If the 47 Senate Republicans who tried to sabotage the international talks with Iran had a plan, it’s safe to say that strategy has been thrown out the window.
As the fiasco unfolded yesterday, the GOP found itself increasingly divided over the legally dubious scheme to derail American foreign policy, with even Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who refused to sign the letter, criticizing the right-wing initiative. Soon after, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) did the same.
It left some Republicans scrambling to defend the entire fiasco. The Daily Beast had this unexpected report late yesterday:
Republican aides were taken aback by what they thought was a lighthearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a “cheeky” reminder of the congressional branch’s prerogatives.“The administration has no sense of humor when it comes to how weakly they have been handling these negotiations,” said a top GOP Senate aide.
Without more information about the unnamed sources, it’s hard to say just how many Republicans on Capitol Hill actually believe this, but it’s a tough sell. A group of far-right senators interfered with sensitive international diplomacy; they tried to undermine the American government; they encouraged foreign officials not to trust U.S. officials engaged in high-level talks; they brazenly ignored American laws to engage in their own freelance foreign policy; and the defense is Republicans simply wanted to be “cheeky”? GOP officials on Capitol Hill want the White House to have a “sense of humor” about sabotage?
Fred Kaplan yesterday explained, “It is a useful thing when a political party reveals itself as utterly unsuited for national leadership,” adding that the Republican letter was “plainly stupid.”
It seems a similar assessment can be applied to the Republicans’ explanation for their misconduct.
The secondary excuse was no better. The Huffington Post reported:
Republicans, under fire for a letter signed by 47 senators to the leadership of Iran, said Tuesday that complaints about violating foreign policy convention should be leveled not at them, but at President Barack Obama. […][T]hose who support the letter – even some who didn’t add their names – deflected the blame. If it weren’t for Obama’s failure to consult lawmakers about the negotiations, or his threatened veto of a proposed bill to give Congress the final vote on a nuclear agreement, senators wouldn’t have had to speak out in the first place, they argued.
Corker actually pushed this line, as did former Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading Republican presidential hopeful.
This isn’t quite as hilarious as the “cheeky” argument, but it’s nevertheless hard to take seriously. It’s not uncommon for U.S. administrations to engage in sensitive diplomatic talks on their own, without much input from Congress, because under our system, presidents are principally responsible for overseeing foreign policy.
Lawmakers may not like it, and they may urge administrations to follow a different course, but it does not justify the kind of dangerous stunt 47 Senate Republicans pulled this week, which can and likely will undermine American leadership on the global stage.