Earlier this week, 47 Republican Senators sent a letter to Iran’s leaders that was expressly designed to undercut the President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations. This letter ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President – Democrat or Republican – to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States. America’s influence in the world depends on its ability to honor its commitments, and this letter was a partisan effort to score political points at the expense of America’s credibility and standing in the world.
Many Americans – whether they agree with the President’s policies or not – expressed outrage, disbelief, and disappointment at the Senators’ actions.
Here is a small sample of the coverage that this partisan effort has generated across the country:
AL – Anniston Star Editorial: “Editorial: An Ignoble Letter From 47 Senators.” “An open letter to the 47 U.S. senators who signed a letter addressed to Iran’s political leaders: We are struck by your letter that condescendingly attempts to lecture Iran’s leadership on the fine points of the U.S. Constitution while at the same time blatantly trampled on the constitutionally defined roles in foreign affairs of presidents and members of Congress. In short, the chief executive negotiates and the Senate ratifies, or not, as the case may be. Yet, your letter is a clear attempt to preemptively wreck the president’s attempts at a settlement to put Iran’s nuclear ambitions in check. And this provocative letter is well beyond the protocol for how the U.S. government negotiates international treaties.”
AZ – AZ Republic: Editorial: “47 Senators Stomp On The Constitution.” “While their concerns may be valid, it is no business of senators to interfere with the negotiations of the elected official with the authority to barter with Iran, the president … If that is the best argument Republicans can make for inserting themselves in sensitive foreign-policy negotiations, they are effectively declaring a congressional right to conduct subversive, foreign-policy proxy wars with the president, with threats to blow up agreement negotiations as their weapon of choice … Show us where that is to be found in the U.S. Constitution. McCain of all people should know better … Even Iranian mullahs likely know that Republicans disapprove of Obama's conduct of negotiations with them. No doubt they, too, saw the Bibi speech. They know where the American opposition to Obama stands. But, in the end, that is just one more reason not to have sent the letter.”
CA – LA Times Editorial: “Republican Senators Go Nuclear With Missive To Iran.” “But this week, when they wrote an open letter to the ‘leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran’ warning in effect that any deal negotiated by the Obama administration might not be adhered to by subsequent presidents if it were not approved by Congress, 47 Republican senators moved beyond principled opposition to outright interference. The letter, drafted by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, begins with the insulting observation that ‘you may not fully understand our constitutional system’ and then says that, unless an agreement were approved by Congress, the signers would regard it as ‘nothing more than an agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei’ that could be revoked by a future president ‘with a stroke of a pen.’…But this letter is an exponentially more offensive encroachment on presidential authority. If an agreement is reached and the terms aren't to Congress' liking, members will have opportunities to express their concern and to seek to undo it. But negotiating with foreign nations is the president's job. The Republican senators' meddling in that responsibility is outrageous.”
CA – Sacramento Bee Editorial: “GOP Senators Need A Civics Lesson And Should Stop Meddling In Iran Nuclear Deal.” “It’s one thing for Republicans in Congress to invite an ally to criticize a potential nuclear deal with Iran, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did last week. But it’s beyond the pale to write to the leaders of a potential enemy to sabotage the negotiations, as 47 GOP senators did Monday. Does their enmity toward President Barack Obama run so deep that in hopes of embarrassing him and denying him a legacy, they’re willing to blow up very sensitive talks on a matter of national security?”
CA – San Francisco Chronicle Editorial: “GOP Senators Try A Reckless Move To Stop Iran Nuclear Talks." “Washington’s unrelenting partisanship is hitting an all-time low. Senate Republicans are brazenly undermining White House talks with Iran over nuclear weapons by warning Tehran that any deal won’t stick with the next president."
CO – Denver Post Editorial: “Grandstanding On Iran In The U.S. Senate.” “Do you get the feeling that Republican members of Congress really, really don't like the deal the Obama administration is negotiating with Iran? First there was the rapturous reception for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who denounced the possible deal. And now 47 GOP senators — including Colorado's Cory Gardner — have sent a letter to Iran instructing the regime that a purely ‘executive agreement’ could be revoked by the next president. As if the Iranians wouldn't already know that. The reality is that if the agreement actually serves America's interest, even a Republican president would be unlikely to revoke it in 2017, given the race for a nuclear bomb that would likely follow."
FL – Miami Herald Editorial: “Letter Of Intent.” “The open letter to Iran by 47 Republican senators questioning the value of any agreement to freeze its nuclear program is another troubling break with precedent that threatens to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy. The letter is little more than a mischievous attempt to throw a monkey wrench into a years-long, multinational effort to obtain a secure, verifiable agreement with Iran to stop its nuclear-weapons program through diplomacy, rather than war. It’s hard to see how Republicans can reject a deal when they know little more than the outline of the proposal that is still being worked out, especially since they have no reasonable alternative to offer…The senators signing the letter blatantly violated a principle that well served this country throughout the Cold War: Politics stops at the water’s edge."
KY – The Courier Journal Editorial: “Senate Saboteurs.” “Has Congress gone crazy?…A blatant attempt to sabotage the discussions to limit Iran’s nuclear capacity, the letter is signed by by 47 GOP senators, aligning themselves — President Obama noted ironically — with hardliners in Iran who oppose any deal with the United States."
MA – Boston Globe Editorial: “GOP Letter To Iran Is A Reckless Intrusion Into Nuclear Talks.” “Winning sympathy for the renegade Islamic Republic of Iran is no easy trick. But Republicans in the US Senate seem to be accomplishing it with their breathtakingly reckless intrusion into international diplomacy. Under the guise of an American civics lesson pointedly but also pointlessly aimed at Iran’s already isolated, mistrustful, hostile-to-the-United States leadership, Senate Republicans may sabotage highly delicate negotiations to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear development program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions….The letter not only undercuts the president’s traditional authority to oversee the shaping of foreign policy but badly undermines America’s credibility in the international community.”
MA – Springfield Republican Editorial: “Republican Letter To Iran Puts Politics Above Nation: Editorial.” “Before Democrats and their left-leaning allies across the land get even more riled up about a letter sent to Iranian leaders by 47 Senate Republicans, they may wish to take a moment to recall a time when members of their own party did much the same to a Republican president. Oh, no, wait a minute – that didn't happen…When Republicans won control of the Senate last November, GOP leaders were thrilled to have been given an opportunity to show the nation that they could be taken seriously as a governing party. They would do more, they said, than merely oppose Obama. Yeah, right. Their letter is the clearest example of exactly the opposite. It shows rank petulance, not seriousness. Just seven of 54 GOP senators had the good sense not to sign the letter. The others acted rashly and allowed their passions to rule the day. They imprudently and shamefully put politics above our national interest, damaging our standing. Our nation will recover, but it shouldn't have to.”
MI – Detroit Free Press Editorial: “GOP Letter To Iran Disgraces America.” “At minimum, signing such a letter should disqualify each man from holding the high office they seek to degrade. At worst? Well, it's unlikely that, as some have suggested, this letter rises to the level of treason or violates the Logan Act, which bars unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign powers. But it certainly betrays a deep misunderstanding of our governmental structure, and a profound and dismaying disrespect for the office of the presidency, as well as its incumbent occupant. To disagree with a sitting president is one thing, even if that disagreement is loud, even if it is raucous. A deliberate attempt to undermine a sitting president's efforts to discharge his constitutional obligations is something else entirely…But the Republicans who dispatched this letter have done more than embarrass a president they dislike. They have also disgraced themselves and undermined the credibility of the nation whose constitution they took an oath to uphold.”
MD – Baltimore Sun Editorial: “The GOP's Poison Pen Note.” “Congress has a long history of criticizing the White House's handling of foreign policy, but the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders this week was virtually unprecedented…The poison pen note was a shocking example of just how far President Barack Obama's GOP critics in Congress are willing to go in an effort to undercut his foreign policy goals…We would add to that a reckless disregard for the national security interests of the country that calls into question Republicans' claims that their party can be trusted to govern.”
NH – Concord Monitor Editorial: “Editorial: Ayotte Signs Up For A Dangerous Political Game.” “Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s name is easy to spot. It is in the left column, between the blue scrawl of Sens. Rand Paul and Orrin Hatch. Unlike the thousands of other times she has signed her name, Ayotte will remember this signature. How could she forget? It’s not every day that a United States senator attempts to undermine U.S. foreign policy and weaken the nation in one cursive swoop."
NJ – The Record Editorial: “Outrageous Senators.” “Republicans can disagree with the president, but he is still the president until January 2017. Elections matter — the ones held and the one to come. In a sign of arrogance and disrespect to the Founders, the 47 senators signed a letter telling Iranian leaders that while the president would no longer be in office in 2017, ‘most of [them] will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.’ Unless the senators intend to change U.S. law, they serve only six-year terms. They are not guaranteed their Senate seats in perpetuity.”
NJ – Star Ledger Editorial: “GOP's Political Posturing On Iran Could Ostracize The U.S.” “The concept of Congressional oversight has many virtues, but clarity and keen judgment aren't always amongthem. The latest example is the supercilious letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran, a shallow effort to derail the negotiation over its nuclear program that devolved into another partisan agitprop from the circular firing squad known as the GOP. And clearly, this is one time when the Senate would be best advised to zip it until it sees something that actually represents an enforceable agreement, rather than engage in the usual Obamaphobia…The amateurish missive succeeded in doing little but giving the hardliners in Tehran hope that the negotiations will crumble, as their chief argument is that the United States cannot be trusted.”
NY – Albany Times Union: “Editorial: A Badly Timed Partisan Slap.” “The Republicans who signed this foolish letter should listen to their own members who chose not to participate in this partisan attack on a sitting president. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it would be appropriate for senators to give advice to the president and Secretary Kerry instead of going directly to Tehran. Rather than listening to their reasonable colleagues, the Republicans who signed this letter are merely continuing to try to undermine President Obama at every turn. Their actions risk undoing years of high-stakes negotiations and threaten the stability of the Mideast, all for the sake of scoring some partisan political points.”
NY – Newsday Editorial: “The Real Key To Any Nuclear Deal With Iran.” “Did Republican senators really think Iranian leaders needed a primer on how the U.S. government works? The open letter they sent to the leaders of Iran Monday was an unnecessary partisan stunt that detracts from what matters most…The risk, however, is sabotaging the multination negotiations and leaving Iran unrestrained in building nuclear weapons. That's a bad path that could lead to use of military force to stop Iran's pursuit of a bomb.”
OH – Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial: “A Deeply Misguided Senate Letter To The Leaders Of Iran: Editorial.” “The decision by 47 Republican senators to sign a patronizing open letter to the leaders of Iran seeking to instruct them on how the U.S. constitutional system works -- and, by the way, to upend talks closing in on a nuclear weapons deal -- is as depressingly partisan as it is shortsighted…But the magnitude of this disgraceful decision -- only seven sitting Republican senators declined to sign the letter -- shows the degree to which partisanship has gobbled up rationality on foreign policy. This letter was a stunt that grossly oversteps the bounds of what is proper and wise.”
PA – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial: “Hate Mail: Senators Seek To Sabotage Obama’s Foreign Policy.” “The letter sent Monday by 47 Republican senators to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning him not to sign an agreement with major nations limiting his country’s nuclear program, was damaging to America’s role in the world. This was the second venture in six days into foreign affairs by Republicans in Congress, which is distinguishing itself as the most dysfunctional branch of the U.S. government. The previous ploy was the March 3 address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party will be a contestant in Israeli elections on March 17. Mr. Netanyahu’s appearance was set up by an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio…The senators who signed the letter should be ashamed."
UT – Salt Lake Tribune Editorial:“Editorial: Utah Senators Increase Risk Of War.” “It will be up to history to judge whether the latest partisan stunt joined by Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch amounts to an act of End Times warmongering or merely another bit of cringe-worthy buffoonery on the global stage."