Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Disrespecting The Office

Paul Waldman notes that at this point in the Obama presidency, Republicans aren't even pretending that the office of President of the United States of America even matters anymore. Some 47 GOP Senators signed on to a letter directly to Iran's leadership, threatening to undermine any nuclear deal, and to tell the world that Barack Obama no longer determines foreign policy in the US, but the GOP-controlled Senate.

It’s one thing to criticize the administration’s actions, or try to impede them through the legislative process. But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. And just imagine what those same Republicans would have said if Democratic senators had tried such a thing when George W. Bush was president.

The only direct precedent I can think of for this occurred in 1968, when as a presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly communicated with the government of South Vietnam in an attempt to scuttle peace negotiations the Johnson administration was engaged in. It worked: those negotiations failed, and the war dragged on for another seven years. Many people are convinced that what Nixon did was an act of treason; at the very least it was a clear violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits American citizens from communicating with foreign governments to conduct their own foreign policy. 
This move by Republicans is not quite at that level. As Dan Drezner wrote, “I don’t think an open letter from members of the legislative branch quite rises to Logan Act violations, but if there’s ever a trolling amendment to the Logan Act, this would qualify,” and at least it’s out in the open. But it makes clear that they believe that when they disagree with an administration policy, they can act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president of the United States. 
And it isn’t just in foreign affairs. In an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Mitch McConnell urged states to refuse to comply with proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency. Never mind that agency regulations like these have the force of law, and the Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions — if you don’t like the law, just act as though it doesn’t apply to you. “I can’t recall a majority leader calling on states to disobey the law,” said Barbara Boxer, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “and I’ve been here almost 24 years.” 

At this point the massive (and generally racist) disrespect for the President has become direct disrespect for the office itself.  Republicans have decided, probably correctly, that there's no price that the American people will make them pay when it comes to treating President Obama like he's invisible, irrelevant, and unnecessary to the country.

After all, we rewarded these fools with the Senate when two-thirds of us decided that voting was no longer necessary last November.  Why shouldn't Republicans act like Obama doesn't matter? He certainly doesn't matter to the 85% plus of Americans that either stayed home or voted for the Republicans in 2014.

Meanwhile, the White House isn't standing idly by.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said the senators were trying to “essentially throw sand in the gears here” in a way that went beyond the role envisioned for Congress in foreign policy by the authors of the Constitution. He said the White House wanted to send a “forceful” rebuttal to the letter because it seemed intent on torpedoing the talks.

“Writing a letter like this that appeals to the hard-liners in Iran is frankly just the latest in a strategy, a partisan strategy, to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national interests around the world,” Mr. Earnest said. He linked it to the decision by Speaker John A. Boehner to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel without consulting the White House to denounce a possible Iran deal in a speech to Congress last week.

But again, until voters decide to punish this awful behavior, it will continue.


Horace Boothroyd III said...

When ever someone goes over to the Daily Kos or FireDogLake and tries to discuss the simple that terrible things happen when Republicans control the government, so it's actually pretty important to elect Democrats - even squishy Democrats who we don't like very much - in order to keep institutional control in the hands of sane and responsible people, he gets tarred and feathered and bungabungaed and run out of town by a screeching mob: DON'T BULLY US WITH YOUR SCARY STORIES, they bellow, DEMOCRATS ARE JUST AS BAD AS REPUBLICANS! Believing their own nonsense, they sabotage elections in favor of purity candidates - like Shenna Bellows, who get steamrollered 69-31 because forlorn hope purity candidate are simply not popular - and rejoice in their disgrace because at least those perfidious Democrats were prevented from sneaking yet another corporatist neo liberal Third Way New Democrat into office. Much better, they stamp their little feet and insist, to have a full blown raging lunatic Republican climate denial sympathizer representing the state and handing out patronage and voting to put the gavel in Mitch's hands.

bughunter said...

Seems to me that this isn't the first time that Republicans have gone to Iran and said "Hey, this guy won't be in office much longer. Don't deal with him."

But these Republicans aren't even smart enough to get anything out of the relationship. Reagan's handlers were at least smart enough to do it in secret. And at the very least, they got to avoid seeing his opponent score some major patriotic points in the runup to the Reagan v Carter election. (And secured a future source of money to launder to fund Central American right wing thugs.)

These proto-fascists are just throwing rocks at windows and posing.

Scopedog said...

It seems that the attitude at Kos, FDL, Crooks and Liars, and Alternet and Smirking Chimp is "point gun at foot and keep firing". Honestly, anyone who still believes that both parties are the same--even in the face of evidence comparing the Clinton, Bush II, and Obama administrations--is off in a lah lah land where common sense and hard evidence is not allowed.

Of course, they're now directing their ire towards Hillary Clinton while fluffing themselves into ecstasy by constantly name-dropping Elizabeth Warren. The fact that they are overlooking the crazies on the GOP side--the same thing that they did in 2000, 2010, and 2014--does not bode well.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

As we have discussed, Warren is great. The issue is with people who foolishly project upon a public figure their own hopes and wishes and dreams - and then demand viciously that the public figure conform in every way to the straw they have constructed. Because they mistake the straw man for the real woman, they fool themselves into believing that everyone sees the same straw man and - even worse - they fool themselves into believing that everyone WANTS the same straw man and will turn out in the tens of millions on election day to carry the Elwior coalition into power. Thus their testiness and belligerence when a heretic points out lack of consonance between the vision and the reality, and the pathetic futility of these delusions of electoral impotence. Yes, we have a real problem with civic disengagement in this country; no, it can't be fixed by uttering a few simple minded slogans and running yet another doomed third party vanity candidate.

Because the Republicans are crazy, and I think they are evil, but you have to give them credit for cunning and for understanding who exactly constitutes their base. The obvious fact about the self styled "party base" at the Daily Kos is that it is whiter and richer and more hard atheist than the party as a whole - dramatically so, in some respects. Perhaps they could get away with identifying as a vanguard element within the Democratic Coalition, but to self identify as representative of the "true" party bafflingly self delusional.

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