Pen and Phone

People are really mad about this letter to Iran.
But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. And just imagine what those same Republicans would have said if Democratic senators had tried such a thing when George W. Bush was president.
Yeah, good thing nothing like that ever happened.
Bear in mind this was not an official trip to Europe and the Middle East. Kerry was not visiting as a representative of the United States Government. He was in no way commissioned by the executive branch to negotiate alliances with foreign countries. So what was he doing there?
What, never? Well, hardly ever.
[Senator] Obama has built much of his campaign for the Presidency on the fact that he has been against the war in Iraq from the very beginning and would demand an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq were he to be elected President. Yet, on his first trip to Iraq recently, he is alleged to have attempted to negotiate a delay in troop withdrawal from Iraq....

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari reports that Obama made his ‘demands’ the central focus of their talks while he was in Iraq.
“He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington,” Zebari said in an interview.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops – and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its “state of weakness and political confusion.”
But that's just a tu quoque; to stand on it would be an informal fallacy. So let's give a positive argument.

Article I of the US Constitution gives Congress the following powers related to foreign policy, none of which are subject to checks and balances from Article II.
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises...

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States...

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water[.]
In addition to that, Congress has the power to raise and order all the armed forces of the United States, checked by the President's commanding of those powers.

The President's powers to conduct foreign policy are all checked by the Congress. Treaties require the advice and consent of a supermajority of the Senate. Appointing ambassadors requires advice and consent. Commanding the armed forces at war, in theory if less in practice lately, requires Congressional consent to having a war.

I say 'in theory if less in practice lately' with Obama's Libyan adventure especially in mind. The President has frequently acted as if the Constitutional checks on his power did not exist. Similarly, he has ignored his oath to faithfully enforce the laws that Congress has enacted whenever he sees fit to do so, not just in the recent 'executive amnesty' but by directing those under his direct control not to enforce laws nor to defend certain laws in court when they came under challenge.

Why should he not expect the Congress to respond in kind, and to wield its 'pen and phone' authority with as little regard for him as he has shown for them?

If he wants a new atmosphere of comity and cooperation with the Congress, the ball is very much in his court.


Texan99 said...

Iran's Foreign Minister didn't appreciate the GOP letter, which makes me vewy vewy sad.

"Foreign Minister Zarif added that "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 fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.

"The Iranian Foreign Minister added that "change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Irans peaceful nuclear program." He continued "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."

I'm about as interested in Iran's view of international law as I am in his view of what it takes to reach a binding treaty under U.S. law. And it sounds like the GOP senators performed a useful service by sending the letter, if Iran's foreign minister's grasp of U.S. law is this weak.

Grim said...

It is my considered opinion that US internal law very often determines a hell of a lot more about inter-state relations than anything "international law" ever does.

Grim said...

But yeah, it's been a fun day. Real discussions I've had today include:

"Isn't this treason?"

Of course not. Treason is aiding the enemy. The President is the one doing that. Besides, Congress could declare war on Iran tomorrow if it wanted to do so. Sending a letter is hardly an affront.

"Well, it's at least insubordinate."

No, it's not, because Congress is not a subordinate part of the government. The President runs the Executive Branch. He is not Dear Leader standing over the whole of the Federal government.

"If anything could be unpatriotic, this is unpatriotic."

Well, I'm glad to hear that patriotism is suddenly important to you! But "if anything could be"?

DL Sly said...

"If he wants a new atmosphere of comity and cooperation with the Congress, the ball is very much in his court."

Now that right there is funny given the propensity of Xerxes to *take his ball and go home to pout*.