 47 signatories reasoned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement was vetting enough. There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign).”

There were also no think tank studies commissioned, nor public polls taken, nor moderated televised debates, nor consultations with the United Nations, nor a hundred other bogus prerequisites Gerson can pull out of his ass.  What’s more, the reference here to Corker is disingenuous: Gerson, who first asserts his deep and intimate knowledge of the thinking of the Senate members, does not mention that Corker was working on getting legislation passed which would require congressional approval of any deal the Obama Administration is making with Iran.

Corker was a couple of votes shy so this was, at the time, a non-starter, but Corker would be unlikely to take part in a shot across the bow of the Executive Branch while he’s trying to scare up votes from Democrats. Gerson leaves this out hoping you’ll think Corker wouldn’t sign the letter because he’s the more senior and experience hand in these matters of international affairs, what with his being the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Gerson must be highly selective in what he tells his audience lest they come to a conclusion other than the one proffered, like, for example, that Corker was busy chasing unicorns down the road to perdition, or say, digging for unobtainium.

“This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting.”

Take note of the derisive characterization of this letter, then leave it aside to consider that the Senate was left few alternatives because the Obama Administration is effectively bypassing them. What’s under negotiation is an executive order, not a treaty, and as such it is not subject to a vote. Unless the Senate can come together to force their involvement (as Corker was unsuccessfully trying to do) they would have few options in terms of putting the kibosh on a done deal to which they are opposed.

“In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.”

It raises questions… by Gerson. The questions are raised by Gerson. Columnists always, always say “questions are raised” in the third person when, really, they’re the ones raising the questions.

“It is true that President Obama set this little drama in motion. Major arms-control treaties have traditionally involved advice and consent by the Senate.”

I love that – “traditionally” treaties involve the advice and consent of the Senate, as if it were optional. The reality is that this is the way our government is structured, by law, not “tradition”, and it requires their “advice and consent” in the form of an approval by vote.  The more hostile the country and the more far-ranging the ramifications of the deal, the more critical it becomes to get our government in agreement on it.  Cutting a deal on nuclear weapons development (a.k.a. “Ramifications City”) with Iran (our enemy – our mortal enemy, as they put it) unquestionably qualifies as something which should take the form of a treaty which is passed by Congress.

“Obama is proposing to expand the practice of executive agreements to cover his prospective Iranian deal — effectively cutting senators out of the process.”

… and by “proposing” Gerson means “acting” to expand the power of the POTUS to enact a de-facto faux-treaty by fiat. Gerson is soft-pedaling an Obama power-grab.

“By renewing a long-standing balance-of-powers debate — in a way that highlights his propensity for power-grabbiness — Obama invited resistance.”

… and again, while implicitly acknowledging this is a power-grab by a man prone to power-grabs, Gerson soft-pedals it by characterizing this as “renewing a […] debate”. Even if it were a debate – and what’s going on is not to be mistaken for a debate – renewing discussion of it does not “invite resistance”; it would bring to the fore the pre-existing differences regarding the issues at stake. What POTUS Obama is doing is bypassing the legislative branch in enacting a major “arms control” agreement with a hostile nation of islamofascist terrorists.

“And there is a practical argument for Senate approval of arms-control agreements: It strengthens and empowers the president in punishing violations. The whole U.S. government is placed on record promising consequences for infractions (if, of course, the Senate concurs).”

Senate approval in the form of a treaty would also bind the next POTUS in a way that an executive order does not, which was the point of the letter, and a point studiously avoided by Gerson.

“The exact shape of a possible Iran deal remains unknown. I’m on record predicting that it may be a bad one — a very unlikely throw of the dice that a terror-sponsoring, clerical regime will become a minimally responsible regional power”

Naturally the details are secret for now but we’ve gotten early intimations of the nature of what’s taking shape, and it’s outrageous. No comprehensive on-site inspections, continuation of uranium enrichment, etc., and it all comes with a ten-year expiration date. Indeed, a “glide path” to getting a nuclear weapon while Iran achieves regional hegemony at our invitation, not an “arms control” agreement. There’s a lot to hate about this deal and the SOB responsible for it.  As a precursor to a deal the Obama Administration has removed Iran and their proxy Hezbollah from the 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community.  Take a moment and let all of this sink in.

Getting back to this Gerson column, remember the promise of revealing the nature the “scandal” of the Senate letter? Did you spot it? Here’s the scandal: The Republican Senators reminded the genocidalist Iranian jihadists that any “agreement” they reach with our POTUS is not binding on any future POTUS.

The “scandal” is that they attempted to preemptively sabotage the deal by telling the truth: That any “deal” with POTUS Obama that doesn’t take the form of a treaty is probably time-limited and therefore of little value; what they need to get an agreement of lasting value is for that agreement to take the form of a treaty.  Any such agreement would need to pass a Senate vote, and would undoubtedly get more meaningful concessions out of the Iranians.  That’s a possibility only so long as they are under financial or military duress to do so, which is doubtful under our current POTUS; POTUS Obama won’t hold Iranian feet to the fire, and the Iranians won’t agree to a meaningful, enforceable deterrence to their pursuit of nuclear weapons without that.

The strategy of the letter isn’t so much to raise doubts about the long-term viability of such a deal with Iranians because they don’t particularly care about that anyway, what with their having no intention of abiding by it anyway.  No, that’s not too cynical, it’s why a set of on-site verification requirements would make this deal a non-starter with the Iranians.  Rather, the purpose of the letter was to raise internal domestic pressure on the Obama Administration to abandon their unilateral negotiations and involve the rest of our government and our allies in the effort to keep nukes out of the hands of the mullahs – and, absent that, to kill this capitulation baby of a deal in the crib.

I hope it works.


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