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    Not "The Onion": GOP Senators Tell Iran Obama's Not The Boss, They Are

    In a stunning open letter to the leaders of Iran, 47 Republican senators let it be known that while Barack Obama might occupy the White House and temporarily hold the title of President and Commander-in-chief of these United States, it is Congress--most especially the Republican Congress--that holds the cards when it comes to any kind of nuclear deal.

    The letter--did I mention it was addressed to the leaders of Iran?--was written by Tom Cotton, freshman senator from Arkansas, and signed by all but seven Republicans in the United States Senate.

    It began like this:

    An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

    It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.  Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

    Does that paragraph seem a little strange to you?  Who, outside of Monty Python, or maybe your local HOA, writes, "It has come to our attention. . ."? 

    Who, besides a newbie Tea Party senator (or a hotshot American Constitution 101 student) thinks it's a good idea to publicly school the leaders of another country about the laws of the United States?

    Who, for that matter, writes an open letter to leaders of a country with which we're negotiating nuclear agreements, telling them they shouldn't be negotiating anything with this particular president when it's this particular congress that will ultimately have to approve? 

    From the letter:  "For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.  As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.
    "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."

     Who writes this without knowing that congress only approves and does not ratify a treaty?

    "First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them.  In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.  A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).  Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement."

    Who does that without knowing that it's not just our country in negotiations with Iran, but a UN coalition made up of five other countries--the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany?

    Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, did his own schooling yesterday:

    "I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law.
    The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.
    I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement 'with the stroke of a pen', as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law."

    So how did Tom Cotton get 46 other senators, many of them senior senators and wannabe presidential candidates, to sign their names at the bottom of that misdirected, miscalculated, misinformed mess? 

    I can hardly wait to hear from the signers--the ones who woke up this morning, as if from a hangover, thinking, "What in hell? Where am I?  What did I do?"

    The seven Republican senators who didn't sign:
    1. Flake (AZ)
    2. Collins (ME)
    3. Corker (TN)
    4. Murkowski (AK)
    5. Alexander (TN)
    6. Coats (IN)
    7. Cochran (MS)


    And, man, oh, man, (Got that from Biden) didn't the shit hit the fan?  It did.  In great steaming gobs.  So many are responding at so many different sources, it's impossible, even at this early stage, to link to them all. 

    Bernie Sanders accused the signers of sabotage.  And Joe Biden said this:

    “In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country--much less a longtime foreign adversary–that the president does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them,” Biden wrote. “This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments-a message that is as false as it is dangerous.”

    To which, Tom Cotton, the author of the now infamous letter, who, at this writing, has no foreign policy or national security experience whatsoever, responded:

    “Joe Biden, as [President] Barack Obama’s own secretary of defense has said, has been wrong about nearly every foreign policy and national security decision in the last 40 years,” Cotton said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” in a reference to former Pentagon chief Robert Gates, who ripped Biden in a tell-all memoir after leaving office.
    And on it goes.  There is no end to the disrespect and outright hatred for this president.  The caterwauling against him raises by a thousand decibels each year he is in office.  The haters, including those members of congress who have made it their mission to take him down by any means necessary, aren't finished yet.  If this doesn't work--and it won't--they'll move on to something else.
    It's worth noting that this all came down on the same weekend the country was recognizing the sacrifices made by the Civil Rights marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago in Selma, Alabama.  On Saturday, the same day the Open Letter to the Islamic Leaders of Iran became public, our president, Barack Obama, gave the speech of his life at the entrance of the "Bloody Sunday" bridge.
    In his speech President Obama said,
    "The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities – but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.  

    What they did here will reverberate through the ages. Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible; that love and hope can conquer hate." 

     And this is why the haters, even those members of congress who will never give this president the legitimacy he deserves, will lose.  We've made too many sacrifices in too many places at too many times to give in and give up and let them win. 


    (Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)



    Brava, Ramona. I have nothing to add. I jus t hope they don't get away with it. (If it's up to CNN they will).

    I don't know what's going on with CNN lately.  Wolf just likes a controversy and will go anywhere he has to to get one going, but some of the others who were move evenhanded at one time are letting us down.  Not that I expect them to be liberal, I just expect them to look at both sides--and to acknowledge that the Obama and Hillary hate machines exist.

    The entire premise of the letter is absurd. They honestly believe that the leadership of Iran doesn't understand our system of government? Hardly. If it weren't so incendiary it would be laughable. I think it's safe to say that Kahmenei has forgotten more than Cotton will ever know.

    They just can't be embarrassed.  That makes them a formidable enemy.  (I'm talking about the 47 senators, not the Iranian leaders.  Sad to say.)

    Remember that the author of this absurdly sophomoric letter has been on the job for less than two and one-half months. What a narcissistic, hubristic POS...and what is with all those dinosaurs falling into place with this little chippie?

    All I can think is that they've been terrorized/seduced by the Tea Party and the Kochs.  There is nothing normal about the Republicans anymore and this just cements it.

    Now Bobby Jindal wants Joe Biden to apologize to Tom Cotton.  Jindal is either starving for attention or is just plain nuts.


    Why they let such a newbie take the lead on this is bugging me. Perhaps to get the job done, then throw the expendable kid under the bus when it blows up?

    There is the US of A.

    And according to the Constitution, there is one figure to respond to foreign issues.

    The Senate okays certain treaties.


    You know
     We've made too many sacrifices in too many ways at too many times to give in...

    As if this means anything, I hereby give unto Ramona, the Dayly Blog of the Day Award for this here Dagblog Site, given to all of here from all of me.

    I certainly have been critical of the Prez, in the old days.

    But damn, who the hell ever yelled liar from the audience before?

    And who ever called the prez a traitor?

    I dunno, but your piece as well as other discussions by folks like Stewart, get to me.

    But you are not a comedian.

    The Dayly Blog of the Day Award!  I'm honored.  Thank you!

    These pieces get to me, too, Richard.  There are almost no words for what has happened.  Sometimes I wish I was a comedian.  Might make it easier.

    There were numerous comment over on Kos about how nuts Cotton was last fall before the election.  These were from liberals in Arkansas.  This guy believes he has been chosen by God to lead this country.  Now he has got competition from others chosen by God.  Walker and Cruse comes to mind.  But this guy is really off his chain and thinks he will succeed. He behaved like this in Arkansas State House too. 

    I hope voters wake up.

    OK it is time to follow the money on this. Cotton is going to meet on Wednesday with defense contractors at an annual meeting of the National Defense Industrial Association. Hmmm...I smell money.

    Cotton strongly advocates higher defense spending and a more aggressive foreign policy. As The New Republic’s David Ramsey noted, “Pick a topic — Syria, Iran, Russia, ISIS, drones, NSA snooping — and Cotton can be found at the hawkish outer edge of the debate…During his senate campaign, he told a tele-townhall that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas was an ‘urgent problem.'”

    On Iran, Cotton has issued specific calls for military intervention. In December he said Congress should consider supplying Israel with B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs — both items manufactured by NDIA member Boeing — to be used for a possible strike against Iran.


    He is a fire breathing war hawk. "Tehran Tom"

    Democratic Colorado Rep. Jared Polis took shots at Republican Sen. Tom Cotton on Twitter Tuesday, labeling the Iraq War veteran as “Tehran Tom” for his role in a letter sent to Iran.

    “Tehran Tom took his case directly to the Iranian government,” Mr. Polistweeted to his nearly 32,000 followers.


    Letter writing seems to be his MO. 

    In 2006, Tom Cotton, a twentysomething US Army lieutenant serving in Iraq, wrote an open letter calling for the prosecution and imprisonment of two of the New York Times' most prominent reporters, Eric Lichtblau and James Risen, who had just broken a major story about how the government was tracking terrorist financing. The letter, which also called for the prosecution of Bill Keller, the Times' then-executive editor, was initially published on the conservative blog PowerLine but soon went viral.


    When you read the Mother Jones article he has been the darling with the black helicopter wing of the GOP. 

    Good stuff, Momoe.  Thanks.  Bill Cristol (on AM Joe) thinks the letter was the only way those 47 senators could go, considering that the prez won't listen to them.  Right.  No mention of Tom Cotton's background, of course.  

    He's another hotshot like Cruz and he'll be working hard to get his name in the media.  So he's a bit of a war nut.  But I still can't figure out how he got those 46 senators to sign that ridiculous letter. 

    (Bill Cristol thinks Hillary's emails makes a far bigger story.  So predictable.)

    God has a great sense of humor, a real practical joker. Keeps telling people to run for president and then they lose. hahahahaha

    I know.  It seems to run in the ranks of the GOP and their fundies support. 


    I hope you're well.  A couple of points, none of which is intended to justify the tactics of the 47 senators as a matter of politics, tradition surrounding the fuzzy constitutional parameters relating to international relations, or as a simple matter of respecting the president.  And, while it is anything but prudent to do anything to undermine the authority of those at a bargaining table, I push back with vigor on the notion that this public letter will have any impact on the negotiations.  That's just wrong, and so I think folks need to take a deep breath and focus on what really matters, and that is whether a deal which the White House has publicly stated must be at least 10 years (double digits) needs to be reviewed by Congress, and if so, how so?

    It is my position that both the president and the congress should be faulted for failing to deal with oversight issues at the beginning of the negotiations.  In my world, a union would be skewered for failing to deal with ratification issues before entering negotiations, and for good reason. 

    Here, oversight and ratification issues should have been dealt with earlier as a matter of fairness to the American people, to our bargaining partners, and indeed in particular to Iranian negotiators (whom we assume are bargaining in good faith for the purposes of the point I'm driving a)t.  Think of it this way -- there is no question who has the final say on the Iranian side and that's how it should be -- from a bargaining perspective anyway.

    So oversight was not dealt with earlier and the Republicans have misbehaved, but not all of them.  I think the president needs to take the bull by the horns and drive home that wedge we see between the 47 folks who signed the letter and folks like Senator Corker, and work something out).  The focus on the politics misses the point, and that is, think about this:

    Do progressives/liberals really believe that going forward a multi-year agreement on an issue that the president has consistently stated is critical to American national security is one that should be left to any future president to make unilaterally? 





    Hi Bruce, hope all is well with you, too.

    The only way to deal with this letter is to deal with the letter.  The background is all well and good but nothing justifies a letter of this kind.  An open letter to the president--okay.  An open letter to the American people--okay.  But an open letter to the Islamic leaders of Iran while we're in negotiations over nuclear limitations, telling them to ignore our president because Congress has the higher authority--not okay.

    All the rest is distraction.  The real story is the letter.

    I guess it depends on what you think the issues are.  I would say that the issue of congressional oversight over an agreement of the magnitude you appear to concede this one to be trumps a disrespectful and meaningless stunt that has traction on MSNBC for a few days.

    I may be missing your point here but hasn't the issue of ratification and congressional approval already been decided?  AS I understand it, Congress is never involved in the negotiations or the ratification.  Their obligation comes later, with an up or down vote for approval.

    I know you're looking at it from a union negotiator POV but this goes far beyond a simple disagreement about where each branch fits into this picture.  As much as I would like to think this is just some off-the-wall stunt, I see it as a sign of a broader problem, where our own elected officials are making claims for powers they don't have. 

    Twice now, in less than a month, the Republicans have publicly gone over the president's head in order to embarrass him and make it appear that his powers have been diminished now that they are in control.  In some countries that might be considered the opening volley of a coup attempt.

    I don't believe the letter will have any impact on the negotiations, either.  it's just not that important in that venue.  But it is important here.  This is a battle for power.  if they get away with it, it reinforces their will to go to war with Iran.  Those 47 senators are making it clear they're not going to settle for negotiating and they're scape-goating a president they consider too weak to get the job done.

    Whether they have the authority to do that appears to have been settled.  They don't.  But so far not one of those signers is backing down, and we need to take their stance seriously.  It won't blow over in a few days, as you suggest.  The battle lines have been drawn.

    In the 1936 case US vs Curtiss-Wright Export Corp.

    Justice Sutherland wrote in his opinion of the Court:

    The ["powers of the federal government in respect of foreign or external affairs and those in respect of domestic or internal affairs"] are different, both in respect of their origin and their nature. The broad statement that the federal government can exercise no powers except those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and such implied powers as are necessary and proper to carry into effect the enumerated powers, is categorically true only in respect of our internal affairs.

    And he added:

    It is important to bear in mind that we are here dealing not alone with an authority vested in the President by an exertion of legislative power, but with such an authority plus the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations–a power which does not require as a basis for its exercise an act of Congress, but which, of course, like every other governmental power, must be exercised in subordination to the applicable provisions of the Constitution.

    Plenary means "full"


     This is one of the broadest influence on Presidential power to negotiate with foreign countries.

    This open letter that 47 signed shows how incompetent they really are.  This court ruling is now floating about on the internet. 

    This is also being passed around on the internet. It is also probably over 200,000 now.  

    We are at 190,471 signatures.  Sign and share.   https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/file-charges-against-47-us-senators-violation-logan-act-attempting-undermine-nuclear-agreement/NKQnpJS9

     The Logan Act is not really enforceable.  But it just shows that people noticed and don't like it. 

    I think it's wrongheaded and reflective of something that goes way beyond this letter for folks to bring up a Logan Act passed in 1799, which has never convicted anyone, anytime, particularly when since that time over two hundred years plus we have recognized the full importance and critical nature of our First Amendment.  


    I am not wedded to ratification per se.  I am wedded to an appropriate review of an issue that the president himself has consistently stated is in the national security interest of the United States.  I am not prepared to cede this amount of authority to all future executives on matters of war and peace, and I don't think anyone should be so prepared.  I think it is far more significant in the long run and I can assure you I've been taking this position way before Senator Cotton ever thought of writing his letter.  

    It has become such a joke now Ramona, and not because of a letter.  Yesterday, Secretary Kerry told Congress this will be a non-binding agreement, if negotiated?  He says that's been our position all along.  I think he made that up, and in any event what in the heck does "non-binding" mean other than coming up with a way to avoid congressional oversight.  I'm pinching myself to see if this is all a dream and the Democrats haven't switched positions on the unilateral power of the Executive to make war.



    You're the lawyer, Bruce, and I trust your interpretation, but it's as if you can't see the trees for the forest on this one.  If Obama is overstepping and if Kerry has it wrong,  they are separate issues that need to be dealt with.  It might even happen in a logical, sensible way if the two branches of congress would behave like responsible statesmen and work diligently to solve the issues.  They won't. 

    Their main goal is to bring this president and anyone involved with him down.  They're focused laser-like on the president and all else is just so much collateral damage.  They're a dangerous bunch.

    Obama may be totally wrong in his approach on Iran, or, when the dust clears, he may turn out to have been right, at least partially, but no matter which way it turns out, we as a country will suffer over the way this congress is approaching this problem--or any other problem for years to come.

    And btw, isn't a "non-binding agreement" an oxymoron?

    You're a good egg Ramona.  But, please, I know absolutely nothing about international law beyond what I read and hear but which has not gone beyond reading text.  And forgive me for looking past your critical point, that the Cotton letter is reflective of a larger effort to undermine the power of the president, and they are doing so in ways that fall outside of the boundaries recognized even by those of us who generally would make fun of things like "protocol" (at least in the abstract).  

    Please understand that the Bibis and Cottons of the world have also undermined what I and many others are trying to express in connection with how this deal is shaping up.  I think there are many Americans like me, a large part of the American Jewish community and a large segment of the American public who have legitimate deals about this deal and how it is -- so far as we know -- shaping up.  Perhaps that concern has led me to focus more on the role of Congress here, and I have been shocked at the tactical failure of both Congress and te president to have dealt with whether these negotiations will require congressional ratification or some form of lesser oversight at the threshold of negotiations. 

    But what's done is done, no?  We have to look forward and that's why in the initial comment I suggested that President Obama play both smart and correct politics by breaking bread with the Republicans who did not sign the letter, and the growing number among the 47 who wish to make penance having now realized how stupid they look.  That's what I'd love to see for so many reasons, namely, the seizure of a real opportunity to isolate those who would wish to throw out and gut everything we have worked so hard for.  I have no problem with politics per se.

    Mind you,  I am not an executive power prude, and hardly so.  Indeed, I was overwhelmed with pride, and remain so, by the president's immigration decision.  But there, despite the potential administrative procedural defect issue, I think he acted with constitutional prudence in exercising his authority to enforce federal immigration law.  

    I am pleased that you too would like a better explanation about the nature of a "non-binding" agreement, and when it how it was first announced to be non-binding.  I see no pathway for any oversight whatsoever until the toothpaste is out of the tube and the deal has been effected.

    Finally, "non-binding" agreement does appear to be oxymoronish indeed.  So, what I've learned since all of yesterday tha the state department has guidelines on such agreements which I will try to link to later and which discuss the value of "political" agreements, but also discuss the importance of making it clear from the beginning to all parties that negotiations are leading to a non-binding political resolution.


    Looking forward to it, Bruce.  I usually steer clear of the discussions on foreign policy since I know so little about the intricate machinations required to keep everyone happy enough so as not to be in danger of leveling the planet.  I "lurk" in those discussions and learn a lot, but clearly not enough to add anything to them!

    But the issue of the open letter burned my butt, and here I have a definite opinion. . .lol.

    Here's the State Department's Guidance on Non-Binding Agreements.  Senatory Kerry stated yesterday that he has always stated that we were negotiating a non-binding agreement with Iran.  I and others too never heard of that before, but. . .  In any event, the second bold by me about avoiding ambiguity is basically the precise point I was making about the failure of the parties to address oversight/ratification, at inception.

    Governments frequently wish to record in writing the terms of an understanding or arrangement between them without, by so doing, creating obligations that would be binding under international law. The language, titles, and techniques used for this purpose vary considerably. While not binding under international law, a non-binding instrument may carry significant moral or political weight. Such instruments are often used in our international relations to establish political commitments.

    Ambiguity as to whether or not a document is legally binding should be avoided. When negotiating a nonbinding instrument, both/all sides should confirm their understanding that the instrument does not give rise to binding obligations under international law.

    That memorandum is an explanation of the use of language both in the process of negotiation and the communication of the results to others. In the last paragraph it says:

    The Office of Treaty Affairs encourages agencies and offices to share the texts of proposed non-binding documents with the office, which is responsible by law for determining whether a particular document is a binding “international agreement” for purposes of reporting to Congress.

    The process is a kind of proofreading of proposals so that the Department of State doesn't trip over conflicting or overriding conditions before presenting those proposals to Congress. This is a working part of the oversight process, not an abnegation of it.

    I don't follow your point, sorry. These are guidelines from State, explaining the significance of non-binding agreements (as distinguished from treaties) in international relations.  Among other things, the guidelines state that parties should make sure it is clear whether agreement will or will not be binding. Secretary Kerry says it will not be binding.  Iran's foreign minister has stated that the agreement will be binding under international law.  Sounds ambiguous.

    Maybe you are referring to statements like this by Mohammad Javad Zarif

    "He warned that a change of administrations would not relieve the U.S. of its obligations under an international agreement reached under the previous administration. Any attempt to change the terms of that agreement, he added, would be a "blatant violation of international law."

    The memo you linked to is not saying a "non binding agreement" is equivalent to the "international agreement" Zarif is talking about. The Executive branch simply does not have the power to make an irreversible agreement alone. A good explanation of the difference can be found in this WSJ article:

    But treaties are also trickier to come by, because they need Senate approval. That is one reason why presidents in recent decades have opted for executive agreements, which typically don’t require congressional input. But they carry a major drawback: they can be reversed by the next president.

    If the Foreign Secretary of Iran does not understand the difference, there is no need for us to repeat the error.

    I'm not agreeing with the foreign minister of Iran.  I'm saying that if the Iranians believe at this juncture that any agreement will be binding under "international law", and if Secretary Kerry stated just yesterday that it would be a non-binding agreement, then such a state of affairs is contrary to the guidelines of the State Department.  And I believe those guidelines are consistent with a fundamental notion in bargaining, that the parameters or rules under which the parties will bargain are understood at the threshold. 

    We are talking past each other to at least some degree.
    I agree that it is wrong to have Iranians think an offer is not what they have been told it is (by somebody). On the other hand, stating the confusion is only the result of a small set of words in a State Department document ignores what so much of negotiation is actually about. Actual negotiations sound like this:

    Give me something that won't shut down the entire deal.

    Lots packed in that little nugget of a comment! -- See below.

    If this was a debate about a theoretical situation in a world that was working, or if we had a Congress that was working, I would be wholly on your side because I think that such questions should be answered by agreement of the representatives of an honestly informed public. That is not the world we live in and there is not a functional Congress for the President to try to work with.

     I recall being pissed that Bush unilaterally withdrew from the anti ballistic missile defense treaty which was an aggressive act never debated publicly, never presented to Congress for approval, was presented to the American people as a done deal and was one that was unequivocally illegal to do. There was no ambiguity there.

    I do not see Obama breaking new ground or setting any precedent even if he is working in what might be a grey area if viewed in what could be called a Constitutional strict-constructionist way.

    Failure to come to an agreement with Iran greatly increases both their likelihood of eventually having a nuclear bomb but also the likelihood of of another war using that threat as an excuse. I believe that many of the warmongering hawks are concern-trolling as a tactic to maintain what they present as an excuse for war with Iran. That is crazy.

    Now, in this particular instance, at this particular time, is not the time to become purist on balances of power relating to vital decisions of war and peace. Our Presidents have been given hugely inappropriate power to wage war on their own volition so I believe that in this case our current President should be given every benefit of the doubt when attempting to wage peace with what appears to be a good, affective, and verifiable agreement which would accomplish the good thing that the monger hawks "claim" they want, which is to prevent Iran getting a nuclear bomb. An agreement now is probably the last best chance to do so. 

    Our Presidents have the power, and have used it over and over, to take both small and large steps towards the crazy. I support this one rare step back from the mega-crazy.

    I appreciate your response, and its consistency with what I understand to be your well thought-out perspective generally on these kinds of issues. 

    I don't see the lack of oversight you do. The State Department is the team actually doing the work on the negotiating side. They directly advise the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about their progress or lack thereof.
    In January, Deputy Secretary Blinken pleaded with the Senators to chill out with piling on more sanctions so as to give negotiations more time to get somewhere. This testimony underscores two ways that Congress is involved with ratification: They can communicate what is beyond any possibility of being signed by themselves.
    They can push forward legislation that make negotiation of any kind completely meaningless.

    The suggestion that the President can just sign off on decades of commitments to a Mullah inside some closet somewhere is not true.

    If we can't get our extremists clerics under control, how is anybody supposed to enter into an agreement with the US government?

    I would laugh but you're too close to the truth. 

    Okay, I'll laugh a little, but you're still too close to the truth.

    So far, 22 newspapers are blasting the Open Letter to Iran in their editorials.  But John McCain says ho-hum, so what, he signs lots of letters.  And Marco Rubio says he "absolutely"  would sign it again.  Their phony bravado is pathetic.  They could at least say "Oops".

    Well, I am just glad that the operation to get Osama BinLadin was secret. I can only imagine the open letter he would have gotten in order to deny the President that victory. 

    Of course they deny it any way. Can you imagine if it had happened with Dubya was Prez?  Another Mission Accomplished event, a ticker tape parade, and a proposal to put his smirky puss on Mt Rushmore.

    Ask any GOPer about Obama getting BinLadin and you'll just get an eye roll with a statement that it was the Navy Seals and Obama should get no credit. I honestly believe they would have sabotaged the operation if they had known about it. 

    No doubt about it, CVille. They would either have sabotaged it or would have done it without him if they could have.  Giving him credit for anything sticks in their craw so much they would rather destroy any progress than to let him have a win.

    The headlines haven't been kind to those fools.  It is about time the media takes a good look at their misbehavior.  I am waiting on some poling from this.  As far as Rubio is concerned he will be toast if Debbie WS runs for senate. He maybe toast anyways.  

    I don't think it's going away any time soon.  The NYT Editorial Board wrote a scathing editorial called "The Republican Idiocy on Iran".

    I think it has very long legs.  I have noticed there is very little trolling on comment threads in support of this letter.  There is always a group of garden variety of trolls that you have to wade through in comments but not this time. Republicans in Congress is behaving badly and people are not pleased with it.  

    Bruce suggests that the Whitehouse should be working on winning over the Republicans that are not completely on board with this.  My guess they are doing just that. 

    Thanks for the link.  

    Most of us don't have the stomach for another war in the near future.  This attempt to scuttle the President stinks with war making. 

    I don't think anyone is advocating war, or anyone worth paying attention to (or I could be wrong).  But I will say that another sound reason for oversight is that the president should explain how the only options are accepting this non-binding agreement he may propose or go to war.  I don't accept that at face value, and it has nothing to do with the president.


    Could you explain what options you think could work?  This letter said very specifically that Congress will not accept any agreement that allows any nuclear development on the part of Iran...in fact it said they already don't accept the President's agreement even though it doesn't yet exist. They do not want sanctions lifted, and it was pretty clear from their own words that they have no intention to evaluate in good faith, any agreement made by this President.  

    Do you honestly believe they would actually approve ANY agreement that the President brings to them?  I do not, and it is because they just finished telling the world that they won't.  They don't want oversight; they want nullification and humiliation of our President.  Between bringing the Netanyahu circus to Congress, and now this insulting letter; they have made their goals clear.  If there is one lesson this President has learned the hard way is that he cannot trust Republicans to do the right thing.  I hope that Democrats do not vote for the Corker/Menendez bill and stand in solidarity against this attempt to usurp the President's responsibility and power. I would like to see the President present his agreement to Congress, however, and discuss it with them.  But veto power?  No  

    That said, I still would like to get your input on what would be an agreement that Obama could bring to Congress that they would accept.  I hope I can learn something!  Thanks!



    I believe oversight is important for a number of reasons, including any notion that a deal which may be agreed to meets the president's own criteria.  Remember, the president has stated that he will not sign any deal and that no deal is better than a bad deal.  So, that's the standard, and so we may have a dispute as to whether the Congress should be able to evaluate any deal based on that standard.

     I wrote that I would like the president to explain the notion -- if he believes this -- that we have two choices, and two choices, only, this non-binding agreement or war.  What I wrote is that I don't accept that at face value.  And further I believe without reservation that the president should bear the burden of explaining these two stark choices, why continued sanctions won't work to yield a more acceptable deal, or why easing sanctions perhaps as an incentive to continue negotiations also won't work.  That's why oversight is important.

    In any event, if you think my opinion is relevant, I begin with the premise that Iran has negotiated a very good deal and that it needs the deal and is not about to walk away -- regardless of the existence of hardliners in actual control.  There would have been no negotiations had the hardliners not wanted a deal.  And so that, combined with the willingness of even strident hardliners like Israel's prime minister to move off the no enrichment capacity position that he had held on too for so long, suggests that continued negotiations are a third alternative to consider.  Bibi's former positions, by the way, was also the position of the president back when he was running for re-election in 2012. 

    I also believe that the idea floated by Bibi in his speech to expand issues to include non-nuclear issues, while belittled by everyone and anyone, is actually an excellent idea for reasons I would bet he might not even have understood.  Opening up the field at the bargaining table, just like on a soccer pitch, allows for breathing space when folks at the table are in a jam.  There is more room to negotiate, and sometimes getting a new issue off the table promotes an anxious bargainer to give a little more of what he's been holding back in the nuclear portion of the negotiations.  [Note--This paragraph has been edited because it was totally unreadable, I thought--Substance is same]

    But all of this is speculation because we don't know what has been placed on the table at this time, and so there could be lots of reasons that I'm full of it.   But you asked, so. . .fwiw.

    As to oversight by Congress, I don't believe we can determine its role on matters of critical national security significance based on the composition of the elected officials.  And when I say work with Corker et al.  I'm not insisting that his piece of legislation requiring an up or down vote, etc. is necessary.  But I think there's a chance and the president should seize it, to work on a compromise with moderate Republicans and those in the Democratic Party that don't like the deal but want to work with the president.  Whatever happens, again, IMO, the president's failure to lead and at least attempt to isolate the bad folks, would be a terrible mistake.  I know labor negotiations are different than president/congress negotiations, but it's not rocket science to understand that buy-in by the Corkers of the world would be a great help here and perhaps for remaining years of this presidency.



    Thanks for your response. I appreciate your points and agree with some of them. I wish I could believe that oversight is truly oversight. The Republicans have indicated that they are against this deal before it has seen the light of day. I wish that were not the case, but it is. 

    I guess my remaining question is this:  if President Obama presents Congress with a deal that all other players are on board with, and there is a heavily partisan GOP vote of: NO, what then?  Because frankly I can't imagine any other outcome  can you?

    Yes, it is true that if Congress reviews the deal and makes suggestions which Obama can then in good faith take back to the UN Security Council, that would be ideal. Having lived through SIX years of disrespectful and contemptuous behavior that culminated with this insulting letter, I can't imagine anyone thinking that approval of such an agreement could come to pass, if for no other reason than to simply deny Obama any kind of credit for doing anything, never mind actually being a party to it. 

    It took Obama an incredibly long time to learn this, but he learned it the hard way. 

    From the perspective of a negotiator, and stripping away my bias in an effort to be more clinical, given the fact that we already have had a few extensions, I think it is difficult to get by March 31 without a framework agreement.  And if the parties are close, it doesn't matter what hardliners are screaming or writing away from the table -- the problem constituencies of the respective parties are already well known by now and are baked into the process.  And, while I continue to believe that the president should have resolved oversight and ratification issues earlier, if the Iranian team has a bona fide reason to believe that the U.S. team did not require authorization by Congress (and this has been the public US position), it is now difficult if not impossible to now go back and say: "Hey you know the deal we're this close on, by the way it means nothing unless the hostile folks in Congress get to vote on that."  That's OK at the beginning of bargaining, and in fact that's what's called leverage, but at this stage it's not kosher.  I'm not defending Iran, but I do recognize reasonable expectations arising out of a bargaining relationship, where a special bond develops that is the spiritual component of getting a deal. 

    On the other hand, whatever has been represented at the table to Iran and our coalition partners doesn't alter the role of Congress.  So that's why I'd like to see a compromise for oversight and for something like a delayed vote from Congress in order to give "peace a chance" or whatever. I'll say this--the oversight issue could be resolved if there are Democrats and Republicans who take oversight as seriously as I do.  And there are any number of ways to work out an arrangement to satisfy all.  The president needs to bring in the Corkers of the world, and he should do it now.

    Finally, I was going to write about the factual predicate for my particular interest in oversight but I've spilled enough ink.  I supported the president twice, the second time with a vigor that many Democrats no longer shared.  His position on Iran in 2012 was identical if not more extreme than the position he mocks Bibi and others for taking at this point.  The only difference was that Obama thought that negotiations with strong sanctions should be attempted before going to war.   Check out what the president said in the final debate with Romney on Iran, for example, and try to distinguish the positions he takes there with what hardliners appear to be pushing for now.  I think it would help give context to why some of us are unhappy with how things are proceeding, but who don't write letters to the Supreme Leader and continue to respect the president.

    But, as a matter of fact, Obama now ridicules positions that he formerly stated were fundamental, namely the permanent dismantling of Iran's infrastructure that could be used to develop a bomb.  He now appears to be intent on an agreement that would contain Iran's capacity, and not eliminate it as he pledged was necessary back in 2012.  I know things change over time, but I would like the president to explain why his position has changed so drastically, and whether he ever intended to pursue the kind of deal that he promised to pursue back in the 2012 campaign.  It's not a gotcha point, but it's an important one.  I and many supporters of the president didn't need any promise about Iran to get the guy's vote.  But it bothers me that he mocks those like me who are confused by the radical departure from his campaign promises.  It's fair to ask him to explain himself, and I promise I will listen in utmost good faith to his response.  But a response he owes nonetheless, and Congress should be involved in consideration of any such response.

    P.S. Here's what the president said about Iran on the eve of the election in his debate with Romney (my bold):

    OBAMA: We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles.

    And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel's national security. We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.

    Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. And for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that's unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.

    So the work that we've done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States president, me, who said we're not going to take any options off the table.

    The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that, during the course of this campaign, he's often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake, because when I've sent young men and women into harm's way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.

    Reality Check: The Iran sanctions are enforced by Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — the five permanent members of the Security Council — plus Germany. This is not a US going it alone, no permission slip needed deal, it is a unified international UN process.

    If we or  any one or more of those nations splits from the process, vetoes further measures, or lifts its own or the UN sanctions, the sanctions/negotiations game is pretty much over.

    Hissy fits and 'educational letters' to ayatollahs by Republicans trying to make a name for themselves with their Fox News indoctrinated base are not going to affect the policy of any other nation on this issue.

    And if international cooperation fails on Iran, unilateral pre-emptive war by the United States, boots on the ground and occupation of Iran (many times the size of Iraq) would seem the only option to guarantee no nuclear weapon development. Be well everyone.

    Reply to Moat from Above.  Thanks Moat, but I don't rely on the guidance memo as if it's law, but honestly I don't think I was the only one who first knew that the president was negotiating an "non-binding" agreement until yesterday.  And I didn't know what it meant, and certainly not in the context of international law.  So I went on the Secretary's website and found this guidance and I shared it for guidance.  And I think one point in the guidance is well-taken, to wit that clarity about the binding nature of an agreement being negotiated is something that is extremely important (edited).  That's a point in the guidance, but it's a point far more universal in bargaining having nothing to do in its genesis with this guidance memo!

    Does that help a little even????

    P.S. That was friendly snark but I just didn't feel like leaving a smiley face, so I hope you took it that way. :)

    I don't claim to understand all of the dimensions of the language used in these documents. I looked at examples of "successful treaties", ie, proposals that made it all the way to becoming "law.." Nothing jumps out as a sure bet of what works or not. The only thing I can point to so far is that they all started in this iffy place of diplomacy where nothing is promised until it actually is a part of a deal.

    I bet your experience as a negotiator is full of examples of that place before there is a place..

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