U.S. Sen. Jim Risch must care more about partisan demagoguery than his own political capital on the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees.
The Idaho Republican might have wasted that capital Monday when he joined 46 other GOP senators, including Idaho comrade Mike Crapo, and penned his name to a patronizing letter to the Iranian government.
“First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays a significant role in ratifying them,” reads the condescending civics lecture where GOP senators essentially say the U.S. doesn’t honor its commitments.
There’s a problem with that statements, which Idaho’s two senators wholeheartedly supported. It’s just plain incorrect, notes Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith at lawfareblog.com. How embarrassing.
This is nothing but attempted partisan hijacking of a complex, tenuous negotiation.
It’s long-established precedent that the White House handles treaty negotiations with the advice and "consent” of Congress. The gang of 47 would rather undermine a process before the 10-year nuclear deal is hammered out between Tehran and President Barack Obama. Dealing with the pact legislatively, once it’s finished, is one thing. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed legitimate concerns about the under-construction pact. Openly suggesting the U.S. acts in bad faith is another.
Risch, Crapo, and 45 colleagues took the unprecedented step of injecting partisan American politics into international diplomacy. And they did it for no other reason than to railroad a president, elected by a majority of Americans, they don’t like.
The old saying “politics stops at the water’s edge” apparently doesn’t apply any longer. It’s a troubling approach for Risch, a man who says he’s concerned with securing Boise pastor Saeed Abedini’s freedom from an Iranian prison. Poking Abedini’s captors, merely to hamstring Obama, shows Risch’s real intentions. His time would be better spent assuring Abedini’s release is included in any deal.
And, frankly, the letter’s condescension and misinformation should have been enough to keep Risch and Crapo away from it. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet is packed with men educated in prestigious American universities. It’s fair to say, they know more about U.S. government then a slew of senators who decided to attempt to undermine the negotiations. The Iranian government’s response, labeling the letter nothing but partisan “propaganda,” was spot on. Risch and Crapo should be humiliated after getting shown up by Rouhani’s administration.
At least seven Senate Republicans wanted no part of the potentially illegal fiasco. Sen. Bob Corker, Tenn., called it “inappropriate,” adding he’s concerned with real solutions. Maine’s Susan Collins pointed to the letter’s total uselessness.
Monday’s letter is a stain on the record of all 47 signers. But it damages Risch more than Crapo, whose wheelhouse is in the banking and budgeting realms. Risch’s game is played in the foreign affairs and intelligence sphere. And, with a swipe of a pen, his credibility eroded.
This isn’t about good policy. This isn’t about facing the challenges posed when desperate groups with desperate agendas have an interest in the same turf. The 47 Senate Republicans want only the status quo with Iran: continued isolation, which could culminate in escalating hostility and a nuclear state. There’s another group who wants the exact same thing: Iran’s radical Islamists.
Interesting bedfellows, indeed.