Pres. Obama implies 47 senators are traitors....
The president's reaction to 47 senators sending a letter to Tehran, warning that any arms deal not ratified by the Senate can easily be repealed by the next president:
"It's somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran," Obama said of an open letter from Republicans who have questioned the prospect of a nuclear agreement. "It's an unusual coalition."
The GOP senators' letter warned Tehran: "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 letter was primarily the work of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who served in both the Iraq II & Afghan wars.
At CBlog, John Podhoretz notes that senators have long participated in the making of foreign policy, and that the 1799 Logan Act, which bars unauthorized persons from conducting foreign policy, has only been invoked once, in 1803, in its 216 years on the statute books:
But turning the Logan Act on Senate Republicans is a genuinely hilarious bit of rank hypocrisy for liberals and Democrats to make, since almost every incidence of foreign-policy freebooting against an administration’s efforts in the modern era has come from the Left, and the outrage generated by such efforts—by Jesse Jackson in Syria in 1984, by Congressional Republicans in Nicaragua throughout the 1980s, by Rep. Jim McDermott in Iraq in 2003, by Jimmy Carter with Hamas in 2008. The silence at the time when it came to these acts of “interference” with Presidential foreign policy on the part of liberals and the media were deafening.
The text of the Logan Act reads:
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.
This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
The key phrase is the law is: "without authority of the United States." Senators in fact possess authority to participate in treaty-making.
The US Constitution's Treaty Clause (Art. II, sec. 2, cl. 2) provides:
[The President] . . . shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur....
In Federalist 75, Alexander Hamilton--he an ardent proponent of executive power--wrote of treaty-making:
The qualities elsewhere detailed as indispensable in the management of foreign relations point out the executive as the most fit in those transactions; while the vast importance of the trust and the operation of treaties as laws plead strongly for the participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of making them.
Stephen Hayes, on Fox News Special Report, last night reminded us of two major interventions by Democrats that contradicted policy of a Republican president: (a) former president Carter's 1990 letter to the UN Security Council urging rejection of a resolution authorizing UN action against Saddam Hussein's seizure of Kuwait; (b) then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 2007 meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, against the express wishes of the George W. Bush administration.
In those two cases--and in others, over the years--members of Congress sought to undermine administration policy. It may fairly be said that the 47 GOP senators also seek to prevent this administration from doing things they consider bad--even posing grave national danger.
But senators have a role: "advice" and "consent." The latter denotes ratification of rejection of a treaty submitted to Congress. The former goes beyond that--without, however, specifying whether such advice comes during talks, or upon submission of the treaty to the Senate. In this case the letter, addressed to the mullahs in Tehran, is advice to them. But the same letter could have been sent to the president, made public, and would also have been advice to Tehran. Thus it seems that the administration's complaint is more about form than substance.
What of accusations that the letter is treason? The federal treason statute provides:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
To find that the GOP senators' letter "adheres to their enemies" or gives enemies "aid and comfort" would be a dragnet that could encompass almost any criticism of US policy by anyone. Nancy Pelosi's visit to Assad, and Jimmy Carter's attempt to undermine the Gulf War coalition could easily fit such an expansive reading of the statute. But criminal statutes are supposed to be narrowly construed, to minimize risks of convicting innocent defendants.
Thus, coincidence between positions by US senators--or anyone else, for that matter, who is a US citizen--and those of adversaries--supporting making a concession to our adversaries, believing it will induce reciprocal gestures--hardly equates to treasonous "aid and comfort." "Aid and comfort" must be construed more narrowly than anything that happens at any given time to please an adversary. True treason entails acts such as supplying an adversary with the blueprint for building a hydrogen bomb, or supplying high-level raw intelligence.
Meanwhile, an NY Times story counts 11 specific instances of stonewalling by Iran, as to their nuclear program, all involving nuclear weapons design and development.
An added Iran deal note: a new poll shows that voters are more skeptical about the utility of Iran negotiations now than they were in 2007 about talks with North Korea.
Bottom Line. As Iran cheats, our administration flails. Worse, unable to make a case on the merits for the appalling deal they are trying to finalize, Team Obama lashes out at its critics. At most such amounts to temporary deflection. In no event does it benefit the US. But, following my reasoning above, Team Obama does not commit treason when it slams its critics; rather, it commits abysmal stupidity.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, National Security, Homeland Security, WMD, Nuclear Proliferation, Conservative Politics