Earlier this year, 47 Senate Republicans took the extraordinary step of sending a letter to Iranian officials, trying to sabotage American foreign policy. The gambit failed, but the effort itself was, to a very real degree, scandalous: nearly half of the Senate told the world that when it comes to international affairs, the United States does not speak with one voice.
Indeed, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and his 46 friends explicitly told a foreign foe the opposite: American officials, the Republicans argued, are not to be trusted.
Several months later, U.S. officials are once again in the middle of delicate talks, but this time negotiators are working on an international climate agreement in advance of a global gathering in Paris in December. The Hill reported this week that some GOP lawmakers intend to pull a play from Cotton’s playbook, only this time they hope to sabotage American policy in person.
Lawmakers including Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee energy and power subpanel chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) are considering going to Paris or sending staff to try to influence the talks.“I don’t know if I’ll repeat what I’ve done several times before, which is to go over and be the bad guy, the one-man truth squad, and tell the truth, that they’re going to be lied to by the Obama administration,” Inhofe said.
We’ve come to expect this nonsense from people like Inhofe – his version of “truth” is that the entirety of climate science is some kind of conspiratorial hoax, hatched by nefarious people for nefarious reasons – but that doesn’t make it any less offensive.
When American officials deliberately tell the world not to trust the United States, it’s not politics as usual. It’s vastly worse.
Note, if Inhofe’s scheme sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. As we discussed in April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also warned U.S. negotiating partners around the world to “proceed with caution” in climate talks, because the White House may not be able to deliver on its commitments if Republicans curtail environmental protections and safeguards.
What Inhofe is describing, however, is far less subtle. McConnell’s letter was vague, but the right-wing Oklahoman is talking about crashing international talks in person and sabotaging the United States’ attempts at leadership.
New York’s Jon Chait added this week, “The Republican goal in Paris is not to persuade other countries that they’re right [about climate change], or even that their ideas have any contact with reality at all. It is merely to persuade those countries that the Republican Party mortally opposes any limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, regardless of scientific or diplomatic developments, and that it will carry out this agenda if it takes power. Foreign diplomats are accustomed to political systems in which even the conservative parties accept the conclusions of climate science, and may suspect the Republican threats to destroy an international climate agreement amount to crazy bluster they wouldn’t actually carry out. Inhofe and Whitfield’s role is to persuade them that, yes, the Republicans really are this crazy.”