Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Old Story

Tom Cotton wasn’t the first GOP senator to try to derail an administration’s foreign policy.  Jeb Lund in Rolling Stone looks at the long and sordid history of Republicans interference for their own gain or profit.

Two weeks before freshman Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and 46 Senate Republican co-signatories sent a Missed Connections letter to Iranian hardliners (“Saw you in Tehran . . . thought you might want to get together and sabotage nuclear arms control talks?”), sparking accusations of treason, I got to see Cotton in action at the Conservative Political Action Conference. I already knew him as a bad liar who still thinks Iraq was involved in 9/11, wants to prosecute New York Times reporters and fears the inevitable partnership betweenMexican drug cartels and ISIS, but homeboy can work a room.


It’s easy to think Cotton is stupid and easy to think he’s insane. His robotically repeating the words “Barack Obama” 74 times during a debate or claiming that signing up for Obamacare will get your identity stolen by Russian hackers feeds both theories in a way that seems too simple. Cotton knows his audience, and he knows that the Republican Party has purity tested itself so many times that an entire conference room of people refusing to leave until they could touch his hand bears more resemblance to the Republican voting bloc than not.

The New York Times editorial page called his conduct “disgraceful” – but despite embarrassingly cretinous excuses after the fact, sending a letter to Iran to undermine Obama’s P5+1 nuclear arms control talks actually wasn’t a bad move. Obstructing presidential foreign policy has a rich bipartisan history. Cotton’s short-term strategy works on the campaign trail and in accordance with the necessities of neoconservative foreign policy. And his interference represents little more than another enactment of the theory of government espoused by his party. To admit that everything he believes in is either completely idiotic or extremely dangerous doesn’t take away from the fact that Tom Cotton, grossly enough, has a point.

Interfering in presidential foreign and military policy works.


Among all the conservative cries of “Munich! Munich!” these days – both Bolton and Cotton parroted it at CPAC like a Teddy Ruxpin shorting out in a pool of blood – you don’t hear a lot about Republican anti-interventionism in the 1930s, when Hitler was on the cover of Time, Mussolini was praised for his contempt of labor and anti-Semite industrialist Henry Ford was being given the highest civilian honor Nazi Germany could bestow. Japan just sneaked up on everyone, and Hitler is always Chamberlain’s fault, with Republican Senators like Arthur Vandenberg and Robert Taft skating on the butcher’s bill. Acknowledging this history tends to cloud the whole narrative of GOP moral clarity and the unalloyed necessity for the United States to defend itself under any circumstances. Still, whatever you think of the reasoning or outcome, this binding of the president’s powers in military and foreign affairs was wholly legal.

Besides, illegal works too, and Cotton knows this. In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon dispatched a friend of his campaign named Anna Chennault to tell the North Vietnamese to back away from peace talks with the Democratic Johnson administration, promising the Vietnamese a better deal. Nixon’s campaign guarantee that he had a secret plan to win in Vietnam would have meant nothing if his opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, could have helped end the war and taken credit for it. And so the North Vietnamese backed away, Nixon condemned the Johnson administration for failing to even get the Vietnamese to the bargaining table; Nixon and genocide-and-assassination hobbyist Henry Kissinger admitted to each other that the war was unwinnable as early as 1969; and in the meantime 22,000 more Americans and hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese and Cambodians died. But, hey, Nixon won the 1968 election by a 0.7 percent margin, and Kissinger went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Republican philosophy: No one ever accuses the winner of being a traitor.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Taking Marco Rubio To School

The junior senator from Florida has been making noise about the Middle East, warning that the Obama administration has been afraid to go after ISIS because that would upset Iran.  Wow, that would be a good reason, except that Iran hates ISIS as much as everybody else.  It’s like saying the Allies went easy on Germany in World War II so as not to piss off the Russians.

Yesterday Mr. Rubio had a chance to take his concerns to Capitol Hill and hog a little camera time while grilling Secretary of State Kerry about the nuclear deal with Iran.  He thought he could show the rest of us — or at least the GOP base — that he’s ready to take on the world.

Yeah, it didn’t turn out so well.  Via Steve Benen:

At the recent CPAC gathering, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a likely Republican presidential candidate, seemed to stumble on one of the basic facts of the Middle East. “The reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran,” the Florida Republican said.

The senator seemed confused. In reality, President Obama has put an anti-ISIS military strategy in place, and that’s fine with Iran, since Iran and ISIS are enemies.

I’d hoped that Rubio just misspoke, or had been briefed poorly but an aide, but apparently not – -at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this afternoon, the far-right Floridian continued to push this strange theory, pressing Secretary of State John Kerry on the point. “I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on,” Rubio said. “Tell me why I’m wrong.”

And so, Kerry told him why he’s wrong.

Rubio went on to insist that many of our Sunni allies in the region – including Jordan and U.A.E. – feel as if we’ve kept them “in the dark” about the nuclear talks with Iran, reducing our “trust level” in the region.

Again, Kerry had to patiently explained to the Republican, “Senator, that is actually flat wrong.”

Honestly, it was like watching a competent teacher trying to explain the basics of current events to a student who failed to do his homework. Andrea Mitchell said the Secretary of State took Rubio “to school.”

Sounds like Marco has a lot of catching up to do.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Biden Responds To GOP Missive

Vice President Joe Biden blasts the GOP letter to Iran.

Since the beginning of the Republic, Presidents have addressed sensitive and high-profile matters in negotiations that culminate in commitments, both binding and non-binding, that Congress does not approve. Under Presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without Congressional approval.

In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary— that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous.


The author of this letter has been explicit that he is seeking to take any action that will end President Obama’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran. But to what end? If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds. Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely—at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.

Or, as a previous vice president once noted, “Go fuck yourself.”

Bonus: Tony Karon at AJAM teaches a lesson in diplomacy and dealing with Iran.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Nukes For Iran

This comes as no surprise whatsoever: forty-seven GOP senators sent a letter to Iran saying that whatever happens with the nuclear disarmament talks with the five major powers, the next Republican president will trash it.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Included on the list are Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both of whom are under the delusion that they will be the president to scuttle the deal.

The only reasonable conclusion you can come to from this exercise attempt in hijacking the foreign policy away from the president is that these 47 want Iran to actually develop nuclear weapons so that the next Republican president can come up with a reason to start a war with them while Benjamin Netanyahu cheers us on.  C’mon, you think this all works in a vacuum?

The other consideration is that this is just another in a long series of Republican efforts to shit on Barack Obama, the secretly gay Kenyan-born Muslim usurper who needs to learn his place.  Imagine the howls of “Treason!” if the Democrats had written a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev telling him that any deals he worked out with Ronald Reagan would be null and void under President Walter Mondale.

I’m pretty sure the Iranians fully understand our constitutional system; they used it to full advantage in the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, and they know full well that if the Stupid Party takes over in 2017, the hard-liners in their country will be rattling their sabres just as much as Senator Cotton and the rest of the Huckleberry Dumbbell brigade.  But hey, what does it matter when you can teach that uppity Ni-CLANG a lesson and score a couple of primary wins and defense contracts?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Matter of Trust

Josh Marshall takes a skeptical view of the visit by Israel’s prime minister to Washington this week.

We’re about to see a mountain of writing and hoopla this week about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the United States and speech before Congress. A guy on twitter asked me if a comment I made was meant to be ironic. My thought was to tell him that irony simply doesn’t have the muscle mass to handle what’s coming down the pike this week. Only snark and absurdism can manage it. But with all this one of the most significant developments has gone all but unmentioned. We now have dramatic new evidence of Netanyahu’s willingness to distort or simply falsify what his own intelligence agencies are telling him about the state of Iran’s nuclear program when he speaks to the US and the world.

J.J. Goldberg goes into depth about it here in The Forward. But the gist is this: You probably remember that Netanyahu speech a couple years ago before the United Nations – the one where he used the bomb cartoon to illustrate his points about the Iranian nuclear program. In that speech Netanyahu made a series of specific claims about the status of the Iranian nuclear program. (Again, read J.J.’s piece for the details.) It turns out several of those claims were specifically contradicted by the current intelligence from the Mossad – Israel’s foreign intelligence agency. We know this because of a major leak of hundreds of documents from South African intelligence. One of those is a report from the South Africans’ Israeli counterparts – detailing their current evaluation of the status of the program. It’s dated only a few weeks after Netanyahu’s speech.


Unfortunately for Israel, unfortunately for America, unfortunately for everyone, Netanyahu can’t be trusted – not his judgment or his honesty. And no amount of deterrence will stop the onslaught of weaponized grandiosity he plans to unleash on America this coming week.

Also, did I mention, you can’t trust him to tell the truth?

I’m not sure what offends more: that the Republicans in Congress decided to undermine the foreign policy of the country just because they wanted to show that uppity black guy occupying the White House that they really hate him, or that the leader of a country that has been supported since its inception by the United States would exploit that for his own political agenda and re-election.