If you haven’t noticed the groundswell: America is outraged.
On March 9th, 47 U.S. Republican Senators sent an open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran with an effort to bring to their attention two features of the U.S. Constitution. This letter was sent with obvious allusions to the diplomatic negotiations President Obama is currently having with Iran concerning the Republic’s access to nuclear warheads. The first feature the senators wanted to highlight was that anything the president agrees to is a “mere executive agreement”, bluntly hinting to the Iranians that any agreement they might come to with the President might in effect mean nothing without the Senate’s majority vote. The second feature the senators brought to their attention was that Obama will be leaving his office by January 2017, but that many members of the senate would remain in office for perhaps decades to come.
There are obviously many things I see wrong with this letter. First and foremost, it is an incredible over-reach by the Senate and an extreme breach of protocol. The Logan Act of 1799 forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments, and the 47 Senators who signed this letter are undoubtedly unauthorized. Secondly, it characterizes our elected leader (President Obama) as deceitful in the midst of a very high-stakes negotiation: we’re talking about nuclear bombs – weapons of mass destruction. Third, it reflects poorly on the nation as a whole. Partisanship is a part of our system, and it’s an immensely integral part our country’s government and culture. But this letter represents more than just domestic democratic differences – it represents a nation which is at war with itself.
If these senators are so clear about the constitution, why didn’t they consider one of its most fundamental principles—separation of power? Our country is based entirely on a constitutional system of checks and balances and I think it’s safe to say that this letter transcended those checks, and might in turn throw foreign negotiations off balance. This letter might have only been intended for the Iranian Government, but it has further implication—it threatens to effectively illegitimate any of Obama’s future foreign negotiations.
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has already commented on the scandal, apparently seeing it as very black-and-white: “either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the Commander and Chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy. Either answer does discredit to the letter’s signatories.”
In truth, I see this issue as rather clean-cut myself; the 47 senators put their own interests before the well-being of the entire nation. The hashtag #47TRAITORS has now gone viral throughout the nation as hundreds of thousands demand that the senators involved be charged with treason. Violation of the Logan Act in itself, aside from the growing list of other offences the Senators might be charged with, is punishable under federal law with the potential of imprisonment for up to three years.
Do you think these 47 Senators should be named traitors and charged with treason? Does anyone think the Senator’s letter was justified? We want to hear your opinion on Things That Matter!