If one were to deny Barack Obama the use of straw-man attacks, misrepresentation of facts, accusations that opponents are operating in bad faith, and other non-sequiturs, one would hear mostly silence coming from the White House. This administration is chronically incapable of having a serious argument with its opponents.
The latest such example of Obama’s speciousness has come, unsurprisingly, on Iran. Via the Washington Free Beacon, here is the response of Marie Harf, the State Department spokeswoman, to the damning op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Henry Kissinger and George Schultz:
“I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives. I heard a lot of big words and big thoughts in that piece. … I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently.”
Many administration officials have spouted this talking point, to the effect of: OK, you don’t like our deal, but you haven’t offered a deal of your own, so be quiet.
It is pure, unadulterated bunk.
At the risk of offending the president’s monarchical pretensions, allow me to quote from the Constitution. Article II, Section 2 states that 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 other words, nobody but the president can put forward a deal. Sure, somebody might propose an idea for him to take to the Iranians. But nobody except the president and his deputies may negotiate a treaty directly with a foreign power. Doing otherwise violates the Logan Act, which is a very serious offense. Moreover, nobody but the President of the United States could practically lead an international coalition, such as the one currently negotiating with Iran.
Furthermore, the Senate would discharge its constitutional duties perfectly if it responds to the president’s deal by effectively declaring, “This deal stinks. Go get a better one.”
That is the way our government is supposed to run. The president, and the president alone, cuts the deal; then the people, through its representatives in the Congress, evaluate it. The job of the latter is only to advise and consent, not to present an alternative treaty for ratification.
What does the Obama administration think its critics should do? If the Senate Foreign Relations Committee does not like the deal struck, should it travel to Lausanne to hammer out an alternative agreement with Javad Zariff? Of course not! The White House exploded in fury when Senator Tom Cotton penned a public letter that merely reminded the Iranians of the Senate’s advisory role.
The White House wants to have it both ways: only the president can negotiate a deal, but only those who have negotiated a deal have standing disagree with him.
Here is the bottom line: Congress should pass a law, over the president’s veto, giving it the final authority over any Iran deal. Next, it should vote this rotten deal down, and then leave it to the president to figure out what to do next. It should say, in effect: it is not our problem that you negotiated a bad deal; do a better job next time.
It is not the responsibility of the Senate, the House, former secretaries of state, or anybody else to come up with an alternative proposal. It is the job of the president alone.
This is how the Framers thought foreign affairs should be conducted. Team Obama’s mindless spin should just be ignored.
Jay Cost is a staff writer at the Weekly Standard. His new book, A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption, is now available.