Finally, a debate about Iran. Last week, 47 Republican senators released a public letter addressed to the leaders of the Iranian regime. The letter made what might have seemed a self-evident point: If the Obama administration reaches a deal with Iran, Congress will not be bound by parts of the deal to which it has not assented.
“The letter to Iranian leaders from 47 Republican senators could well destroy critical bipartisanship in U.S. foreign policy for years to come and treacherously undermine the bargaining power of the person constitutionally authorized to conduct American affairs abroad—the President of the United States,” wrote Les Gelb, president emeritus and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “On top of what House speaker John Boehner did by unilaterally inviting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, this letter seriously points to one terrible conclusion: a formidable number of congressional Republicans hate President Obama more than they love America.”
The New York Daily News labeled “traitors” the letter’s signatories and its author, Senator Tom Cotton (combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bronze Star). Max Fisher at Vox.com called the letter “unprecedented” and claimed Republicans were bringing their legislative obstructionism to “the previously sacrosanct realm of foreign policy.” John Kerry bellowed that the “letter ignores more than two centuries of precedent in the conduct of American foreign policy.” Hillary Clinton claimed that if the senators’ objective wasn’t to undermine the president, it was to help the mullahs in Iran. President Obama accused senators of forming a “coalition” with Iran’s hardliners. NBC News called the letter “stunning” and declared that it signaled an end to the days when politics stopped at the water’s edge.
We’ll resist the temptation to attach labels to those making these claims or offer judgments on their love of country. Instead, some perspective:
In 1979, Senator Robert Byrd traveled to the Soviet Union during the SALT II talks to “personally explain the requirements of our Constitution” to Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev. Byrd later wrote: “In Leningrad, I explained that I had come to the Soviet Union neither to praise nor condemn the treaty but to create a better understanding of the treaty in the Senate and to explain to the Soviets the Senate’s constitutional role in treatymaking.”
In the early 1980s, Senator Ted Kennedy secretly approached leaders of the Soviet Union with a proposal: I’ll help you with Ronald Reagan’s defense buildup if you help me defeat him in the 1984 presidential election. Former senator John Tunney conveyed the offer on Kennedy’s behalf.
In April 1985, as the Reagan administration sought to limit Soviet influence in Central America, Senator John Kerry traveled to Nicaragua, met with Communist strongman Daniel Ortega, and accused the Reagan administration of supporting “terrorism” against the government there. Said Kerry, “Senator Harkin and I are going to Nicaragua as Vietnam-era veterans who are alarmed that the Reagan administration is repeating the mistakes we made in Vietnam.” Kerry’s trip followed a letter from a group of House Democrats led by majority leader Jim Wright to Ortega. The “Dear Comandante” letter declared: “We regret the fact that better relations do not exist between the United States and your country. We have been, and remain, opposed to U.S. support for military action directed against the people or government of Nicaragua. We want to commend you and your government for taking steps to open up the political process in your country.”
In 1990, former President Jimmy Carter secretly wrote to the leaders of the U.N. Security Council nations urging them to oppose a resolution offered by his own country. The existence of the letter was revealed when one of its recipients shared a copy with the White House. President George H. W. Bush was “furious” at the “deliberate attempt to undermine” his foreign policy, according to his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft.
Scott Brown, the Republican senator from Massachusetts who lost reelection last year to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, could be competitive challenging a Democratic senator in the state next door, according to a new poll from the Washington Free Beacon. In a hypothetical match-up between Brown and New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat would lead by just four points.
Former President Bill Clinton tried to get former senator Ted Kennedy to endorse Hillary Clinton for president in the 2008 election by describing Barack Obama this way: "A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags."
Republican senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts has decided not to participate in a televised debate with his opponent, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, after the one of the debate's sponsors, Vicki Kennedy of the Kennedy Institute, refused to promise to stay neutral in the Senate race. The Boston Herald reports:
President Obama’s recent recess appointments have sparked no shortage of legal commentary. Does the president have the power to declare that the Senate is in "recess" in the middle of a session, and then to use his constitutional "recess appointment" power to install disfavored personnel at federal agencies?
Well, it is done. Obama has signed the Senate bill into law. Americans now have a statutory right to health insurance, and in most if not all cases a right to have someone else pay for that insurance. I believe we have only the dimmest understanding of the full consequences of this legislation. It will raise taxes. Its cost-controls are unproven and trivial. The bill will increase demand for a fixed commodity and thus increase the overall price of that commodity. So health care spending will continue to rise as more people enter the system, the population gets older, and technology continues to improve. Susan Ferrechio runs through the various unintended consequences here.
It wasn't until mid-December that Scott Brown's campaign team knew for certain they had a chance. An internal poll showed intense interest in the race to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. And the more interested a voter was, the more likely he was to support Scott Brown. The campaign then made the bold decision to cut this ad:
There was worry inside the Brown campaign that the public might react negatively to the outright comparison of Brown to Kennedy. That didn't happen. The ad was electric. It was the first in a series of bold moves and lucky accidents that culminated in Brown's incredible upset victory on January 19.
The message coming out of the health care summit is clear: President Obama and the Democratic leadership are planning one, last-ditch effort to restructure one-sixth of the economy by using the parliamentary tactic known as reconciliation. This jibes with Mike Allen's report from this morning. Obama is betting that Nancy Pelosi will find 217 votes to pass the Senate bill despite the public's disapproval.