Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Is the NYDN correct?

The tabloid newspaper New York Daily News (NYDN) has condemned a letter to Iran signed by 47 Republicans as “a treacherous betrayal of the U.S. constitutional system”. The paper’s front page (pictured) branded the ringleaders as “traitors”. Are they right? Well…

The front page was clearly designed to get a reaction from people, and by that measure it’s been wildly successful, with the rightwing launching into spittle-flecked apoplexy over it. The Left, meanwhile, has been mostly agreeing with the word.

However, that word was nothing more than a marketing ploy, a gimmick to get attention. The NYDN editorial itself is strong, but not nearly as inflammatory. Part of what makes it worth paying attention to (despite the paper’s cover) is that it’s a generally conservative paper that actually agrees with Republicans on the Iran nuclear negotiations: “We join GOP signatories in opposing the pact as outlined, but we strenuously condemn their betrayal of the U.S. constitutional system.”

Pointing out the Republican signators represent the majority of the Republicans in the Senate, the NYDN says, “They are an embarrassment to the Senate and to the nation,” and they are because it’s illegal for anyone other than the US President, whoever he or she may be and of whatever party, to conduct US foreign policy. So, the NYDN is absolutely right when they said:
“Rather than offer objections domestically in robust debate, as is their obligation, ringleader Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and his band trespassed on presidential turf by patronizing Iran’s leaders with the suggestion ‘that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.’”
The 47 Republicans have broken a US law called the Logan Act, which since 1799 has specifically forbidden unauthorised US Citizens from interfering in US foreign policy. Had they done the open letter as a message to the US people, they would have been on solid Constitutional ground, but by seeking to conduct foreign policy, they broke the law. Even so, the fact that the 47 Republicans have clearly committed a criminal act doesn’t by itself make them “traitors”, even with a very loose definition of that term. The NYDN doesn’t actually claim that it does.

The 47 Republicans are, however, incredibly stupid. One has to wonder, do those Republicans have contempt for international law and obligations? In the words of one formerly prominent Republican who was also utterly clueless about international law and obligations, “you betcha”. So, given their ignorance, those 47 Republicans stupidly threatening to repeal any pact should they manage to win the White House in 2016 isn’t at all surprising.

The more worrying part is that part of the Republicans’ letter was more accurately aimed at themselves, because they “may not fully understand our constitutional system.” In fact, they clearly don’t. At all. The president conducts foreign policy and Congress’ role is limited to oversight, including ratification (or not) of any treaties. Ironically, it was the Iranian foreign minister who schooled the Republicans. As The Week put it:
“The next time Republicans in the Senate try to explain treaties and the U.S. Constitution to Iranian officials, they may want to pick someone other than a foreign minister with a masters and PhD in international relations from the University of Denver, plus two degrees from San Francisco State University. Javad Zarif, who is also Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, responded to a letter from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and 46 other GOP senators with an explainer of his own.”
Zarif dryly noted:
“The authors [of the letter] 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 fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states, and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations."
He went on to correctly say that the Republicans’ stunt has "no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.”

Republican politicians have every right to state their opinion on foreign policy issues as loudly as they want to, but they have no right to try and conduct their own partisan foreign policy. The NYDN may have been a bit hyperbolic when they called the Republicans’ stunt “a treacherous betrayal of the U.S. constitutional system”, but they’re basically correct.

But, no, it’s not treason, and that word is a distraction from the real problem: The ignorance and stupidity of those 47 Republicans. That's worrying enough.


rogerogreen said...

Still, as you note, the Daily News is a right-leaning rag, and it was a very surprising response. And a hoot!
Whether something is actually treasonous - I'd say Nixon in Vietnam in 1968 definitely was - is a matter of degree, and frankly, outcome, but the meddling in ongoing actions has at least the potential of chaos. The probable hyperbole , I suppose matters less when the right-wing press goes on about the terrible slight/censorship of W not being on the front page picture of the NY Times, when he and Obama were in Selma.

Jason Peaco said...

I'm sorry. I am so tired of this assholes that to me this is treason. And an insult to our very form of democracy. All that matters to them is that the Republican Party comes out on top. If it harms the interests of the United States who cares.

If a Republican every does get into the White House, I hope the Democrats do these exact same things to that president. I know not good for the country. But I am so sick of these hypocrites professing their love for this country when they tear apart the very foundations the country was built on.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

That's true. I also noted that the rightwing was engaging in its favourite sport: False equivalence, suggesting that at some point or other Democrats have "done the same thing". Trouble is, those pesky things called facts never support their pretend argument. Sometimes I wonder if the USA's Right is even capable of reason-based discussion any more; on the evidence of this and so many other incidents, I'm guessing the answer is no.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I agree that to nearly all of the Republicans in Congress, their motto is "Party First! And Second! And Third!" That's followed quickly by, "US Constitution?! What's THAT?!! Rule of Law? Who needs that when there are Republicans to elect!"

However, I don't think this meets the legal definition of actual treason (for which they could face the death penalty). It's stupid, of course, it's disgustingly partisan, absolutely, and it's pig ignorant (no offence to pigs intended), but it's not actual treason. Still I wish they were prosecuted, though that will never—and could never—actually happen for other political reasons.

If—dog forbid—a Republican wins the White House in 2016, the Democrats in Congress would have a duty to try and frustrate the Right's agenda. The difference between that and what Republicans are doing now is that it would be in the interests of the country, not their political party. One more difference: Democrats aren't stupid enough to violate the Logan Act in pursuit of pure partisan political games like Republicans are.

rogerogreen said...

I changed my mind; I think 47 did immeasurable harm to [your] image and U.S. credibility in world affairs”, but above all your “disregard for the national security interests of the country…calls into question [your] claims that [your] party can be trusted to govern”. http://www.americansunitedforchange.org/blog/entries/letterto47gopsenators/