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Wisconsin's Johnson tries new defense for Iran letter

Blaming a D.C. snowstorm for the Senate Republicans' sabotage letter didn't work. GOP signatories are onto excuse #4.
Sen. Ron Johnson speaks during a hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Jan 24, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Ron Johnson speaks during a hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Jan 24, 2013 in Washington, DC.
The letter to Iran from 47 Senate Republicans this week has become an international fiasco, prompting its GOP signatories to come up with creative excuses for their radical antics.
The first defense, oddly enough, is that Republicans were simply being "cheeky" with their attempt to sabotage American foreign policy. When that proved unpersuasive, GOP officials tried to blame President Obama for their letter. That seemed pretty silly, which led Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to try blaming a snowstorm in D.C. last week for Republicans failing to think their plan through.
Of all of which leads us to the fourth rationale.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Friday said an open letter he signed with 46 other GOP Senators should not have been directed to Iran's ruling regime. "I suppose the only regret is who it's addressed to," Johnson said during a Friday breakfast with Bloomberg staff. "But the content of the letter, the fact that it was an open letter, none whatsoever."

Hmm. So, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee still likes the letter intended to sabotage American foreign policy, but his new excuse is that it was sent to the wrong people. Republicans shouldn't have "addressed" it to Iranian leaders.
Of course, if the point of the GOP letter was to push Iranians away from the international nuclear talks, and encourage Iranian officials not to trust the United States or our allies, it's not altogether clear who, exactly, Johnson and his cohorts would have addressed the missive to.
Johnson added today that the still-unresolved agreement "rises to the level of a treaty" and the "treaty should come to Congress for an up-or-down vote."
It's worth emphasizing that the deal -- if there's a deal -- is not a treaty. If it were, an "up-or-down vote" wouldn't be sufficient, since the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority on all Senate ratification votes. To borrow a phrase, Johnson "may not fully understand our constitutional system."
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) added today, "The letter has been a surprising controversy that came up."
For one thing, this is an amazing example of passive-voice phrasing (the controversy didn't "come up," senator; you caused it by circumventing U.S. protocols and trying some freelance foreign policy). For another, there's nothing surprising about the world reacting badly to 47 American lawmakers trying to undermine their own country's president, their own country's foreign policy, and international diplomacy involving close U.S. allies.
Indeed, it's worth noting that the initial gambit was a spectacularly bad idea, but Republicans have spent the week making matters worse, offering ridiculous excuses and feigning surprise that anyone would be bothered by their ugly and unprecedented betrayal.
Former Bush/Cheney speechwriter Michael Gerson, hardly a knee-jerk liberal, explained today, "In timing, tone and substance, [the letter to Iran] raises questions about the Republican majority's capacity to govern."
The editorial board of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a conservative paper, had some noteworthy concerns of its own today, directed specifically at Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the right-wing freshman who served as the ringleader for this Senate Republican gang.

So, yes, Arkansas, it's not crazy to feel like a stepping stone. While most junior senators less than 100 days into their first terms would devote themselves to figuring out how to best serve the state that put him in office, that's small potatoes for Cotton. It's hard to get on national newscasts based on Arkansas issues, so why not try to scuttle U.S. negotiations focused on keeping an antagonistic Middle East nation from developing a nuclear weapon? [...] Of course, Cotton's real enemy is the man who helped him get elected: President Obama. We're not fans of the president, but Cotton's perspective has to be viewed through the lens of his fixation on Obama being the cause of many of the nation's problems. It's overstepping for a junior, freshman senator to so blatantly engage in foreign policy sabotage against the administration as a part of his constant campaign for higher office. Cotton is playing to his base, the right-wing conservatives so eager for his political ambitions to succeed, but his actions in this case did not serve the nation. [...] If this letter is an example of Cotton's leadership in Washington, then he's still got a lot to learn.

It would appear Cotton disagrees.