As Scott notes, Tom Cotton has created a firestorm with his open letter to Iran, signed by 46 of his Senate colleagues. The letter explains that unless an agreement between President Obama and Iran receives Senate approval, it will not bind the next president.
Vice President Biden intones that the letter is “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.” This is sheer wind-baggery. If Biden revered the Senate, he would insist that it play its traditional role, not only in ratifying international agreements but in amending our immigration laws.
Biden reveres the clubby atmosphere and the privileges of the Senate. Any reverence he might once have held for its constitutional role evaporated through his participation in the lawless Obama administration.
Paul Waldman, one of the Washington Post’s many house liberals, compares the Cotton letter to Richard Nixon’s secret communications with the government of South Vietnam in an attempt to scuttle peace negotiations with North Vietnam in which the Johnson administration was engaged.
The comparison is imbecilic. The Cotton letter is completely open; it is the opposite of Nixon’s secret communications.
The letter also differs vastly from the diplomacy Nancy Pelosi undertook with the Assad regime in 2007, over the objections of the Bush administration. (Did Biden object to this; did Waldman?) Cotton’s letter isn’t an attempt at diplomatic relations. It’s merely a reminder of fundamental constitutional principles.
As such, Cotton’s open letter is more closely analogous to a New York Times op-ed. Had his arguments been placed in the Times with the endorsement of 46 other Senators, they surely would have been read by Iran’s leaders.
If the constitutional principles Cotton articulates can be communicated indirectly, via the newspaper, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be communicated directly. Direct communication has the added virtue of gaining the attention of the American public — thanks in part to the reaction by Obama and his defenders — which probably also could use a crash course on Senate’s role and the president’s efforts to undermine it.
Do the signers of the letter hope to influence the negotiations with Iran? Of course. They hope (against the odds) to induce an agreement that the Senate could approve. It is the right of Senators, and of any citizen, to attempt to so influence the negotiations through open advocacy.
President Obama treats Congress in a fashion that, by his own admission, is the way a dictator would treat it. He should not be heard to object when Senators respond with clever, perfectly lawful tactics to make themselves heard.
UPDATE: Adam White at the Weekly Standard documents how Biden’s view of the Senate’s role has evolved.