GOP’s Iran Letter: Partisanship Over Patriotism

Senate Republicans stoop to a dangerous new low.

Senate Republicans Stoop To A Dangerous New Low

When Speaker John Boehner went around normal diplomatic channels to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a speech to Congress early this month, we thought that would be the last time the GOP attempted to undermine President Obama’s efforts in sensitive international negotiations to contain Iran’s nuclear program. But last week, 47 Republican Senators, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), took another step. In an open letter to the government of Iran, they attempted to sabotage these negotiations by warning that any deal would not last past the Obama administration.

This letter takes the GOP’s irresponsible gamesmanship to a new, dangerous level. The Republican Senators who signed on to it would rather oppose President Obama’s policies any way they can than have the United States maintain a unified voice to the world, even if that means aligning themselves with the most hardline Iranian rulers. They prefer to ignore two centuries of precedent and threaten the ability of any future American President of any party to negotiate with other nations, just to score political points.

The United States has a single foreign policy — not a Republican one and a Democratic one. Sen. Cotton, himself a veteran of the Army, should know better than to violate protocol by engaging directly with a foreign entity to undermine the policy of the United States. Vice President Biden said it the best, calling the ploy “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.”

To make matters worse, Sen. Cotton has embarrassed himself and his party in several other ways during this episode:

Don’t just take our word for it: Newspaper editorial boards from around the country have condemned Cotton’s letter, and TV host Bob Schieffer asked Cotton a good question: Do you plan on writing North Korea next?

Seventy years ago, Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Republican of Michigan, crossed the political aisle to support President Harry Truman implementing the Marshall Plan to restore the economic and political health of Europe after World War II. It was the classic example of statesmanship over politics. In that tradition, Senator Mike Mansfield supported President Richard Nixon’s historic opening to China, Speaker Tip O’Neill backed President Ronald Reagan on his negotiations with Mikal Gorbachev, and Senator John McCain supported President Bill Clinton’s diplomatic recognition of Vietnam. Each of these political combinations took true leadership, and each has withstood the historic test of time.

BOTTOM LINE: Senate Republicans’ letter attempting to sabotage the Obama administration’s sensitive negotiations with Iran is a triumph of partisanship over patriotism. America’s influence depends on its ability to honor its commitments. Attempting to derail these commitments for political ends is not only an embarrassment, it is a strategy to weaken America’s leading role in the international community.

Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.