Tom Cotton’s grandstand play
With a few tweaks to Scripture, herewith today’s relevant verse: What therefore President Obama hath joined together, let Republicans put asunder.
The letter from 47 Republican senators to Iran’s leaders, proffering a civics lesson on the U.S. Constitution, has predictably triggered outrage. In a sneeringly adolescent tone, the senators basically said that Obama will be gone in two years and that they’ll still be here. In other words, any agreement could be null in January 2017.
The letter was a bad but not apocalyptic idea and illustrates one of the more dangerous aspects of Washington’s indigenous narcissistic disorder. The world does not revolve around one’s own exclusive perspective or wisdom – she wrote, ironically.
It must be relatively simple, as one clips along the marble halls of the Russell Senate Office Building, speaking only to those of like mind, to decide that undermining the president is a public service. Hating the president isn’t personal; it’s a national imperative! He’s not our leader, after all. Therefore, he shall not be allowed to lead. Collateral damage? Well, such is the toll we pay for truth, justice and My Way.
Yes, the preceding paragraph could as easily have been written about the president, whose approach to governance has become an executive action (or agreement, in this case) and a pen. The disorder isn’t unique to one party and is, apparently, highly contagious.
Tom Cotton, the freshman Republican senator from Arkansas, whom Salon anointed “Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree,” led the charge not only against Iran but also against the president of the United States, not to mention our allies.
What a pity that my editors insist that I’ve used up my lifetime quota of “ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie.” Had I known that a senator named Cotton was heading to the Hill, I’d have exercised greater restraint through the years.
Instead, I’m reduced to noting that ol’ Tom Cotton, who is actually the youngest senator, is wasting no time establishing himself as a party leader. Rounding up other Republican signatories, Cotton launched a bunker-buster smack in the middle of the negotiations. But to what avail?
Iran quickly dismissed the letter as “propaganda.” Democrats were forced into a partisan corner. Even the seven heroic Republicans who declined to sign the letter have been undermined as they fix their sights on a longer-term strategy to derail a bad deal.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who did not sign the letter, has sponsored what he hoped would be a veto-proof bill requiring congressional approval of any deal with Iran. But for it to be veto-proof, he needs Democrats.
Nice going, guys.
In the great meanwhile, inching up to the March 24 framework deadline with Iran, there is as yet neither a deal to protest nor details to fret about. The “framework” is a sort-of, more-or-less outline of theoretically agreeable points, while the “deadline” is a kinda-sorta aspirational goal line for a deal that may or may not happen.
So what was the rush to tell Iran, essentially, “You’re wasting your time?”
The 47 senators are like food critics who condemn a chef before he has finished preparing the entree. Their letter also signals to the world that they have zero respect for our president, or for the other world powers attempting to try diplomacy first.
This cannot have been helpful to any but the signees’ legendary standing in their own minds.
In comments about the letter, his lips stretched a little tighter than usual, Obama suggested that the 47 were seeking “common cause” with Iran’s hard-right religious leaders.
The foregoing observations don’t mean that Republicans are wrong about their concerns. Many Democrats are concerned, too. No American disagrees that Iran is a bad actor undeserving of faith or trust. But there are other ways to accomplish our goals than profiling for political profit. The 47 may have felt like Zorro, inking their opposition with the bold felt tips of their swords, but they were acting like children at the school fair whose single purpose is to dunk the principal.
No one is jockeying for a bad deal, plainly. And everyone at the table and beyond knows that the United States and Israel will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. Period. Thus, an attempt at a diplomatic agreement is more than a hedge against the unthinkable – a nuclear-armed Iran. It is a message to the world that, if and when we do take military action, it will be as a last resort.
At least we tried.