Tom Cotton and Mutiny

The president is the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces. He's not commander-in-chief of the United States.

House Foreign Affairs Committee

WaPo’s Jonathan Capeheart found a retired general to pile onto the criticisms against Senator Tom Cotton’s open letter:

The open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran signed by 47 senators and instigated by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was a stunning breach of protocol. One so outrageous that my former colleagues at the New York Daily News dubbed the signers “traitors.” While it is indeed a slap in the face of President Obama and an affront to the presidency, I’m not sure I would go that far, especially since Cotton is an Army veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. So, I turned to retired Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton for perspective. He wouldn’t say Cotton and Co. were “traitors,” either. He had a better word.

“I would use the word mutinous,” said Eaton, whose long career includes training Iraqi forces from 2003 to 2004. He is now a senior adviser to VoteVets.org. “I do not believe these senators were trying to sell out America. I do believe they defied the chain of command in what could be construed as an illegal act.” Eaton certainly had stern words for Cotton.

“What Senator Cotton did is a gross breach of discipline, and especially as a veteran of the Army, he should know better,” Eaton told me. “I have no issue with Senator Cotton, or others, voicing their opinion in opposition to any deal to halt Iran’s nuclear progress. Speaking out on these issues is clearly part of his job. But to directly engage a foreign entity, in this way, undermining the strategy and work of our diplomats and our Commander in Chief, strains the very discipline and structure that our foreign relations depend on, to succeed.”

Now, I’m generally a fan of Paul Eaton and agree with him on foreign policy matters more often than I do Tom Cotton. But let’s not pretend that Eaton is a neutral observer here. He’s a senior advisor to the Democratic-aligned National Security Network.

Likewise, I’m more more aligned with Eaton than I am Cotton on the particular matter of our negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program. While I’m skeptical that we’ll get an ironclad deal with the mullahs that allows the level of intrusive inspections that are required to make an agreement meaningful, I don’t see a better alternative on the table. And, while I don’t think Cotton’s letter will impact the negotiations one way or the other, I agree with Eaton that they’re unhelpful.

All that said, Eaton is flat out wrong on the matter of Congress’ proper role and the notion that the letter is “mutinous” is simply absurd.

In his capacity as an Army officer, Eaton was subject to a chain of command. The president, in his Constitutional role as commander-in-chief, is at the top of that chain. Similarly, during his time in the Army, Cotton was subordinate to the president, as was I during my own long-ago stint.

There is an argument to be had that Eaton, as a general officer on the retired list, is still beholden to the chain of command. It’s a stronger argument for more recently retired officers, who have a powerful sway over former subordinates still in uniform. The argument gets weaker as every year goes by and, since Eaton retired in 2006, it’s pretty weak, indeed, at this point.

There’s zero argument that former officers, like Cotton and myself, who merely served a time in uniform and draw no retired pay, are subject to the chain of command. (I’m an employee of the Defense Department and have some strictures in that regard. But, essentially, my relationship to the chain of command is no different than that any civilian employee has with their bosses.)

Moreover, Cotton is a United States Senator. He is in that capacity a member of a separate, co-equal branch of government. As a matter of protocol, he’s expected to address Obama as “Mr. President.” But he’s not in any way the president’s subordinate. Nor is he required or even expected to observe any sort of “discipline” with regard to the negotiations in which the president engages.

The distinction Eaton makes between “voicing [an] opinion in opposition to any deal” and “directly engag[ing] a foreign entity” is non-existent. Not only are Members of Congress absolutely permitted to engage foreign entities as much as they please, but the “open letter,” like all open letters, was clearly a publicity stunt aimed at the American people, not the leaders of Iran. And, while I happen to disagree with Cotton and his co-signers on the merits here, they’re absolutely entitled to “undermine” foreign policy strategies with which they disagree.

The president is the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces. He’s not commander-in-chief of the United States. He’s not even commander-in-chief of US foreign policy.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Liberal Capitalist says:

    As predicted, with the GOP in power they are making it obvious that they are not suited for leadership in 2016.

    All these “great ideas” that are a result of their vocal fevered minority… they are all coming to light.

    They just can’t help themselves.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Cotton and the 47 Senators other idiots are intent on one thing; abdicating US foreign policy to Netanyahu. There can be no other logical interpretation of that letter and Netanyahu’s campaign speech in Congress. Is that mutinous? Or treasonous? It will never be adjudicated so each of us is left with our own opinions.
    What is clear is that Neo-Conservatism is not dead in the Republican party.
    The letter was ignorant of the facts, ill-planned, a complete failure…and the participants are now unable to acknowledge that failure. It’s a replay of the Iraq war in microcosm. Republicans have learned nothing and will doom us to the same foolish blunders over and over again if given the chance.

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    The president is the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces. He’s not commander-in-chief of the United States. He’s not even commander-in-chief of US foreign policy.

    All of this is absolutely correct, a fact I myself have noted multiple times, and something about which I entirely agree with you.

    However….

    This was not the tune the GOP was singing during the Bush regime. Back then, references to the president as the “commander-in-chief” of the US were near ubiquitous, and disagreements with Bush on foreign policy were denounced as near-mutiny.

  4. JKB says:

    What undermining? The letter simply explained our Constitutional process for making agreements with foreign powers binding. Given their reaction, the Iranians had not really contemplated the fact that any “agreement” would be temporal with Obama’s administration unless ratified by the Senate.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: Sure. It’s good gamesmanship, especially during wartime. But I’ve been consistent on this issue going back to the earliest days of the site, which started during the most heated part of the Iraq debate.

    Indeed, I had a posting titled “HOW NOT TO ARGUE” on the very first day of OTB’s existence:

    Sadly, Ann Coulter continues to make me rethink my position whenever I agree with her. She briefly became my favorite columnist during the Clinton impeachment scandal, but she continues to spew forth semi-Fascist rants in the post-9/11 world. She’s clever and not bad to look at, but it gets awfully tiresome when she continues to accuse anyone who disagrees with the Bush Administration of treason. This hardly seems a good way to persuade those who disagree.

  6. JKB says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Well, given the professed love of all things Big Government by those protesting Bush’s policies, foreign and otherwise, it was near-mutiny. If one does not accept subjugation to government rule vice the rule of law, then one can hardly be mutinous.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    Actually it got the Constitutional issue wrong.
    Not surprising for Republicans.

  8. humanoid.panda says:

    @JKB: I can’t imagine the mental energy someone needs to type something so clearly and utterly untrue for no gain. Being a paid hack is an honorable tradition, but doing something like that for free?

  9. humanoid.panda says:

    @C. Clavin: It got the technical issue technically wrong, but the gist of it is right, in the sense the Congress and next President are free whatever they do with any executive agreement. However, the letter ignores two major realities: first that any agreement the US signs is not just with Iran, but with the other great powers, and that if the US does unilaterally violate it, its diplomatic position in the ME is shot. On the other hand, YOLO.

  10. humanoid.panda says:

    But to go back to the subtance of this post, I absolutely agree with James: the rapidity with which Americans, so obsessed with freedom and constitution, retreat to the language of treason when someone does something they don’t like is insane. I do understand that much of the talk about “treason” in this case is just trolling/getting back at the way the right uses patriotism all the time, but not all of it is in jest, and that is very wrong.

  11. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Rafer Janders: True. It’s all the more ironic since W’s own conduct (taking off for AL without first obtaining a transfer from his unit in TX) may not have constituted going AWOL, but in the regular military, would have earned him adverse consequences as serious as a court-martial. At the least, he would have gotten a written reprimand for his 201 file, plus an azz-crawling from his CO.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @humanoid.panda:
    It’s the structure if the Republican party.
    The party is built to benefit the rich, but relys on a constituency of dupes to maintain the power required to continue benefiting the rich.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @humanoid.panda:
    So what you are saying is that it was technically wrong, functionally wrong…but not completely outside the realm of possibility.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    It’s not mutiny. It is war-mongering. It is stupid and embarrassing. It is treacherous, if not treason in the legal sense.

    47 US Senators are in effect conspiring with a foreign head of government, Mr. Netanyahu, to push this country into yet another war, this time with a country with twice Iraq’s population and four times it’s size.

    The end result of war with Iran will almost certainly mean terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, complete loss of support from the Baghdad regime, attacks on US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, a rapprochement between Iran and Russia, a rise in anti-Semitism worldwide, a nuclear Iran and in short order a nuclear Saudi Arabia.

    These reckless cretins would cost us lives – civilian and military – and hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: I tend to agree with that analysis and have both opposed going to war with Iran over this—and, indeed, the notion that Iran’s getting a nuke or two was ultimately “unacceptable”—going back to the Bush administration. But there are serious foreign policy analysts who think war with Iran–even with the potential consequences you cite—is preferable to a nuclear Iran. I do think this is serious disagreement rather than simple grandstanding.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    The disagreement may be serious at some level, but this letter was malicious, treacherous and irresponsible.

    War with Iran guarantees a nuclear Iran. We have a possible deal that will buy us ten years during which we can reasonably hope Khamenei will croak (he’s 75) and the regime soften. We actually have some areas of possible co-operation with Iran in Iraq, in dealing with ISIS and Russia, in policing the Gulf.

    An attack may set their program back by 5 years – half what we gain from an agreement. And then what? Another attack? And another? All while Hezbollah sleepers are shooting up and blowing up targets in the US and Europe? While synagogues are being burned and Jews attacked in the streets of Germany and France? While Hezbollah and Quds force are shelling Israeli cities and Israel is blowing up Lebanon? While Russia is gleefully shipping weapons across the Caspian Sea?

    Are we going to force regime change? Are we going to occupy Iran? Are we going t stick with it for 20 years? 30 years? We do not have the will to do this. The American people will not take it. If we start this war on behalf of Bibi Netanyahu, we are quite likely to lose, and that loss would severely damage this country’s standing and power.

  17. appleannie says:

    @James Joyner:

    I missed the early days of the site but would opine that the objective of Coulter and entirely too many pundits is not to persuade but to count coup. I don’t see that as helpful and, in fact, avoid sites and pundits who do it these days.

  18. Tony W says:

    I agree it is not mutiny, nor treason – but frankly this post feels like a big straw man, perhaps designed to take some heat off the good senator for an ill-advised, stupid, dangerous and completely irresponsible stunt.

    Until the Republican party begins to take seriously the role of governance in this country, they will not only fail to gain my vote, but I will actively and tirelessly work to shine light on their lies and subjugation of those that would rather see their community suffer than give an inch to a competing idea. Letting the world burn is not a responsible governing approach.

  19. Tony W says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The end result of war with Iran will almost certainly mean terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, complete loss of support from the Baghdad regime, attacks on US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, a rapprochement between Iran and Russia, a rise in anti-Semitism worldwide, a nuclear Iran and in short order a nuclear Saudi Arabia.

    Unfortunately, to the military-industrial complex which runs this country, this outcome is a feature, not a bug.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, this was just three weeks ago, with sanctions still in place:

    Russia has reportedly offered to sell Iran powerful and advanced anti-aircraft missiles in a deal that could have an impact on nuclear talks approaching a deadline next month.

    Sergei Chemezov, head of the Russian state arms conglomerate Rostec, was quoted by the Tass news agency as saying the firm was willing to supply Tehran with Antey-2500 missiles with the capability of intercepting and destroying ballistic and cruise missiles as well as aircraft. Chemezov said Tehran was considering the offer.

    If the sale goes ahead, the missiles are likely to represent a significant defence against any future air strikes aimed at Iran’s nuclear facilities, and so could in theory diminish pressure on Iran to come to an agreement in nuclear negotiations.

  21. CB says:

    @James Joyner:

    But there are serious foreign policy analysts who think war with Iran–even with the potential consequences you cite—is preferable to a nuclear Iran. I do think this is serious disagreement rather than simple grandstanding.

    I would hope that’s not a reference to the latest WaPo atrocity. I’m no dove, but the man who wrote that article needs to be committed. I don’t see much serious disagreement, I see the same people responsible for every interventionist nightmare since Vietnam saying “trust us.”

  22. James Joyner says:

    @CB: Muravchik is thoughtful and respected but he’s a neocon Founding Father and generally in favor of military action. But there are plenty of serious national security types out there who think this deal will guarantee a nuclear Iran and see that outcome as catastrophic.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner: @CB:

    Here’s that thoughtful guy:

    Does this mean that our only option is war? Yes, although an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would entail less need for boots on the ground than the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State, which poses far smaller a threat than Iran does.

    Wouldn’t an attack cause ordinary Iranians to rally behind the regime? Perhaps, but military losses have also served to undermine regimes, including the Greek and Argentine juntas, the Russian czar and the Russian communists.

    Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary. Of course, Iran would try to conceal and defend the elements of its nuclear program, so we might have to find new ways to discover and attack them. Surely the United States could best Iran in such a technological race.

    Barking mad. A future of endless strikes against Iran in hopes that its government would be overthrown because Russia 1905. And he shows himself to be either an idiot or a liar pretending that Iran is less of a problem than ISIS.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, and here’s his way of dealing with the last failed neo-con war:

    And finally, wouldn’t Iran retaliate by using its own forces or proxies to attack Americans — as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — with new ferocity? Probably. We could attempt to deter this by warning that we would respond by targeting other military and infrastructure facilities.

    Yeah, we could . . . attempt. . . to deter. And yet somehow the threat of nuclear annihilation won’t deter them. Right. Brilliant. “Oh no, we can’t lose those barracks, but the whole country? Sure.”

    And what about the Shiite regime in Baghdad? Nothing. You know why? Because there is no conceivable universe in which the Baghdad regime would continue to do business with us if we bomb Iran.

    This guy’s really an idiot. I mean, really. He’s so dumb he should be a conservative troll in this comments section. That’s how dumb this guy is.

  25. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Sadly, Ann Coulter continues to make me rethink my position whenever I agree with her. She briefly became my favorite columnist during the Clinton impeachment scandal,

    And you admit that? In writing?? My god that’s sad.

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    But there are plenty of serious national security types out there who think this deal will guarantee a nuclear Iran and see that outcome as catastrophic.

    That’s ridiculous and absurd. If Iran really wants to go nuclear, there’s nothing we can do to stop that. Our only hope if we want to avert that outcome is to negotiate with them, offer them something in return — militarily, we don’t have any real option.

  27. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Muravchik is thoughtful and respected

    Muravchik: “Of course, Iran would try to conceal and defend the elements of its nuclear program, so we might have to find new ways to discover and attack them. Surely the United States could best Iran in such a technological race.”

    So the thoughtful and respected approach is…um, well, we’ll just discover something new! Something, um, technological! We’ll discover a new way to discover! Yeah, yeah, that’s it!

    This is nothing more than an Underpants Gnomes* approach to foreign policy, and that gets labelled “thoughtful and respected”? My gosh, the bar has really fallen low on the conservative side these days, hasn’t it?

    *Step One: Find new ways to discover and attack them
    Step Two: ?
    Step Three: Victory!

  28. Dave Schuler says:

    Show of hands. How many read the letter before criticizing it?

    I’ve expressed myself multiple times before. I don’t think the Congressmen should have written an open letter to the Iranian leadership. I think they should have addressed the letter to the president and taken out full page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post. And put it on Facebook.

    Everything else is hyperventilation.

  29. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    He’s so dumb he should be a conservative troll in this comments section. That’s how dumb this guy is.

    And with that Michael wins Outside the Beltway for the year. And it’s only March!

  30. anjin-san says:

    We could attempt to deter this by warning that we would respond by targeting other military and infrastructure facilities.

    Hmmm. This when we are getting constant assurances from the right that Iran would happily trade the utter distraction of their country for the destruction of Tel Aviv that they will undertake the day after obtaining a nuclear weapon.

    We have any number of history buffs here – has an attack on Persia ever ended well for the attacker?

  31. Modulo Myself says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I did. The Republicans want us to believe that the Iranians don’t anyone on their side conversant with Schoolhouse Rock and American government functions. Or it’s a clumsy buyer beware threat to them. Either way, it’s a joke. As far as I can tell, the Republicans want Iran to be a partner in a relationship that allows us to threaten them at any time with war and perhaps perform this function, given certain American domestic circumstances. That’s their final (only) offer. Take it or take it. PS: Don’t build any weapons based on our threats. PPS: if you don’t build weapons, we have the right to assume this is evidence of a hidden program. PPPS: ISRAEL!!!!!!!!!!!!–that is, until the events predicted in the Book of Revelations occur and the Jews provide us with the Antichrist.

  32. Rafer Janders says:

    We have any number of history buffs here – has an attack on Persia ever ended well for the attacker?

    Oh gosh yes. Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Mongols, the Ottoman Turks, Timur the Lame, etc. all fought with and bested the Persians. Then again, just as often the Persians won. It’s a see-saw.

  33. Modulo Myself says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    If I’m not mistaken, the Mongols basically destroyed Persia.

    They would probably have done the same to Western Europe had they not fallen apart.

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I read it. It should not have been published anywhere. This Congress is not capable of anything like the intelligence and study and commitment required to even nibble at the edges of foreign policy. But of course their motive had nothing whatsoever to do with an honest interest in foreign policy. It was malice that guided them, malice and a craving for yet another war.

    People who threaten to shut down their own government every six months have no standing to discuss foreign affairs. People – like Senator Rubio – who despite being on the FR committee literally do not know that Iran is Shia and ISIS Sunni, should go back to school and in the meantime shut up. Statutory power is not enough in itself to justify malicious, partisan war-mongering on behalf of a foreign power.

  35. Rafer Janders says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    They would probably have done the same to Western Europe had they not fallen apart.

    They would have, indeed. But it’s not because they fell apart, they withdrew after the Great Khan died and they went back to Mongolia to select a new Khan. Had it not been for that one death, Mongol ponies might have made it all the way to the English Channel.

  36. Jeremy R says:

    IMO the real issue with the letter is that it idiotically improved Iran’s negotiating position. They’re holding it up and using it to demonstrate our side of any bargain suddenly has less value and are almost assuredly demanding more in return. At the same time it’s given them written evidence to blame the US if the negotiations collapse and increases the likely-hood that the international sanctions regime falls apart in that case.

    The stunt was also a pointless slap in the face to our allies:

    http://www.dw.de/germanys-steinmeier-slams-iran-letter-draws-mccain-barb/a-18313248

    “This is not a trifle,” stressed [German Foreign Minister] Steinmeier, warning that the letter could put in danger the negotiating position of the P5+1 group. “The negotiations are difficult enough, so we didn’t actually need further irritations.”

    “This is not just an issue of American domestic politics, but it affects the negotiations we are holding in Geneva,” Steinmeier told journalists. “Obviously mistrust is growing…” he said.

    Steinmeier, who was in Washington meeting Secretary of State John Kerry and national security adviser Susan Rice, emphasized it would be good “if the letter of the 47 senators no longer causes any disturbance in the negotiations.”

    http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/296065431.html

    European diplomats involved in nuclear negotiations with Iran are expressing unease about an open letter sent this week by Senate Republicans to Iranian leaders, telling them that any deal may not survive beyond the Obama administration.

    Echoing criticism of the letter from top Obama administration officials, the diplomats said the letter signed by 47 GOP lawmakers complicates the talks by suggesting that the United States, and, by extension its partners, lack credibility at the negotiation table.

    Previously, diplomats said, the negotiations had proceeded from a position that the West had more credibility than Iran on the nuclear issue. While the U.S. and Europe remain convinced that is the case, the letter gives Iran the opportunity to challenge that, they said.

  37. anjin-san says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Thanks, you are quite correct. Afraid I should not comment while I’m on my first cup of coffee (up very late listening to old Steely Dan records). When I think of attacking Parthia/Persia, I always seem to flash on the unhappy end of Marcus Licinius Crassus and the dangers of overreach.

  38. anjin-san says:

    One of the more troubling aspects of the letter is that it disincentivizes other nations from negotiating with us. Part of our own government is sending a message to the world – “The US is not a reliable partner in diplomacy. If you make an agreement with us this year, we may renege on it next year.”

    Republicans on the hill seem to have a new motto – “I pledge allegiance, to Bibi Netanyahu…”

  39. Jeremy R says:

    @anjin-san:

    Yup. US foreign commitments involve thousands of Executive Agreements about the globe. Calling them all into question doesn’t do our country any favors.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/03/10/executive-agreements-and-senate-disagreements/

    [T]reaties serve as a tiny fraction of international agreements. From the vantage of the White House, this makes perfect sense: Achieving a 2/3 vote authorizing ratification has become increasingly implausible no matter what treaty is under discussion. Recall that in 2012, even Bob Dole’s dramatic wheelchair-bound appearance on the Senate floor failed to convince his former colleagues to support the Bush-negotiated Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which fell six votes short of the 67 needed.

    Yet the trend far predates the current state of polarization, as Loch Johnson’s 1984 book on this topic makes clear. A hugely useful Congressional Research Service report updated just last month notes that more than 18,500 executive agreements have been entered into since 1789: more than 17,000 of them from 1939 on. By the mid-1920s, the number of executive agreements had started to outpace the number of treaties, a trend vastly accelerated by World War II; between 1953 and 1972, more than three-quarters of significant military commitments abroad were conducted via executive agreement rather than by treaty. These included, in the mid-1960s, major commitments to the defense of such nations as Ethiopia, Thailand and Spain. In the last case, the U.S. pledged to protect Spain (which did not join NATO until 1982) against attack in exchange for the right to use Spanish soil for military bases.

  40. Modulo Myself says:

    The threat to revoke or modify any treaty is especially weird. Do they care if it’s working? Not working? Totally unimportant. We reserve the right to sink successful policy because the law permits it.

  41. anjin-san says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    We reserve the right to sink successful policy because the law permits it.

    And because our ideology demands it…

  42. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Very true, and the Israelis are still flying F-15s and F-16s, one of the specific target packages which the S300V system was designed to kill. Each of of these systems, which are mobile and which deploy essentially maintenance free sealed missiles (pretty useful in the desert), can track up to 100 targets simultaneously & engage / kill up to 24 independent targets at the same time. It’s regarded as one of the most effective anti-aircraft / anti-BM systems in existence.

    Couple that with the fact that Israel’s next wave of fighters are slated to be the F-35s, which are still ridiculously riddled with problems not expected to be corrected for years. Even then. Israel isn’t expected to receive even the defective current version until the end of 2016.

    If deployed, it would (or should anyway) definitely give Israel pause about sending planes to get shredded on strike missions within Iranian airspace.

  43. Another Mike says:

    @anjin-san:

    One of the more troubling aspects of the letter is that it disincentivizes other nations from negotiating with us. Part of our own government is sending a message to the world – “The US is not a reliable partner in diplomacy. If you make an agreement with us this year, we may renege on it next year.”

    It merely sends the message that if you negotiate with a president who does not have the senate behind him, you get an agreement that binds the country only as long as the president who negotiated the deal is in office. The rule then is to negotiate a deal that the Senate will accept.

    There is too much drama about this letter, which really is a pretty innocuous thing. The worse might be that it was unnecessary.

  44. DrDaveT says:

    @Jeremy R:

    IMO the real issue with the letter is that it idiotically improved Iran’s negotiating position.

    This.

  45. DrDaveT says:

    @anjin-san:

    Part of our own government is sending a message to the world – “The US is not a reliable partner in diplomacy. If you make an agreement with us this year, we may renege on it next year.”

    Also this.

  46. DrDaveT says:

    @anjin-san:

    up very late listening to old Steely Dan records

    “Black Friday” was at least on-topic…

  47. MBunge says:

    The letter was not treasonous or mutinous. It was another breakdown in the informal standards, traditions and culture that any free society needs to function. It is rather odd that the relatively harmless nature of this breach seems to universally alarm people so quickly when the whole “let’s not raise the debt ceiling and destroy the global economy” thing took so long for much of our rich and powerful to notice.

    Mike

  48. C. Clavin says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    I read it.
    Apparently many of the 47 Senators idiots didn’t.

    McCain admitted that he didn’t read the letter carefully because he was in a hurry to leave Washington before a snowstorm arrived.

    This discussion should start from the acknowledgment that Republicans show zero competence at their elected role of governance….and then go from there.

  49. anjin-san says:

    @Another Mike:

    It merely sends the message that if you negotiate with a president who does not have the senate behind him, you get an agreement that binds the country only as long as the president who negotiated the deal is in office.

    So the US can only engage in diplomacy when the President and the Senate happen to be acting in unison? If that is not the case, American diplomacy simply grinds to a halt?

    There’s an old saying, one that we have done well with as a nation for centuries – “Politics stops at the waters edge.” Sadly, conservatives have replaced it with “Party before country.”

    As others have pointed out, during the Bush era, conservatives were telling us that even questioning the “Unitary Executive” was a form of crypto-treason. How things change when the other party is in power.

    The real message Republican are sending is “The only legitimate path to power in America is through us – we reject the two party system, we reject the authority of any agent of the government who is not one of us”

    And before you tell me I am engaging in hyperbole, let me remind you that it was not long ago that the rainmakers in GOP politics were crowing about “The permanent majority” – an idea that should be repulsive to Americans.

  50. An Interested Party says:

    The real message Republican are sending is “The only legitimate path to power in America is through us – we reject the two party system, we reject the authority of any agent of the government who is not one of us”

    They do seem to become rather pissy when a Democrat is in the White House…not that Democrats don’t get upset when a Republican is in the White House, because of course they do…but it is rather telling that both of the last two Democrats to be president have been painted as somehow being illegitimate by many Republicans/conservatives…

  51. michael reynolds says:

    So the US can only engage in diplomacy when the President and the Senate happen to be acting in unison? If that is not the case, American diplomacy simply grinds to a halt?

    Exactly. It makes diplomacy effectively impossible at the same time Republicans are urging Mr. Obama to take on unlimited war-making powers. It’s insane on its face.

    Imagine that other countries pulled this with us. Imagine that we work out a nuclear arms deal with the Russians and then are told that while it’s binding on us, it may be overturned at whim on their end.

    The essential notion here, the notion that to my surprise Dave Schuler of all people seems to be accepting, is that the executive branch simply cannot give its word on anything, ever. Imagine the Cuban missile crisis under these conditions – we’d be toast. Mutant cockroaches would inhabit the wreckage of the Capitol. (Okay, bad example since that would actually be an improvement.) Imagine every meeting that took place between Churchill and FDR. “Sure, Winnie, we’ll get you those desperately needed aircraft engines. . . unless in a few months some members of Congress disagree. So you build the airplane frames and we may or may not get you the engines. Call it a 50/50 shot.”

    The Congress talks to the POTUS, the Congress does not talk to our enemies or conspire with our “friends” to undercut American diplomacy.

    Let me put this in terms even right-wingers might understand: the #47Traitors are worse, far worse, than Jane Fonda in Hanoi. By the time Hanoi Jane took that trip I was against the war, but it still enraged me that she straddled a gun used to shoot down American pilots. The 47 do not have the excuse of being Hollywood airheads.

  52. Another Mike says:

    @anjin-san:

    The real message Republican are sending is “The only legitimate path to power in America is through us – we reject the two party system, we reject the authority of any agent of the government who is not one of us”

    It is all in the constitution. Nobody is making anything up on the fly. The senate’s role is defined; the president’s role is defined. The letter was nothing more than a reminder of how the system works, just in case anyone lose sight of that fact.

  53. Another Mike says:

    @An Interested Party:

    but it is rather telling that both of the last two Democrats to be president have been painted as somehow being illegitimate by many Republicans/conservatives…

    And what about the one who was appointed president by the supreme court? I don’t remember him being a Democrat, but he was certainly deemed illegitimate by many.

  54. michael reynolds says:

    I would also add that the endless crapola from the right and from some Democrats that this is a “bad deal” is meaningless in the absence of some better plan to acheive a better deal.

    So far what we’ve got from Bibi and the GOP is “We don’t like this deal, so let’s start a war.” I’ve said this from the start and a lot of people look at me like I’m tripping, but Muravchik just confirmed my intuition: these idiots want to start a war. This is not about the deal. It’s not about tougher sanctions – sanctions the Europeans are quite likely to refuse to accept.

    This is about the same incompetent, thoughtless, reckless, ignorant crowd that botched Afghanistan, failed to get Osama, then botched Iraq, desperately needing another war so pasty, gutless, profoundly stupid academics and think-tank drones like this dimwit Muravchik, can get a testosterone contact high and feel like men.

    How to pay for it? Duh….. How to ensure we don’t end up trying to occupy a country the size of the thirteen original colonies plus California? Duh……. How to react when Baghdad tells us to fwck off outta Iraq and turns the militias loose on us? Duh…….. How to deal with the Iranians cutting off cooperation on Afghanistan? Duh…….. How to deal with the inevitable rise in anti-semitism? Duh……. How to deal with Hezbollah and Quds force terrorist assets in the US and Europe? Duh….. How to deal with small craft attacks in the Persian Gulf? Duh…..

    Obama and our European friends have this. The US Congress needs to first learn enough to find the players on a map, then, if they have issues, they should consult with the president not grandstand for their idiot constituents.

  55. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Let me put this in terms even right-wingers might understand: the #47Traitors are worse, far worse, than Jane Fonda in Hanoi.

    Well, let’s just say it’s lucky for them that there is nothing in their job description about checking in with Michael Reynolds for clearance before carrying out the duties of their office.

  56. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:

    The letter was nothing more than a reminder of how the system works, just in case anyone lose sight of that fact.

    Oh what a load of absolute baloney. They were just sayin’. They weren’t sayin’ they were just sayin’. They were just reminding. . .

    I mean, just, no. That’s nonsense. You don’t believe that. No one believes that. Tom Cotton doesn’t believe that, he said his goal was to scuttle the negotiations, so cut it out.

  57. al-Ameda says:

    @Another Mike:

    It merely sends the message that if you negotiate with a president who does not have the senate behind him, you get an agreement that binds the country only as long as the president who negotiated the deal is in office. The rule then is to negotiate a deal that the Senate will accept.

    Well, Republicans have, at various times during the past 6 years, sent messages that include:
    “We’re willing to shut down the federal government to advance our agenda.”
    “We’re willing to countenance a federal default to advance our agenda”

    This latest round is, in the context of those “messages,” no surprise whatsoever. The Republican Party is now a completely self-absorbed narcissistic operation, they are convinced of their righteousness and are willing to do anything … anything … to achieve their ends.

    Also Mike, I think we’re fortunate that Obama didn’t inform those 47 of his plan to authorize the mission that killed Bin-Laden, they might have sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan asking to intervene to keep the president from doing this. After all, if Obama was successful, that’s not good for the Republican Party.

  58. DrDaveT says:

    @Another Mike:

    The letter was nothing more than a reminder of how the system works, just in case anyone lose sight of that fact.

    You seem to have this weird idea that, as long as what they said was true, that makes it both neutral and harmless. That’s not how communication works.

    We are all going to die someday. But if I leave a note on your door that says “You are going to die”, the courts probably won’t be convinced by an argument that I was just reminding you how the system works.

  59. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:

    Well, let’s just say it’s lucky for them that there is nothing in their job description about checking in with Michael Reynolds for clearance before carrying out the duties of their office.

    What’s sad is that they would profit by doing so. 47 of these jackasses signed a letter that some are now admitting they didn’t read, and faced a “surprising” backlash that was absolutely predictable by anyone paying any attention to anything ever. They’ve been called out by our own allies, let alone by the editorial pages of every paper in the country, let alone by the graybeards in their own party. And I could have told them in five minutes it was a stupid thing to do.

    So here’s the problem. I have a 10th grade education. And yet I know more about the middle east than Senator Rubio, clearly, and more about Politics 101 than at least 47 Republican senators. That’s what you should be worried about. Your elected representatives are dumber than a high school drop-out who writes stories for teenagers.

  60. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    It merely sends the message that if you negotiate with a president who does not have the senate behind him, you get an agreement that binds the country only as long as the president who negotiated the deal is in office. The rule then is to negotiate a deal that the Senate will accept.

    False, false, false. The agreement being negotiated is an executive agreement, not a treaty subject to Senate ratification. It continues to be binding on the US even after Barack Obama — and, in 2025, his successor Hillary Clinton — leave office.

  61. An Interested Party says:

    And what about the one who was appointed president by the supreme court?

    Well, no matter how you parse it, he certainly was helped into the White House by 5 justices on the Supreme Court…and the illegitimacy of their decision is illustrated in how they claimed that it only applied to that case alone…at least Clinton and Obama actually received more votes than their Republican opponents…

    Your elected representatives are dumber than a high school drop-out who writes stories for teenagers.

    That’s perfectly appropriate, isn’t it? After all, so many so-called conservatives never tire of telling the rest of us how universities and colleges are nothing more than breeding grounds for dangerous leftist ideas…

  62. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    he said his goal was to scuttle the negotiations, so cut it out.

    Do you have a reference for that?

  63. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the organizer of a controversial letter warning Iran that the U.S. government will not necessarily abide by any agreement Iran strikes with the Obama administration, previously told a conservative audience that the goal of congressional action should be to scuttle talks with Iran. The U.S. should, instead, engage in a policy of “regime change,” he argued.

    Iran hawks in the House and Senate have long said that their aim is to help the White House strike a tougher deal with Iran. The administration and others, meanwhile, have charged that the hawks’ true motivation is to undermine the talks entirely. Cotton, for his part, has made no secret that he wants the talks to fail.

    “The end of these negotiations isn’t an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence. A feature, not a bug, so speak,” Cotton said in January, speaking at a conservative conference hosted by the advocacy group Heritage Action for America.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/09/tom-cotton-iran_n_6831328.html

  64. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Another Mike:

    Yes, the Senate’s role is defined. It has no role – public or otherwise – in conducting ongoing negotiations with foreign powers. They get a vote on treaties AFTER those treaties have been negotiated, and they are certainly within their rights to consult with the president, privately, to convey their concerns, but they are not entitled to a seat at the negotiating table. SCOTUS – those folks over behind the Capitol who actually determine what the words of the Constitution mean – have been more than clear about that. The president alone negotiates. “Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude, and Congress itself is powerless to invade it.”

    Their words – not mine.

    Cotton & Co. have been pretty clear that their intent was to interfere with, if not derail entirely, ongoing negotiations simply because they don’t like where those negotiations are headed. They violated separation of powers at a minimum, if not federal law as well, simply because they have convinced themselves that the rules do not apply to them and therefore the ends justify the means. In a mild way, it’s akin to a paper coup.

    These people are far more dangerous to the concept of a constitutional republic than any foreign nuclear capable state. Forget Iran – the real enemy comes from within.

  65. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Another Mike:

    Here you go

    Hope C-SPAN is authoritative / reliable enough for you

  66. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:
    Yep, HL92’s link will work. And Rafer’s. There plenty more.

  67. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I was thinking the other night that what Cotton did here reminds me in a lot of ways of LeMay’s actions during the CMC. Scheming and maneuvering in every way he could to get the war that he wanted.

    Evidently they both considered themselves more qualified to determine US foreign & military policy than the president.

  68. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It was malice that guided them, malice and a craving for yet another war.

    Malice, a craving for another war, and Sheldon Adelson.

  69. Gustopher says:

    Had the Republican letter been delivered to Obama, rather than the Iranians, and simply stressed that a congressional-executive agreement would offer a lot more stability than a sole-executive-agreement, the Republicans could have had their meddling without being quite so meddlesome.

    There would have been no practical difference between that and what they did, other than it wouldn’t be a sharp poke in the eye. Crap, it could have even been portrayed as an attempt to be supporting the concept of negotiations, by seeking the higher standard for agreement, if not the current state of negotiation.

    But, Republicans do like to give a sharp poke in the eye.

  70. Another Mike says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Hope C-SPAN is authoritative / reliable enough for you

    I listened to the speech. Senator Cotton’s position is crystal clear, but there were 47 senators who signed the letter. Senator Cotton’s motivation for the letter stems from his stated views, but the letter itself is not a hardline letter or he couldn’t have gotten the other signatures.

  71. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:
    Among the other signers are those like Senator Graham who apparently thought it was a joke, and Senator McCain who admits he was in a hurry to leave town so he didn’t really pay any attention to it and just signed.

    You’re grasping at straws.

    Obviously it was a “hardline” letter or the Germans and Brits would not have taken the extraordinary step of commenting publicly.

    Key leaders in Germany and the United Kingdom said the letter, warning the leaders of Iran that Congressional Republicans would not recognize the validity of the deal after President Obama leaves office, had made negotiations more difficult.

    You can imagine what they’re saying privately about these meddling fools sticking their noses into negotiations which are not just US-Iran.

    It was intended to kill negotiations. It was intended to move us closer to war. It followed hot on the heels of Republicans’ slavish embrace of Netanyahu, who is quite clearly for war. Well, clearly for us fighting a war. For him.

  72. anjin-san says:

    @Another Mike:

    Dude, it’s Saturday night. Stop digging and go out to have a beer or find some chicks or something.

    If 47 people do something incredibly stupid as a group, it is still incredibly stupid. It just shows that the herd mentality has taken over and there are no older, wiser, or cooler heads to step in and lead. The 47 let a newbie take them into lemming land.

  73. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Another Mike:

    Cotton wrote it; they agreed with it by signing it (apparently some of them – judging by the way they are now trying to walk back having signed it anyway – never bothered to read it).

    That having been said, all 47 of them violated separation of powers. It would equally violate that if 47 Democratic senators signed a letter encouraging Iran to agree with the administration’s proposals. The senate has no role in conducting negotiations. They get no seat at the table. They are not permitted to interfere with or exert influence over negotiations – for any reason, even from a supportive perspective – and these clowns were hardly supportive.

    I get that many people think that senators SHOULD have a voice at that table, but they do not have one.

    There is no universe not populated by deranged hawks – none – in which what these people did can be defended. The ends do not justify the means.

  74. Another Mike says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Evidently they both considered themselves more qualified to determine US foreign & military policy than the president.

    And this is the heart of the matter and the sin that was committed by Senator Cotton; he claims to know better than the president how to deal with Iran. That has to be the unpardonable sin. He listened to the serpent and is now convinced he knows more than He Who Is President.

  75. Tony W says:

    @Another Mike:

    he claims to know better than the president how to deal with Iran.

    You are totally missing the point. He may well know better – but he is not the president. Period. That’s the point dude.

  76. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:

    How are you not getting this? Whatever you think of the deal, or of the politics, or of the individuals involved, it is utterly, absolutely impossible to conduct a negotiation in which there is one Iranian, one Frenchman, one Brit, one German, One Chinese, one Russian and 536 Americans.

    That’s obvious, isn’t it?

  77. An Interested Party says:

    So, we go from…

    Do you have a reference for that?

    …to…

    I listened to the speech. Senator Cotton’s position is crystal clear, but there were 47 senators who signed the letter. Senator Cotton’s motivation for the letter stems from his stated views, but the letter itself is not a hardline letter or he couldn’t have gotten the other signatures.

    I know that moving goalposts is a common tactic in these kind of discussions, but here, the goalposts weren’t just moved, they were completely removed from the playing field…

  78. CB says:

    I wasn’t quite old enough to really understand what was happening in ’03, but I imagine it looked a lot like this.

    @michael reynolds:

    And it’s almost like we have national elections every 4 years for that reason. Or something.

  79. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Interesting prediction: the one person who will be most damaged by this Republican comedy of errors will be Kelly Ayotte. The local coverage has been focused on this chain of events since Monday, and she’s made been the face of it. The contrast between her signing it, while Susan Collins refused to do so, has been starkly repeated several times this week in NH coverage.

    Tom Cotton just hung a target around her neck in a moderate state during a presidential election year, and she was stupid enough to wade right into it pen in hand.

  80. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That’s obvious, isn’t it?

    Of course, but that is not the situation. That’s just the way you are constructing the situation. But at least I understand the source of the drama about the letter.

  81. Another Mike says:

    @Tony W:

    He may well know better – but he is not the president. Period. That’s the point dude.

    Indeed, true, but nobody is making such a ridiculous argument. I suppose Senator Cotton’s fault is insufficient deference to the opinion of Him Who Is President.

  82. C. Clavin says:

    @Another Mike:
    His fault was that it was wrong on the facts, it said the US can’t be trusted to honor it’s commitments, it was poorly planned and executed, it’s only apparent goal was to provoke a long and costly war with Iran at the behest of Israel, and in the process made Iran look like the responsible level-headed party in this episode.
    Other than that….there was nothing really wrong with it.

  83. MBunge says:

    @Another Mike: Him Who Is President.

    This kind of adolescent sophistry perfectly symbolizes so much of today’s conservatism.

    Mike

  84. Ben Johannson says:

    @Another Mike: Pelosi took it upon herself to visit Bashir al-Assad in 2007 against the wishes of the Bush Adminiatration. I haven’t heard you defending her superior expertise in Mid-East politics and sociology.

  85. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Another Mike:

    LOL, no, his fault is violating the US Constitution (and probably federal law in the bargain). I’m not sure why this is so difficult to grasp – especially since you seem to have already conceded that point.

  86. dennis says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I admit, Dave, that I was justifiably chastised by your question/challenge; so, I read “The Letter.” Here are my unsolicited takes, not at all aimed in criticism at you.

    It has come to our attention . . . that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.

    There is no rational basis on which to conclude this. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif attained Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in International Relations at San Francisco State University; a second MA IA at the University of Denver; and a PhD in International Law and Policy, presumably from the same. That “The Letter” so blithely dismisses these creds is an example (to me, at least) of arrogance and condescension.

    Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

    “The Letter” fails to consider two factors: (1) Iranian leadership may be completely amenable to a “mere executive agreement” if it can achieve its goals; (2) there are other serious and relevant international players in this. You know, our European allies. Russia. Well, you get the drift. “The Letter” assumes that the U.S. and, specifically, Congress, is the sole arbiter of any agreement, and that just is not the case.

    . . . President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office beyond then – perhaps decades.

    That the author of “The Letter” felt the need to pen this veiled threat reveals (at least to me) a subconscious acknowledgement of how impotent is this whole exercise. Particularly when it is rationally spelled out in neutral language in the following paragraph:

    What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. 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.

    Now, let’s look at this sentence: “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement . . .” Though true of itself, “The Letter” assumes that the next president could be opposed to such an agreement. If we really want to read between the lines, what “The Letter” assumes is that the next president could be a Republican opposed to the agreement. While neutrally speculative, there’s no possible way of knowing that and, of course, foreign negotiations cannot be conducted based on such speculation. This assumption, too, is arrogant and condescending.

    We hope this letter enriches your understanding of our constitutional system AND PROMOTES MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING AND CLARITY as nuclear negotiations progress.

    Honestly, mutual understanding and clarity have nothing to do with what the GOP has been waging against the President specifically, and America in general, since January 2009. This whole exercise is a self-congratulatory sham. And now, they’re getting beat up for it and are trying to back-track and brush it out. Idiots.

  87. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @dennis:

    and a PhD in International Law and Policy, presumably from the same.

    Correct. Zarif received his PhD from the University of Denver. He was Iran’s Ambassador to the UN from 2002 to 2007

  88. Dave D says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Thankfully noted Iranian scholar Tom Cotton warned on Face The Nation today that ” Iranian regime taking over region, already controls Tehran.” So this is the Foreign Affairs wonk that felt the need to condescend to the Iranian people. I’m sure that the Ayatollah will be shocked to find that his regime controls Tehran.

  89. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @anjin-san: His sad fate should be a warning to goldbugs everywhere.

  90. Dave Schuler says:

    @dennis:

    You’re a good man, dennis.

  91. James P says:

    These 47 Senators swore an oath to protect and defend America from all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC.

    Barack Hussein Obama is a domestic enemy. As such their oaths of office require them to stop him. In this sense they are no different from the passengers on Flight 93 who wrested control of the plane away from the hijackers.

    Barack Hussein Obama has hijacked America. He is trying to aid and abet Iran in gaining a nuke. He is trying to tie the hands and prevent future presidents from stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

    Obviously these Senators are trying to sabotage Obama — just as the passengers on flight 93 were trying to sabotage the mission of the hijackers.

    The negotiations with Iran must be stopped since there is nobody at the table representing the Untied States. We need to drag this out until 2017, preventing any deal from being reached until then, and then allowing the next president to deal with Iran with a free hand.

    Obama is actively seeking to undermine America so the only responsible course of action for any patriotic American is to stop Obama by undermining him in any way possible.

    They should have stated that they will oppose ANY deal Obama negotiates precisely because he was the one negotiating it.

  92. James P says:

    @HarvardLaw92: [“Forget Iran – the real enemy comes from within. “]

    On this point we COMPLETELY agree. The real enemy is indeed domestic.

    [“They violated separation of powers”]

    And usurping Congressional prerogative by giving illegal aliens amnesty by executive order does not?

    And yes, they do know more than Obama – who doesn’t? They least knowledgeable person among these 47 knows more and is better qualified than a nitwit community organizer who can’t form a coherent thought without the aid of a TelePrompter. Obama is easily the stupidest person ever to hold that office.

    Someone needs to represent America’s interests (Obama certainly does not) so these 47 stopped up to the table. We should all send them a thank you card.

  93. anjin-san says:

    @James P:

    Shorter James P. “Oh God, oh please, pay attention to meeeeeeeeeeeeeee”

  94. al-Ameda says:

    @James P:

    Barack Hussein Obama is a domestic enemy. As such their oaths of office require them to stop him. In this sense they are no different from the passengers on Flight 93 who wrested control of the plane away from the hijackers.

    Barack Hussein Obama has hijacked America. He is trying to aid and abet Iran in gaining a nuke. He is trying to tie the hands and prevent future presidents from stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

    Why didn’t you just open your comments with “the president is a seditious Muslim poop head?” It would have been a perfect preface to your Palinesque characterization of the president.

  95. dennis says:

    @James P:

    Dude – take your meds.

  96. James P says:

    @al-Ameda: Obama is not a Muslim.

    Seditious. Absolutely! I think he is a Fifth Columnist who was born in “Manchuria”. That’s why I support the Senate stopping him. His intent is to tie the hands of the next president to that he or she can not prevent Iran from getting nukes.

    The Senate needed to remind Iran that Barry is gone in two years and we are free to ignore and disregard any deal he makes with Iran.

    The object is to blow up (no pun intended) the negotiations. Just as I would have wanted the Munich negotiations in 1938 scuttled, so too should Barry’s kow-towing to Iran.

  97. Tillman says:

    @James P: You don’t need to put Manchuria in quotes. It’s an actual place.

    You also don’t need to capitalize fifth columnist. It’s not a proper noun.

  98. Dave D says:

    @James P:

    They least knowledgeable person among these 47 knows more and is better qualified than a nitwit community organizer who can’t form a coherent thought without the aid of a TelePrompter.

    It is amazing that the lady in your profile picture fell apart at the freedom summit the minute her teleprompter failed. How well did Palin do at the Freedom Summit the minute her teleprompter failed? She sounded like a completely crazy person who had taken several hits of acids and was on a stream of consciousness about moochers, ironically since she has achieved nothing besides suckling the big govment tit. But sure you’re right Tom Cotton the man who warned of the Iranians taking control of Tehran definitely knows more than someone who needs a teleprompter. If only all 47 of those ill informed ideologues could be president simultaneously then we wouldn’t have to worry about Barrack Hussein Obama ruining this country for real AMEURICANS.

  99. Barry says:

    @JKB: “What undermining? The letter simply explained our Constitutional process for making agreements with foreign powers binding. Given their reaction, the Iranians had not really contemplated the fact that any “agreement” would be temporal with Obama’s administration unless ratified by the Senate.”

    No.

    For your first sentence, if this was true, then the Senate would be doing it all the time. They don’.

    For your second sentence, you obviously don’t know how many Iranian governmental officials have been educated in the USA (and I’ll bet money that those who weren’t pay attention to how the USA acts).

    In addition, what these guys did was to undermine the ability of the US government to conclude a deal with a foreign country.

  100. Barry says:

    @JKB: “Well, given the professed love of all things Big Government by those protesting Bush’s policies, foreign and otherwise, it was near-mutiny. If one does not accept subjugation to government rule vice the rule of law, then one can hardly be mutinous.”

    In English, please?

  101. Barry says:

    @humanoid.panda: “…retreat to the language of treason when someone does something they don’t like is insane. ”

    It’s not doing something which they don’t like, it’s doing something which is either unprecedented, or rarer than hens’ teeth. And doing so clearly at the behest of a foreign power.

  102. KM says:

    @Another Mike:

    Him Who Is President.

    Why, yes, he is. Glad you finally caught that clue. Only took half a decade….

    -Signed, the Public Who Elected Him to the Presidency TWICE, You Moron

  103. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “But there are serious foreign policy analysts who think war with Iran–even with the potential consequences you cite—is preferable to a nuclear Iran. I do think this is serious disagreement rather than simple grandstanding.”

    Who might these be? Let’s eliminate anybody who supported the Iraq War.

  104. Barry says:

    @Another Mike: “It merely sends the message that if you negotiate with a president who does not have the senate behind him, you get an agreement that binds the country only as long as the president who negotiated the deal is in office. The rule then is to negotiate a deal that the Senate will accept.

    There is too much drama about this letter, which really is a pretty innocuous thing. The worse might be that it was unnecessary.”

    Show me where 47 Democratic Senators ever sent such a letter.

  105. Barry says:

    @Another Mike: “It is all in the constitution. Nobody is making anything up on the fly. The senate’s role is defined; the president’s role is defined. The letter was nothing more than a reminder of how the system works, just in case anyone lose sight of that fact.”

    Lie, unless you have examples of it happening before, by Democratic Senators.

  106. Barry says:

    @Another Mike: “And what about the one who was appointed president by the supreme court? I don’t remember him being a Democrat, but he was certainly deemed illegitimate by many.”

    Please point to examples where Democratic ***leaders*** acted like Republican leaders.

  107. Barry says:

    @Another Mike: “I listened to the speech. Senator Cotton’s position is crystal clear, but there were 47 senators who signed the letter. Senator Cotton’s motivation for the letter stems from his stated views, but the letter itself is not a hardline letter or he couldn’t have gotten the other signatures.”

    Asked for a cite, given a cite, and rejected the cite.

  108. Barry says:

    @Another Mike: “And this is the heart of the matter and the sin that was committed by Senator Cotton; he claims to know better than the president how to deal with Iran. That has to be the unpardonable sin. He listened to the serpent and is now convinced he knows more than He Who Is President.”

    Liar. We’ve been very, very clear what their error was.

  109. al-Ameda says:

    @James P:

    Seditious. Absolutely! I think he is a Fifth Columnist who was born in “Manchuria”. That’s why I support the Senate stopping him. His intent is to tie the hands of the next president to that he or she can not prevent Iran from getting nukes.

    It’s hard to believe that in 6 years the Republican Party has been taken over by people who have convinced themselves of that kind of conspiratorial stuff. And to think that all it took was the election of a moderate Black president to cause an entire political party to do everything it can to strive to burn Washington down in order to save it.

  110. Mikey says:

    I am starting to think the P in “James P” stands for Poe.

  111. Ken says:

    James P: Barack Hussein Obama is a domestic enemy…
    … He is trying to aid and abet Iran in gaining a nuke
    … I think he is a Fifth Columnist who was born in “Manchuria”.

    You forgot “Secret Muslim”

  112. David M says:

    @James P:

    The Senate needed to remind Iran that Barry is gone in two years and we are free to ignore and disregard any deal he makes with Iran.

    The object is to blow up (no pun intended) the negotiations.

    Why would they need to blow up the negotiations if the next President is free to ignore and disregard any deal?

  113. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Barack Hussein Obama is a domestic enemy. As such their oaths of office require them to stop him. In this sense they are no different from the passengers on Flight 93 who wrested control of the plane away from the hijackers.

    And this person allegedly has a Ph.D. *Shudder* Let’s just hope it’s in something technical …

  114. grumpy realist says:

    @Another Mike: Dude, look up “Separation of Powers.” Cotton isn’t the POTUS and shouldn’t be trying to act like the POTUS. If he wants to shove his oar in, he has two alternatives:

    1) send a letter to the President, stating his views
    2) Run for POTUS, get elected, and then carry out what he feels is the best policy.

    He does not get to stand by in the kitchen at the President’s elbow and keep joggling him when a tricky measure is being attempted.

  115. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:
    I’ve thought the same from day one, then less than a week in s/he went completely unhinged. Since then I’ve been pretty well convinced that s/he is a less well done Triumph. At this point I think we’re reaching the Poe horizon, beyond it the satire is obvious.

  116. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “Shorter James P. “Oh God, oh please, pay attention to meeeeeeeeeeeeeee””

    So you’re saying he is Jenos…

  117. Steve V says:

    @Grewgills: I don’t know. S/he sounds pretty much like I’d expect a real talk radio devotee to sound. I listen to Limbaugh/Hannity/Levin occasionally, and it’s really an alternate reality. Especially when they take calls from their listeners.

  118. James P says:

    @al-Ameda: Moderate?

    In the immortal words of John McEnroe “You can’t possibly be serious?”

    BH Obama is no more moderate than a rive gauche Trotskyite. Moderate? Joe Lieberman is a moderate. BH Obama is anti-American. His thinking is not rooted in Western civilization. His political inspiration draws more from the anti-colonialist thinking of the Mau Mau revolution than it does Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Madison, or Franklin.

    I sincerely do believe that Obama’s entire purpose for becoming president is to harm American. He does not like this country and he wants to bring it down to size. He wants us to pay for what he considers our historical sins to be. That’s why I support the Senate in ANYTHING they do to try to stop him.

    He WANTS Iran to have nukes and he is determined to tie the hands of the next president. That’s why his capitulation talks with Iran must be scuttled. The 47 Senators should have gone much farther. They should have stated that they would refuse to consider ANY deal that BHO negotiates, so Iran shouldn’t even bother wasting their time.

    The next GOP president needs to make clear that he or she is not beholden to anything BHO negotiates with the Iranians. The sooner the Iranians realize this the sooner the Iranians will walk away from the talks.

  119. Tony W says:

    @James P: Bravo – really, I couldn’t possibly put that much paranoia and hate into a few short paragraphs – but, alas, you overplayed your hand. I’m going with the crowd on the Jonathan Swift/Stephen Colbert interpretation.

    Thanks, this has been fun.

  120. James P says:

    @David M: [“Why would they need to blow up the negotiations if the next President is free to ignore and disregard any deal? “]

    Because if there is a deal it makes the job of the next president more difficult. IF there is a deal, here could be a UN Security Council resolution which removes the sanctions. That’s why we need to scuttle these talks.

    If there is no deal the next president can hold Iran’s feet to the fire. BHO’s entire intent to see that does not happen precisely because he WANTS Iran to get nukes.

    If we can scuttle the talks and drag this out for 22 more months, the next president will have a free hand to deal with Iran. He or she can veto anything the Security Council wants to do.

    I fully agree with those who allege that the GOP was trying to derail the talks — that’s PRECISELY what they were trying to do. I can only hope and pray that they succeed.

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius:

    Economics, specifically monetary policy and its affect on currency valuation. Constructing econometric models would fall into the realm of the technical.

  121. al-Ameda says:

    @James P:

    Mau Mau revolution

    In the somewhat less immortal, but far more common words of John McEnroe, “f*** that bulls***”

    I’ve reported you to the Kenyan Embassy – a Black Helicopter will pick you up shortly, please greet it, and have your long-form birth certificate ready.

  122. DrDaveT says:

    @James P:

    I sincerely do believe that Obama’s entire purpose for becoming president is to harm American.

    They can cure that now, or at least control it. Consult your family physician.

  123. James P says:

    @al-Ameda: I have never once claimed that Stanley Dunham was located anywhere but Hawaii at the time her bastard spawn popped into the world.

    That’s why I put Manchuria in quotation marks when I claim BHO was born in Manchuria. I want to distinguish that I do not believe Stanley Dunham was in northeast China when he was born and that I making a commentary on his motivations.

    Barack Hussein Obama is foreign in every sense except for the physical location of his mother when he was born. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not a birther.