Republicans in the Senate have sent a letter to Iran’s leadership informing them of the Constitutional limitations of any deal the President may make without the approval of Congress. This is in response to Mr. Obama’s apparent intention to make such a deal as an ‘executive agreement’ that he can conclude without seeking Congress’s consent. (And this, in turn, is due to the fact that he lacks robust support in Congress for his scheme, and so wouldn’t get such consent if he asked for it.)
I’ll go on record as saying that I think this was a needless and needlessly polarizing gesture, unless one makes the (not wholly unpersuasive) argument that more polarization, or indeed anything that hastens the inevitable crisis and final showdown in this fatally fractured nation (of which the current political polarization is only a symptom) is something to be encouraged. Even if you accept that argument, though, it’s silly to think that Iran’s leaders aren’t fully aware of the Constitutional limitations of Mr. Obama’s powers here, or of how deeply divided we are over the deal he’s trying to make. So it’s important to be clear that the letter is nothing more than a public rebuke of the President, and a public airing to the rest of the world of the depth of our internal fissures — an increasingly pugnacious conflict that some have already called, and I think rightly, a cold civil war.
Liberals, of course, consider the Republican epistle a shocking violation of protocol and intranational solidarity, and something closely akin to treason. The corresponding opinion on the Right is that this President, in the service of an ideology that is deeply inimical to the traditional American nation, its people, and its values, has been defying our Constitutional order in every way he can, and should be checked and countered wherever possible. The signatories of this letter also believe, I suppose, that the agreement being pursued by Messrs. Obama and Kerry is almost certain to be a bad one, and so they are doing everything in their power to snuff it out in utero.
The letter, however, accomplishes nothing, and just seems petulant. So I think it was a silly idea.