Monday, March 09, 2015

Kneecapping Your Own Quarterback (with update)

(see Update below)
So forty-seven U.S. Senators went and did a thing this weekend, where they sent a rather demeaning and error-filled letter to the Iranian government warning them that any treaty deal over stopping Iran's uranium nuclear-bomb projects will be meaningless:
...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...
The Senators are basically telling the Iranians "Screw it.  No matter what deal you make with Obama, we'll just vote it down or ignore it and if we get a Republican in the White House in 2016 you are all bombing targets."

One of the sins that these Senators committed: the whole "advise and consent" element in Article II of the Constitution is that the Senate should be advising OUR PRESIDENT and NOT advising the foreign power.  The Senators are openly influencing - through reckless intimidation - another nation into NOT dealing with our government over a possibly peaceful solution to a serious problem.  This sort of move reeks of war-mongering (the GOP wants a war with Iran, in case you hadn't noticed), this sort of move reeks of treason interfering with our government's ability to work with other nations.

The other sin is that this move reeks of the Senators being total assholes.

The Republicans have taken their 6-years-and-counting obstruction against Barack Obama and turned it into an international scandal.

There are certain things in politics, in the halls of power, you just don't do.  There are written rules of conduct, official checks and balances codified into the Constitution itself.  There are the unwritten rules of decorum and behavior, of ceremony and tradition where certain offices are granted a lot of leeway to get work done.  There's the common sense things where you don't go tugging on Superman's cape or spit into the wind.

It's been an unwritten rule since the days of Washington himself where the President, via his executive offices of the State Department, handles all the heavy lifting and deal-making of treaties with foreign nations.  In this, the Senate only comes in either as individual experts on certain topics or nations to consult with the President directly, and otherwise the Senate waits until a treaty gets signed before it comes to them for 2/3rds vote to ratify.  There was a sense of decorum about it: let the President handle the foreign policies as Head of State.

This letter nukes all of that, metaphorically and literally.  It's an open warning shot across the bow.  It's a blatant show of disrespect towards a President they've accused again and again of being un-American, and it's a disgusting display of obstruction no other President has ever had to cope with in the 220-plus years of our nation's dealings with the world.

I've looked at that Logan Act, the law making it a crime to interfere directly or indirectly with a President's ability to form treaties or deal with foreign powers.
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.

I swear, that Senate letter reads to me like it's violating the part of the Act I've marked in bold.  The only thing that's keeping me from screaming about these Senators committing outright treason is that bit about "without authority of the United States."  As Senators, they DO have authority... but my question would be "do they have THIS kind of authority to directly parley or communicate with a foreign nation, in direct interference with the State Department which DOES have the authority? And in direct interference with the President of the United States who DOES have the authority?"

At what point did the Senate cross the line on the Logan Act?  They sure as hell crossed the line for decorum and decency with this bullshit stunt.  This is an open act of sabotage against the President of the United States.  A President in Barack Obama who's won two majority elections to serve as President.  A President who's been attacked again and again for no sane reason other than the Republicans being hateful bastards.

UPDATE: I think I found the answer to the question above ("At what point did the Senate cross the line on the Logan Act?").  There was a court ruling back in 1936 - U.S. vs. Curtiss-Wright Export - where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the President using his powers to go after arms dealers selling to foreign nations/powers.  Part 9 of the ruling says "In international relations, the President is the sole organ of the Federal Government." To wit:
...In this vast external realm, with its important, complicated, delicate and manifold problems, the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude, and Congress itself is powerless to invade it... They think the interference of the Senate in the direction of foreign negotiations calculated to diminish that responsibility, and thereby to impair the best security for the national safety...

I really believe the 47 Senators broke the law: they calculated to diminish President Obama's responsibility to negotiate with the world.  I really believe they should be charged and held accountable.  The Logan Act requires it.  The Supreme Court confirms it.  The only question now should be "who has standing to file the charge?"  If it's Obama, dammit man NOW is the time to fight the fire burning down our political system.  If it's the State Department, your very office DEMANDS you secure your ability to negotiate with foreign powers.  If it can be someone in the Senate, dammit Democrats MAN UP.

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