Let’s stick with the Senate GOP’s sabotage letter to Iran, if only because the condemnatory reviews are still rolling in. Since they’re already so numerous, I hereby present the first annual Tom Cotton awards. The envelopes, please!
Fourth runner-up (a tie): This prize is shared by two Republican senators who signed the letter but who have since sought to walk back their actions (in weaselly fashion). Pat Roberts of Kansas said the letter to the ruling mullahs “could have been addressed to other folks and gotten the message out.” Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, “If there was any regret, tactically, it probably would have been better just to have it be an open letter addressed to no one.”
Wait, what? The letter by definition couldn’t have been “addressed to other folks” or “addressed to no one,” because (a) it was specifically aimed at Iran’s leaders for the purpose of sabotaging nuclear negotiations with America, and (b) its smug, condescending civics lecture about the American system was specifically intended to enlighten Iran’s allegedly dunderheaded leaders. That was the whole point of the letter. Naturally Roberts and Johnson couldn’t say which “other folks” they would’ve preferred to address.
Third runner-up (a tie): This prize is shared by two from the media. Fox News host Greta Van Susteren said yesterday, “I think that letter was horrific. It end-runs the president of the United States, which I think is terrible. They could achieve the same goal (protesting an Obama deal with Iran) without sending a letter, becoming pen pals with the leadership of Iran.”
And the anti-Obama editorial page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette weighed in on its home boy, newbie Senator Tom Cotton: “We’re not fans of the president (but) it’s overstepping for a junior freshman senator to blatantly engage in foreign policy sabotage against the administration as a part of his constant campaign for higher office…his actions in this case did not serve the nation.”
Second runner-up: Former Republican Gov. George Pataki of New York gets this award for his deft rhetorical question: “Foreign policy, negotiations with foreign states, has to be conducted by the president and his team….I don’t think Congress independently reaches out to another government to express a different standpoint….Just imagine if, come 2017, there’s a Republican president and a Democratic Congress. Would Republican candidates, Republican senators, want a Democratic Senate sending a letter to a country when the president is engaged in negotiations?”
First runner-up: Michael Gerson, former chief speechwriter for George W. Bush. He gets this prize for his withering tone alone: “The document was crafted by a senator with two months of experience under his belt. It was signed by some members rushing off the Senate floor to catch airplanes….There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign). This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.”
Grand prize winner: Major General Paul Eaton, retired. Right-wing keyboard warriors don’t like Eaton because he advises a progressive veterans group. I’ll simply point out that he was an actual warrior who served 30 years in the Army, including a stint as Chief of Infantry, that he had combat and post-combat assignments in Iraq, Bosnia, and Somalia. and that he trained Iraqi armed forces for President Bush.
How would Eaton describe Cotton and his 46 fellow saboteurs?
“I would use the word mutinous. I do not believe these senators were trying to sell out America. I do believe they defied the chain of command in what could be construed as an illegal act. What Senator Cotton did is a gross breach of discipline, and especially as a veteran of the Army, he should know better.
“I have no issue with Senator Cotton, or others, voicing their opinion in opposition to any deal to halt Iran’s nuclear progress. Speaking out on these issues is clearly part of his job. But to directly engage a foreign entity, in this way, undermining the strategy and work of our diplomats and our Commander in Chief, strains the very discipline and structure that our foreign relations depend on, to succeed.”
A major general’s take is good enough for me.