Not The Onion: GOP Senators Tell Iran: Obama’s Not The Boss, We Are

Posted by | March 10, 2015 23:00 | Filed under: Contributors Opinion Politics Ramona Grigg Top Stories

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)


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Copyright 2015 Liberaland
By: Ramona Grigg

Ramona Grigg is a freelance columnist and blogger living in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.. She owns the liberal-leaning blog, Ramona's Voices, and is a contributor to Liberaland and on the masthead at Dagblog.

37 responses to Not The Onion: GOP Senators Tell Iran: Obama’s Not The Boss, We Are

  1. alpacadaddy March 10th, 2015 at 23:14

    I became concerned about Tom Cotton’s radical extremist views when he insisted that it was just fine that people languish forever in Gitmo even though many never were charged with any crime whatsoever. I don’t ‘cotton’ to terrorists (sorry) but it seems to me that any true American Patriot let alone a lawmaker should recognize & respect the concept of ‘due process’. But then I guess this is where the ‘religion’ meets the road… I offer that Tom Cotton and his Tealinquent crew are not so different from those in the Middle East that they assail; both are religious radical extremists, bent on furthering their own particular brand of insanity on those unfortunate enough to give them a willing albeit misinformed audience.

  2. Tim Coolio March 10th, 2015 at 23:36

    People of Iran keep in mind; we have to keep reminding the rightwing regressive neocon bullies here that they lost in 08 and 12

  3. granpa.usthai March 11th, 2015 at 00:39

    included is a copy of our hit song -‘BOMB BOMB BOMB BOMB IRAN’ so you’ll know we’re not immature frat brats singing on a bus trip.
    we want the nuclear warheads that Reagan traded to you in 1983 back!

  4. oldfart March 11th, 2015 at 01:41

    it appears to me that the cruz missile has finally got some competition…

  5. jybarz March 11th, 2015 at 01:44

    I’ve said it before, the GOP wants the cart before the horse in regards to the Iran nuclear negotiation with P5+1, i.e. agreement before negotiation.

    Congress will get its chance to vet the negotiated agreement and, if they agree with it or not, then they can or not ratify it [needs 2/3 Senate to ratify] . If they do ratify it, then it becomes a Treaty, otherwise it doesn’t become a Treaty and has to be renegotiated and so on. However, the President, given the GOP’s antipathy, may not bother getting Congress to ratify it and instead just signs it as an Executive Agreement and hit GOP Congress on the head with a copy of the agreement and tell them suck on it, Numbskulls!

    • rg9rts March 11th, 2015 at 05:52

      This never was to be a treaty…that is what pisses the gopee off.

  6. fahvel March 11th, 2015 at 04:33

    the rest of the so called free world is in a state of perplexed recoil – don’t know how it’s reported in the usa but global comments regarding this issue – from China to France – suggest something Shakespearean – “there’s something rotten in america”

    • rg9rts March 11th, 2015 at 05:51

      They grossly underestimate the severity of the situation

      • fahvel March 11th, 2015 at 08:00

        by they, I assume you mean the 47 #!&% who signed the letter.

        • rg9rts March 11th, 2015 at 08:04

          No those in Europe and elsewhere that have no grasp of the seriousness of the situation here…the RWNJ’s are doing a good job of destroying the nation

          • fahvel March 11th, 2015 at 11:04

            sorry to tell you this but the european community is more in tune with the sad events in the usa than most of your citizens. The news of your mess is reported regularly by a news gang that has no political crap to deal with – so the analyses and the commentary do not have party lines. We have a TV journal that is the live version of LL (somewhat) Last night 20 minutes was spent on the brilliant 47 and their idiocy with more cutting edge material than I’ve gotten from the NYT and Co. Then a fun tear apart of the idiots on fox who reported on the no-go zones here and then sloppily recanted. What makes me sad is that I was born if fuckin Brooklyn and really used to like what the usa stood for but sadly today, it’s a country that seems to be oozing into its 19th century and expressing its might by hurting other people. Waddayagonna do? Oh yeah, I like 99% of your comments – me, just a mean curmudgeon.

            • rg9rts March 11th, 2015 at 11:08

              Then they should understand the situation…the morons here don’t

            • rg9rts March 11th, 2015 at 11:13

              The country has changed and not for the better…The NYT has lost its way ..quite a while ago… My main news source is BBC on PBS.. then the local stuff… I’m upstate on Orange County.. and an old fart too.

            • red-diaper-baby 1942 March 11th, 2015 at 12:28

              Hey, Fahvel, I’m like you — I was born in Brooklyn (in 1942) and now live in Europe. And I agree — here too the media are having lots of fun reporting the ongoings in Congress. But of course it’s also very dangerous, not just to Americans but to the world. I’m concerned about war, but I’m also concerned that lunatics like Inhofe and whatshisname in Florida are preventing any real global collaboration to deal with climate change. Here in southern Finland we’ve had no real winter at all, and spring is at least three weeks early. Of course for the moment it’s nice, but it’s actually a dangerous sign of what’s to come.

            • 4sanity4all March 11th, 2015 at 20:34

              Thank you for the insights. I know that people around the world have more respect for our President than Republicans here at home. People overseas find him to be a thoughtful, respectful man. I think history will heap the praise on him that he deserves, and history will heap shame on the Republicans for their obstructionist techniques and bigoted dirty tricks.

  7. rg9rts March 11th, 2015 at 05:51

    So much for the senates knowledge of constitutional law….there is much more to it than just the second amendment

  8. rocker March 11th, 2015 at 06:00

    I thought the people were the boss in America, guess not

  9. OldLefty March 11th, 2015 at 07:58

    The damage they do to ME personally, (although, only if I let them), is that now I start to feel, that the next time there is a Republican president and a Democratic Congress, I hope the Democrats do the same, even though I realize that is like hoping that the grown ups also throw themselves on the floor and stamp their feet, (even in the middle of a crisis).

    Perhaps the Democrats SHOULD have written to Ibrahim al-Jaafari in 2008 stating that ‘any agreement made between your government and President Bush will be revoked by the next president.’

    It is just more evidence that our current Congress is made up of very silly and unserious
    people put there in very serious times.

    • Ramona Grigg March 11th, 2015 at 08:34

      I’m still baffled by the fact that this lunatic got 46 senators to sign this crazy letter. It’s as if they just signed it without reading it, which seems equally crazy, considering that Tom Cotton has a reputation for crazy, Right Wing stuff.

      I notice there are very few of them out there defending their actions. No, they would rather shift the focus over to the non-story about Hillary’s emails.

      That whole bunch spells trouble. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

      • rocker March 11th, 2015 at 08:37

        “It’s as if they just signed it without reading it,” Sounds familiar doesnt it ?

        • 4sanity4all March 11th, 2015 at 20:29

          Actually, you edited her comment and took it out of context. If you read the entire comment in context, you will see that she did not say or imply what you imply that she said.

      • OldLefty March 11th, 2015 at 08:55

        They truly have no idea what they are doing.

        I think they have no grasp on the issues, and are motivated by a theme said best by Florence SC Republican Rep. Kris Crawford “it is good politics to oppose the
        black guy in the White House”.

        I wrote to MY senator, expressing my disgust and told him to please not respond with a form letter attempting to “educate” me on Iran since I have been following events there since I was in high school and I don’t believe that they know anymore about Iran than they did about the Sunni/Shia rift when they went into Iraq and delivered it into the loving arms of Iran, as THEIR president said, “I thought they were all Muslims”.

        I told [Toomey] that I think I have enough knowledge to be much more confident in our twice elected president’s judgment over that of an opposition party who’s only interest is in preventing him from doing what we elected him to do.

  10. Lolivas March 11th, 2015 at 08:32

    A great commentary Ramona. Thanks for enlightening me on the binding power of executive authority and the foolishness of the 47 members of the Apple Dumpling Gang. They are so transparent and I can only hope the rest of the country (both major parties) see it as well.

    • Ramona Grigg March 11th, 2015 at 08:36

      Thank you. Just hope we can keep this story alive. They’re doing all they can to diminish it or make it go away. it’s a big deal–a much bigger deal than Hillary’s emails.

  11. William March 11th, 2015 at 09:20

    “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.”

  12. Gina March 11th, 2015 at 13:21

    Lectured by Iran’s Foreign Minister!! HA!

  13. William March 11th, 2015 at 13:40


  14. Bunya March 11th, 2015 at 14:12

    I think Iran is well aware that the GOP is a bit squirrely. Contrary to popular belief, The Iranian government is not stupid. They know what’s going on. They’re still laughing at the thought that we devoted so much time, effort and money, impeaching a president because he lied about a blow job.

  15. fancypants March 11th, 2015 at 21:16

    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.
    iran should torch the letter for this alone. Why insult their intelligence by telling iran your members will be there for decades ?
    what bunch of fools

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