On Monday, 47 United States Senators sent an open letter to the Iranian regime warning that any deal cut by President Obama could be revoked by Congress.
“The next president,” the letter stated, “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.”
This sent the Obama administration and its media allies into a tizzy of rage. After all, it is one thing for the president of the United States to send secret love letters to the ayatollahs; it is quite another for GOP members of the Senate to warn the Iranians that they will not abide by a bad deal.
Vice President Joe Biden said that the Republican letter was “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere,” adding, “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.” Josh Earnest of the White House said that the letter was “a continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national security interests around the globe.”
The New York Daily News headlined its front page “traitors.”
Jon Lovett, former White House speechwriter and current failed TV sitcom writer, tweeted, “SHAME is the best medicine for these 47 Republicans. And they shall have it!” Other Democrats in the media said that Republicans were pushing war as an alternative to peace.
This is sheer nonsense. It was the Obama administration that suggested no deal was better than a bad deal. But given the false dichotomy between any deal and war, that suggestion was obviously a ruse.
Nonetheless, several Republicans declined to sign. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), ever one to solicit the love of the mainstream media, said he wouldn’t sign onto the letter because “it was probably not something that was going to be helpful in that effort, for me to be involved in it.” Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) also declined to sign on, as did Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who said that the letter was not “necessary.” Others who did not sign included Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Dan Coats (R-IN), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Democrats have said that the letter may violate the Logan Act, which states:
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
Legally speaking, charges under the Logan Act would be unwarranted. The Logan Act has never actually been used for prosecution, nor has its Constitutionality been seriously reviewed in two hundred years.
And if Republicans supposedly violated the Logan Act, so did these Democrats:
Senators John Sparkman (D-AL) and George McGovern (D-SD). The two Senators visited Cuba and met with government actors there in 1975. They said that they did not act on behalf of the United States, so the State Department ignored their activity.
Senator Teddy Kennedy (D-MA). In 1983, Teddy Kennedy sent emissaries to the Soviets to undermine Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy. According to a memo finally released in 1991 from head of the KGB Victor Chebrikov to then-Soviet leader Yuri Andropov:
On 9-10 May of this year, Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow. The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.
What was the message? That Teddy would help stifle Reagan’s anti-Soviet foreign policy if the Soviets would help Teddy run against Reagan in 1984. Kennedy offered to visit Moscow to “arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.” Then he said that he would set up interviews with Andropov in the United States. “Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews…Like other rational people, [Kennedy] is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations,” the letter explained. The memo concluded:
Tunney remarked that the senator wants to run for president in 1988. Kennedy does not discount that during the 1984 campaign, the Democratic Party may officially turn to him to lead the fight against the Republicans and elect their candidate president.
House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX). In 1984, 10 Democrats sent a letter to Daniel Ortega Saavedra, the head of the military dictatorship in Nicaragua, praising Saavedra for “taking steps to open up the political process in your country.” House Speaker Jim Wright signed the letter.
In 1987, Wright worked out a deal to bring Ortega to the United States to visit with lawmakers. As The New York Times reported:
There were times when the White House seemed left out of the peace process, uninformed, irritated. ”We don’t have any idea what’s going on,” an Administration official said Thursday. And there was a bizarre atmosphere to the motion and commotion: the leftist Mr. Ortega, one of President Reagan’s arch enemies, heads a Government that the Administration has been trying to overthrow by helping to finance a war that has killed thousands of Nicaraguans on both sides. Yet he was freely moving around Washington, visiting Mr. Wright in his Capitol Hill office, arguing his case in Congress and at heavily covered televised news conferences. He criticized President Reagan; he recalled that the United States, whose troops intervened in Nicaragua several times between 1909 and 1933, had supported the Somoza family dictatorship which lasted for 43 years until the Sandinistas overthrew it in 1979.
Ortega then sat next to Wright as he presented a “detailed cease-fire proposal.” The New York Times said, “Mr. Ortega seemed delighted to turn to Mr. Wright.”
Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Kerry jumped into the pro-Sandanista pool himself in 1985, when he traveled to Nicaragua to negotiate with the regime. He wasn’t alone; Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) joined him. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the two senators “brought back word that Mr. Ortega would be willing to accept a cease-fire if Congress rejected aid to the rebels…That week the House initially voted down aid to the contras, and Mr. Ortega made an immediate trip to Moscow.” Kerry then shilled on behalf of the Ortega government:
We are still trying to overthrow the politics of another country in contravention of international law, against the Organization of American States charter. We negotiated with North Vietnam. Why can we not negotiate with a country smaller than North Carolina and with half the population of Massachusetts? It’s beyond me. And the reason is that they just want to get rid of them [the Sandinistas], they want to throw them out, they don’t want to talk to them.
Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA), David Bonior (D-MI), and Mike Thompson (D-CA). In 2002, the three Congressmen visited Baghdad to play defense for Saddam Hussein’s regime. There, McDermott laid the groundwork for the Democratic Party’s later rip on President George W. Bush, stating, “the president of the United States will lie to the American people in order to get us into this war.” McDermott, along with his colleagues, suggested that the American administration give the Iraqi regime “due process” and “take the Iraqis on their face value.” Bonior said openly he was acting on behalf of the government:
The purpose of our trip was to make it very clear, as I said in my opening statement, to the officials in Iraq how serious we–the United States is about going to war and that they will have war unless these inspections are allowed to go unconditionally and unfettered and open. And that was our point. And that was in the best interest of not only Iraq, but the American citizens and our troops. And that’s what we were emphasizing. That was our primary concern–that and looking at the humanitarian situation.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). In 2002, Rockefeller told Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq, that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11.” That would have given Saddam Hussein fourteen months in which to prepare for war.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). In April 2007, as the Bush administration pursued pressure against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to visit him. There, according to The New York Times, the two “discussed a variety of Middle Eastern issues, including the situations in Iraq and Lebanon and the prospect of peace talks between Syria and Israel.” Pelosi was accompanied by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Nick J. Rahall II (D-WV), and Keith Ellison (D-MN). Zaid Haider, Damascus bureau chief for Al Safir, reportedly said, ‘There is a feeling now that change is going on in American policy – even if it’s being led by the opposition.”
The Constitution of the United States delegates commander-in-chief power to the president of the United States. Section 2 clearly states, “He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur…” As Professor Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School writes, Senators have a good argument that “the President lacks the authority under the U.S. Constitution to negotiate a pure Executive agreement in this context. Almost all major arms control agreements have been made as treaties that needed Senate consent, and the one major exception, the Salt I treaty, was a congressional-executive agreement.”
One who might agree: former Senator Joe Biden, whose White House profile explains, “then-Senator Biden played a pivotal role in shaping US foreign policy.” Among other elements of that role: decrying President George W. Bush’s surge in Iraq as “a tragic mistake” and vowing, “I will do everything in my power to stop it.” As Tom Cotton said this morning, “If Joe Biden respects the dignity of the institution of the Senate, he should be insisting that the President submit any deal to approval of the Senate, which is exactly what he did on numerous deals during his time in Senate.”
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.