Unpatriotic! Unconstitutional! Treasonous! Illegal! The reaction to the letter signed by 47 Senators telling Iran that any treaty signed will be un-done in two years was swift and brutal. Some of the harshest condemnation came from those who oppose any agreement with Iran, too, so it wasn’t just Democrats this time. But was it really all those things that have been alleged?
The short answer is that today’s popular media always hyperventilates, so something this unprecedented had to test the limits of hyperbole. Sorry, this blasted through the stratosphere of outrage! But the real problem isn’t this one action, which we can be sure our foreign policy and our democratic-republic will survive. What is more troubling is the new standard set for obstruction and grandstanding that tells us nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to be accomplished in the next two years.
We have to start with how this became a news item in the first place. Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR) is not just a rookie, at 37 years old he’s barely old enough to be a Senator in the first place. He apparently circulated the letter to his more experienced and august colleges who promptly signed onto it, which gives us the first odd thing at the heart of this sorry event.
I may not be an expert on Senate protocol, but I’m fairly sure that in the past the (very) old men of the Senate would have laughed at the gumption and moxie of this young feller and told him how things are done in the protocol-bound Senate. But in 2015 they didn’t. All the Republican senators except seven, including all of the leadership, signed on.
It is leadership which lies at the heart of this question. Barataria asked in November, when the Republicans took the Senate, if they were going to govern or lay low and take pot-shots at Obama. We know the answer now, and it has nothing to do with a choice made by the leadership.
Now, as a Democrat, I should be happy that they are incapable of doing anything. What would happen if they actually passed a balanced budget, for example? Given that they haven’t passed an actual budget of any kind in the House since the Republicans took over there is little to fear that this could happen.
But that’s not good enough. I’m an American first. I see the massive amount of reform needed in our tax code and our inability to audit the Pentagon as we sweep it all under the carpet for the next generation to deal with as debt and I frankly get angry. It’s not a partisan anger about the direction of things, it’s a practical anger at the directionless incompetence displayed.
These little fits of machismo demonstrate what the real problem is, it seems. There is no reward for actual work being done – Hell, if anything, a legislative record is a liability as accomplishment only makes you enemies. We live in a time made for grandstanding without a cause led by rebels without a reason. Shouting past each other is given as a substitute for running the nation somehow.
It goes without saying that Iran is far from popular, as Barataria demonstrated just last week. While peace is obviously desirable, Iran’s track record for mayhem has made them the enemy not just of the United States but truly the enemy deep in the hearts of the vast majority of Americans. That’s why Obama’s response, that the Republicans had formed an alliance with the mullahs of Iran who also take a hard line and resist peace, was perfect.
But it became even worse when the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, took the opportunity to school the Senators in both international and US law. Yes, this little episode only managed to make Iran look like the sane one in the whole process, which doesn’t help either the hawkish or the dovish side.
Which gets us back to the real problem on display here – there is no leadership. The young guy with what “feels like” a good idea is able to cow elected “leaders” in name only into going along with something that should have seemed like a really stupid idea to anyone who could ever claim to be a “statesman”. Apparently, there are only seven such Senators in the ruling Republican caucus.
That’s what is truly pathetic about this sorry episode. It’s not treason or anything like that which hurts the US, it’s the willful, deliberate incompetence wrapped with high-volume grandstanding.
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