“Never underestimate the mendacity of the swine”
----From “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”
It has been a bit over two months since the Rescumlicans have taken control of both houses of Congress and in that brief time they have launched an assault on Social Security by making it more difficult to transfer funds from the general Social Security account to the Social Security Disability Fund threatening thereby draconian cuts in the near future. Additionally, after promising not to threaten to shut down the government they proceeded to do just that (unsuccessfully this time) to the Homeland Security Department by using funding as a weapon in an attempt to override the President’s executive action on immigration. The last 10 days, however, have seen political dysfunction unprecedented in our national experience.
Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a joint session of Congress urging the United States not to reach an agreement with Iran over nuclear arms. It was the first time a foreign head of state has been invited to speak to Congress with the express purpose of sabotaging our stated national policies. He spoke at the invitation of the Speaker of the House, one John Boner of Ohio who, seeing an opportunity to stick a thumb into the eye of this President, offered the invitation without consulting or clearing the action with either the State Department or the White House. This set off a firestorm in this country as many rightly perceived this action to be an act of political and diplomatic mendacity the likes of which we have heretofore never witnessed. Many in congress, including Senator Al Franken (himself a Jew) refused to attend, so deeply offensive was this performance.
Every time the Rescumlicans win control of the House of Representatives the newly anointed Speaker immediately begins to conduct himself as if he is Prime Minister. When Newt “Baby Huey” Gingrich ushered in the last Republican era so arrogant was he that President Clinton had to remind the press that the President was ‘still relevant’. The result was a long national nightmare ending in bogus impeachment proceedings, trivializing politics and poisoning the political well. Now we are confronted with a newer form of the rabid beast this time posturing as ‘tea party’ patriots and the speaker once again conducting the business of the House as if he were head of state. He is not.
In a Constitutional Monarchy as in Britain, the crown is head of state, in this case Queen Elizabeth. In Britain it is unthinkable for the government to host a state visit without first clearing it with the Palace. In France the French President is head of state and speaks for the country internationally, the Prime Minister, as in Britain, is a separate office who runs the government and is involved in foreign affairs but always with the consultation with the constitutional ‘head of state’.
The American Presidency is a unique office. The president is not only the head of his party, but also the Chief Executive Officer, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and head of state. This was made clear early in our history with the passage of the Logan Act in 1799, a law passed by the founding fathers clearly stating that it is the president who speaks for the country and he alone (or through his agents) who negotiates treaties and understandings. The law made it illegal for any citizen to engage in foreign negotiations unless empowered by the Chief Executive to so do. The President is not only Chief Executive officer (Prime Minister as it were) but also the head of state of the nation. For the speaker to usurp this function is an act of unprecedented arrogance, violating not only the Logan Act and long-standing historical precedent, but the spirit and letter of the Constitution.
Following Netanyahu’s performance 47 Rescumlican Senators, in yet another act of unprecedented political mendacity, signed an open letter to the Iranian government purporting to ‘instruct’ the Iranians on American Constitutional and International Law. Stating that any subsequent President could nullify the agreement ‘with a stroke of the pen’ the group suggested that bargaining with this President would result in, at best, a transient agreement that will be quickly nullified by the succeeding Administration further stating that executive agreements are not binding in international law and all such understandings must be ratified by the United States Senate in order to take effect. So here you have it: nearly half the United States Senate sending an open message to the hard-liners of an international adversary saying that their country cannot put stock into any agreement reached with this administration.
The letter was drawn up by newly minted Senator Cotton of Arkansass who, having served less than 70 days in office and still wet in his Senate seat purports to treat this as if the administration is first, negotiating bi-laterally that is one-on-one with Iran and, secondly, that the President is negotiating a treaty. Both assumptions are wrong. The negotiations include the United States, Iran, 5 member nations of the Security Council of the United Nations and Germany. To attempt to sabotage these proceedings undercuts the stature and standing not only with the Iranians but with the world diplomatic community. Secondly, this is not a treaty negotiation but an attempt to reach agreements on nuclear developments involving pledges by the Iranians concerning their ongoing programs as well as some kind of inspection and verification regime. In any case the Rescumicans are flat wrong on the issue. Executive agreements carry the weight and importance of formal treaties in International Law and are just as binding.
The Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Javad Zarif issued a blistering response to the cretins on Capitol Hill:
"In our view,” he responded, “this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.
Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.
Foreign Minister Zarif added that "I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fullfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.
The Iranian Foreign Minister added that "Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran`s peaceful nuclear program." He continued "I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.
He emphasized that if the current negotiation with P5+1 result in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it will not be a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US, but rather one that will be concluded with the participation of five other countries, including all permanent members of the Security Council, and will also be endorsed by a Security Council resolution.
Zarif expressed the hope that his comments "may enrich the knowledge of the authors to recognize that according to international law, Congress may not modify the terms of the agreement at any time as they claim, and if Congress adopts any measure to impede its implementation, it will have committed a material breach of US obligations.
The Foreign Minister also informed the authors that majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as "mere executive agreements" and not treaties ratified by the Senate.
He reminded them that "their letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such mere executive agreements that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments.
Zarif concluded by stating that "the Islamic Republic of Iran has entered these negotiations in good faith and with the political will to reach an agreement, and it is imperative for our counterparts to prove similar good faith and political will in order to make an agreement possible.” (1)
The national reaction was far less reserved and pedantic. Former Chairman of the Democratic Party and Vermont Governor Howard Dean has called these action ‘borderline treason’ and the New York Daily News has this front page header:
If the Rescumlicans think they can further the cause of Israel, middle east peace, or increase the standing of this country internationally by the use of these cheap-jack tactics they are quite mistaken. But these are not their real interests. These actions are simply crass appeals to a cretinous political base which has become so extreme that even some Faux News hosts have openly criticized along with Congressman Steven King and the New York Daily News. As LBJ one said about Viet Nam “If we’ve lost Cronkite, we’ve lost the country” so the Grand Ole Prostitute, having now lost the New York Daily News, may now be in peril of perhaps having cast one too many false pearls before altogether too many real swine.
1. The Daily Kos, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/09/1369700/-BREAKING-Iran-s-Foreign-Minister-responds-to-the-letter-from-47-Republican-Senators