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Teaching Moment On U.S. Constitution and Diplomacy to Sophomoric GOP Senators
From Iranian Ministry Of Foreign Affairs (Smack, In Your Face):
[In response to] the open letter of 47 US Senators to Iranian leaders, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that, “In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.” It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.
Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.
Foreign Minister Zarif added that, “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law.” The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.
The Iranian Foreign Minister added that, “Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran`s peaceful nuclear program.” He continued, “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.”
He emphasized that if the current negotiation with P5+1 result in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it will not be a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US, but rather one that will be concluded with the participation of five other countries, including all permanent members of the Security Council, and will also be endorsed by a Security Council resolution.
Zarif expressed the hope that his comments, “may enrich the knowledge of the authors to recognize that according to international law, Congress may not modify the terms of the agreement at any time as they claim,” and if Congress adopts any measure to impede its implementation, it will have committed a material breach of US obligations.
The Foreign Minister also informed the authors that majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as “mere executive agreements” and not treaties ratified by the Senate.
He reminded them that “their letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such mere executive agreements” that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments.
Zarif concluded by stating that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has entered these negotiations in good faith and with the political will to reach an agreement, and it is imperative for our counterparts to prove similar good faith and political will in order to make an agreement possible.”
Is there no end to Republican conservative duplicity?
Just when you thought congressional Republicans couldn’t look any more like a troupe of treacherous and sophomoric hooligans hellbent on undermining the United States, they pull out another bag of high-school level tricks.
On Monday, 47 Republican senators signed an open letter addressed to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” on U.S. Senate letterhead. The correspondence advises that Iran’s ongoing negotiations on its nuclear program with the Obama administration are a futile endeavor that will be overturned by the next President or modified by Congress.
Violation Of The Logan Act
Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran is a direct violation of the Logan Act and should lead to prosecution as Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other signatories letter to the Iranian Government is an attempt to influence and interfere with the President’s current negotiations.
The Logan Act is a United States federal law that forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. It was passed in 1799 and last amended in 1994. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with imprisonment of up to three years.
While the letter’s signatories are U.S. senators, they do not have the “authority of the United States” as required by law since, in conducting foreign policy, the executive branch is the United States’ only authorized authority, taking into consideration the occasional “Advice and Consent of the Senate” as prescribed by the Constitution. It’s directly addressed to leaders of a foreign government presently involved in talks with the U.S., and it is designed to thwart those talks. Unless the senators were authorized by the President to address Iran’s leaders in this letter, the 47 U.S. senators violated a federal law that carries a prison term of up to three years.
§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
1 Stat. 613, January 30, 1799, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953 (2004).
The Constitution expressly provides sole authority to the President or his designated representative to negotiate with other countries. The Congress only has that authority if the President extends it to them. They only authority they have is after the negotiations are over…and then only if it’s a treaty.
It Is Sedition
Moreover, the action may be considered sedition: “sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order.” This Republican action is clearly designed to undermine the authority of the legally elected executive while negotiating with a hostile foreign power—it is formal, declared in writing, printed and signed on official Senatorial letterhead, and was not voted on by Congress before the act of sedition took place. As such, it is prosecutable under 18 US Code Chapter 115.
They are aiding and comforting the Iranians by presenting the United States as irrevocably divided and utterly undisciplined nation. The Republican Senators clearly have no interest other than their own aggrandizement and the sabotage of effort to make the world a safer place for all.
Republican party members have demonstrated themselves on numerous contemporary occasions to be unfit to govern.
Biden Lashes Out Accurately
“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 decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.”
—Vice President Biden in a statement released by the White House
Republicans Fail The Test Of Ronald Reagan
Once upon a time, Republicans negotiated nuclear agreements with archenemies, and they actually signed them—Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Reagan’s approach was simple and has guided President Obama’s tact: “Trust, but verify.” Thirty years later, it’s a shame Republicans refuse example.
I understand the Canadian confusion. Our electorate does defy reason — and a whole lot of other things that suggest thoughtfulness.
Click image to make larger if needed
Off With His Head — A Nation Profoundly Better Off Under Obama Rejected His Leadership At The Election Polls
In America last night, the election outcomes were not much of a surprise. Republicans did not so much as win, and Democrats did not so much as lose — though certainly it feels that way. No, instead, the election was a referendum on failed presidential leadership.
Though in almost every measurable way the American people are profoundly better off today than they were before President Obama took office, the American people soundly repudiated him yesterday in the election. Why?
Failure To Lead
The President never actually led the nation to feel hope during economic recovery, never made the people feel secure in a threatening world, never guided them confidently through the most major change in health care coverage, and finally never offered reassurance from a menacing and deadly virus seeping its way into the country. In other words, the voters lashed out against failed executive leadership.
As was so correctly said by a member of the Republican National Committee in an op-ed to businesspersons, “At the national level, disgusted and angry voters vented in a very direct way on President Barack Obama, taking their concerns to the ballot box… Contrary to a Republican self-proclaimed resurgence at the national level, the 2014 midterm elections were not as much validations of a Republican national agenda as repudiation” of President Obama’s leadership, or lack thereof.
On a night when Republicans were expected to do well, they did. Or, to be more accurate, on a night when Democrats were expected to do poorly, they did – losing in places they never expected to lose (like Iowa and Colorado) and slipping further and further behind in state capitols and legislatures around the country (including governorships in traditionally dark blue states like Maryland and Massachusetts).
Yet, across the nation progressive ballot initiatives passed easily, such as minimum wage increases, transportation tax initiatives, prison reform and decriminalization, marijuana legalization, and conservation programs, to name only a few.
Make no mistake, this election was transformed into a referendum on President Obama, and was not a movement against progressive causes or policies.
Notwithstanding the results, the Republican brand at the national level remains tarnished, and sustaining a governing majority for longer than a single election cycle will be a challenge unless changes continue to happen within the Republican Party itself, a moderation and appeal to reasonableness.
Significant Progress Obscured By Failed Leadership
Failed leadership does not mean “failed administration.” The sad aspect of the election reality and the disillusionment of the electorate is that so much has been accomplished by the Obama Administration and, yet, went unappreciated.
People have many perceptions of how the US economy or the country as a whole is doing in recent years. Depending on your political views, you may think the country is doing exceptionally well or on the verge of collapse. Even those knowing the nation has done very well in the last six years remained untethered and insecure due to the cold void created by a lack of reassuring communication and guiding leadership from the President.
Listed below are 14 objective facts, without interjecting any opinion, about the state of America under the leadership of President Obama. Each statement is followed up with a link to a source where you can verify these facts for yourself.
1. We’ve now had 63 straight months of economic expansion.
That’s right, for 63 consecutive months the US economy has gotten progressively better. That includes 54 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Forbes magazine, no fan of President Obama, crunched the numbers and demonstrated how the economic recovery under President Obama has been better in just about every measurable way than the recovery under President Reagan.
2. We are currently enjoying the longest period of private sector job creation in American history.
Again, this statistic comes from the Forbes Magazine article listed above. In fact, we have now had 54 straight months of private sector job creation. That is the longest period of job creation since the Department of Labor has been keeping statistics. See the link below.
3. Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% in October of 2009 to 5.9% and projected to reach 5.4% by summer of 2015.
Not only has the unemployment rate dropped significantly, but since the recession ended, our economy as added over ten million new jobs. You can refer to the Forbes article above or check this article on PoliticsUSA.
4. The stock market continues to set new records since President Obama has been in office.
Since early 2009 there has been a steady trend in stock market growth. The Dow Jones Industrial averages reached an all-time high of 17,098 in August, 2014. Since most Americans have 401K retirement investments in the stock market, this stock market growth benefits millions of middle class Americans.
5. The Federal budget deficit is shrinking. It’s been reduced by two-thirds since 2009.
The $1.4 trillion federal budget deficit that Obama inherited in 2009 was in a large part due to the high rate of unemployment. When millions of people were put out of work in 2008 and 2009, it resulted in far less income taxes and less economic activity to generate federal revenue. As ten million people have been put back to work, there have been billions more tax dollars generated. As a result, the deficit has been shrinking each year. The 2014 deficit is projected to be around $500 billion, the smallest deficit since 2007 and roughly 1/3 of what it was in 2009.
6. Under President Obama, spending has increased only 1.4% annually, the lowest rate since Eisenhower was president.
You may have heard critics say that President Obama is spending money wildly and running up our debt. According to this article from Forbes, Obama has increased spending by 1.4% annually, far less than President Reagan (8.7%) or George W. Bush (8.1%). In fact, Obama has increased spending less than any president since Eisenhower.
7. For 95% of American taxpayers, income taxes are lower now than just about any time in the previous 50 years.
After President Obama took office, thousands of Tea Party members all over the country held rallies protesting Obama’s tax increases. At that time, President Obama had actually passed several tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Most of the Tea Partiers who were protesting had only seen their taxes decrease under Obama. Yet polls indicated that most Tea Party members wrongly believed their taxes had gone up.
In fact, the only people whose income taxes have gone up during Obama’s presidency are those making $400,000 per year or more. That’s less than 2% of the population. Today, for the vast majority of people, tax rates are exactly where they were when Obama first took office or lower. The article below from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains this in greater detail.
8. Our dependence on foreign oil has shrunk due to record domestic oil production and improved fuel efficiency standards.
While some people claim that oil production has declined under President Obama, the truth is just the opposite. Oil production has reached record highs. The United States now produces so much oil that we export more oil and gasoline than we import.
9. Up to 10 million more Americans now have health insurance than before.
Depending on whose numbers you use, between 7 and 10 million Americans acquired health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. Now that those 7 to 10 million Americans have insurance, the rest of us are no longer on the hook to pay for their health care when they get sick. This saves the American people billions of dollars in the long run.
10. The Affordable Care Act has added years to the life of Medicare.
The Medicare trust fund had been on course to run out of money by the end of 2016. But due to cost savings from the Affordable Care Act and lower healthcare expenses, Medicare’s trust fund is now stable until the year 2030 without cutting benefits.
11. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are seeing the slowest rate of increase in healthcare costs since 1960.
Contrary to the predictions from Republicans, health care costs have increased at a much slower pace since the passage of the ACA.
12. We currently have fewer soldiers, sailors and airmen in war zones than any time in over 10 years.
With the end of the Iraq war and the steady withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, we have fewer people in war zones now than any time since 2002.
13. There have been zero successful attacks by al Qaeda on US soil since Obama became president.
Despite Dick Cheney’s claim that if voters elect a Democrat as president, we’ll be “hit again and hit hard” by al Qaeda, we have actually been far safer from terrorist attacks on US soil in recent years than we were under the previous president. There have been several unsuccessful attacks against the US under both presidents, but under Obama, al Qaeda has been largely unsuccessful in striking the US on our home soil.
14. We now successfully catch and deport more illegal immigrants than ever before.
Despite the publicity from busloads of children who illegally entered the country, the numbers prove that President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.
Reality Doesn’t Matter When The People Feel No Reassuring Hand Of Leadership
All of the facts stated above can be confirmed through multiple sources, yet most Americans are not consciously aware of all of this positive news; they don’t feel it, either. That’s what happens when the reassuring hand and voice of leadership are absent. Cold and stark reality offer no warmth and comfort to a concerned and disquieted nation.
The numerous achievements of the administration, cited above, resulting from the last six year’s work were an outstanding achievement. But, the people were never helped to feel secure and hopeful along the way. What they know is that they read or hear about this great economic and stock market performance, yet they don’t have much more, if any more, income than they used to have and don’t feel secure or hopeful about future improvement.
There’s an underlying truth or reason for that feeling… because the top 10% has received 98% of the income growth over the recovery (and 95% of 2009-2012 Income Gains Went to Wealthiest 1% — check the Wall Street Journal). That reality didn’t start with Obama. Even when times were good before the crash, “the people” were falling further behind the elites: according to the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan policy analysis arm of Congress, “The poorest tax filers (the bottom fifth) saw average after-tax income fall by 6 percent between 1996 and 2006,” the report said. While “the richest 1 percent of tax filers experienced a 74 percent increase in after-tax income.”
All the people know and feel is that they are not as better off compared to the great achievement numbers talked about. And they blamed the man in charge who never got close to them, never led them.
The GOP basically destroyed the country under W. Bush, continue(d) to foster a system that skews wealth and income away from the middle-class (favoring capital gains and interest income over earned income), and then blamed it on the President who sat by almost silently.
The truth is, most other presidents would envy President Obama’s performance record despite the fact that he inherited the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. If only Obama had the reassuring and warm-yet-strong leadership skills of Reagan or Clinton, last night’s election results would have been dramatically different.
But, no other modern President received as cold an introduction to his office as Obama, either. He had to develop thick skin immediately. Perhaps that isolated him from the feelings and concerns of the people as much as it did protect him from the vitriol of those who opposed him, in either case not serving him well in the end.
Profoundly Better Off Under Obama — An Ungrateful Nation?
Consider, as well, these additional facts forgotten or overlooked by the electorate… An Ungrateful Nation?
- Since Obama became president, our economy has gone from losing 800,000 jobs per month to adding 200,000 jobs per month. That’s a net improvement under Obama of about 1 million jobs per month!
- Before Obama became president, our financial system was in ruins and millions of people were at risk of losing their life savings. Now, the financial loopholes have been fixed and we are no longer at risk of another financial collapse.
- In 5 years under Obama the economy has created twice as many jobs as were created in 8 years under George W. Bush.
- President Obama passed credit card reforms that protects consumers from excessive fees, rate hikes, deceptive marketing and unreasonable due dates.
- Thanks to “Obamacare”, senior citizens have saved billions of dollars on prescription drugs.
- The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of your premiums on health care. As a result millions of Americans have received refunds from their health insurance companies.
- Despite the unprecedented obstructionism and record number of filibusters used by Republicans to kill even the most routine legislation, the fact remains, in almost every measurable way, the American people are profoundly better off today than they were before President Obama took office.
Still, said the Nation… Off with his head!
I get that Republicans are frustrated with President Obama.
Hey, I’m frustrated with him, too, and I voted for him! Unlike Reps, though, I find he’s not liberal enough (on the Political Spectrum charts, Obama is nearly identical to Romney). More importantly, I find Obama doesn’t lead “from the front” enough, hasn’t built a relationship with even his supporters amongst the citizenry, and has remained too stoic and isolated.
I get that Boehner is stunned by the primary election defeat of his lieutenant, Majority Whip Eric Cantor, and needs to build up his “bona fides.”
Hey, I’m stunned, too — Cantor is a conservative through and through… he simply tried to govern, which was his job. But I shouldn’t have been. I know Tea Party members who have shut out non-conforming family members. I know Tea Party parents who have disinherited their adult children who refused thought allegiance. My little fraternity brother from college has ostracized me for my differing views. Tea Partiers are the most cruel and ruthless people, as a group — though I have some good friends who are nominal Tea Party advocates (I say they are “nominal;” they say “adherent”) that are more than accepting of me and supportive of me, though I am a liberal gay man partnered to a man-of-mixed race for a couple decades and who is non-religious if nominally anti-religious establishment… everything Tea Party folk loathe. Yet, they remain my friends, so exceptions wonderfully prevail at times.
So, now we have Boehner attempting to build his bona fides, or rather attempting to show Tea Partiers he has balls made for obstructionism. We all know this is a show, a sham. Still, Boehner makes the effort to add a semblance of credence at every turn, recently by issuing an Op Ed in CNN, where he assails the “utterly beneath the dignity of the office” President Obama. Really? You guys who wanted to have the nation default on its financial debt obligations talk about being beneath the dignity of one’s office? Get real. Such a sad lot.
After reading Boehner’s Op Ed, I felt the urge to write, but before I could get there, I read the most perfect rebuttal completely bathed in revealing truth. I could do no better. So with that I offer a word to Boehner expressed by Sally Kohn.
Sally Kohn is a progressive activist, columnist and television commentator.
Dear Speaker Boehner,
President Theodore Roosevelt enacted 1,081 executive orders during his presidency. President Dwight Eisenhower had 484. President Ronald Reagan had 381. And President George W. Bush had 291.
President Barack Obama has enacted 182 executive orders — yet the GOP accuses him of being an “imperial president,” and Republican members of the House of Representatives are preparing to sue him for violating the Constitution.
With all due respect, Speaker Boehner, it’s as though the fog of extreme partisanship that has colored your dealings with President Obama since day one has suddenly turned into a full-on fever of irrationality.
Think about this for just a second: House Republicans are using taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against a President who has literally done not only what every president before him has done but has done it less often and is doing so now only because House Republicans repeatedly refuse to even vote on legislation, let alone pass anything.
And you have the gall to accuse the President of being the one in violation of the Constitution?
Even more frustrating is how your repeated attacks on the President fall factually flat. In your essay for CNN, you write: “After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?'”
This is a particularly laughable assertion given last week’s jobs report, which noted our economy added 288,000 jobs in June, marking 52 straight months of continuous job growth. Overall, under President Obama’s leadership, the private sector has added 9.7 million jobs and an economy that was in free fall when he was elected is now in a steady recovery.
Don’t think that recovery is fast enough, Speaker Boehner? Then pass laws to help rather than jeering from the sidelines and rooting for America to fail so you can blame it on President Obama.
You assert that you have passed jobs bills that President Obama and the Democratic Senate are ignoring, but frankly the word “jobs” as you use it there is questionable. Your “jobs” bills include legislation to repeal Obamacare, through which 20 million Americans now have health insurance, cut food stamps for poor Americans and reduce government regulations on fracking.
Meanwhile, President Obama proposed an actual jobs bill that would have created construction jobs to modernize our deteriorating roads and airports, provided tax credits for employers that hired returning veterans, extended unemployment benefits, which also spurs spending, and cut payroll taxes for 98% of American businesses. But that jobs bill was killed by Republican opposition in Congress.
You also accuse President Obama of ignoring the law, of acting like “a monarch or king.” Yet the same article of the Constitution that vests power and authority in Congress vests executive power in the President. Since the founding of our country, that power has been interpreted to allow presidents to enact executive orders and determine how the duly passed laws of Congress should be prioritized and deployed.
If you’re looking for an example of stretching that authority to the point of breaking it, perhaps you shouldn’t scrutinize a former Constitutional law professor but instead his predecessors. “I believe in a strong, robust executive authority,” Vice President Dick Cheney said in 2005. “The president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired.”
Cheney, for instance, described the War Powers Act — in which a president must gain the approval of Congress before launching armed conflict — as an unconstitutional “infringement on the authority of the presidency.” In both number and scope, President Obama’s use of executive actions simply pales against this and other actions one could compare.
Franklin Roosevelt, the last president faced with a massive economic recession, ultimately enacted 3,522 executive orders. Even though his own party controlled both houses of Congress, FDR wasn’t sued. He was elected to a third term. And his policies, including his executive orders, helped rescue America from the recession.
In the face of obstructionist Republicans in Congress, President Obama’s executive actions also enjoy broad public support.
Some 57% of Americans supported his administrative relief for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States when they were children. And according to a poll conducted by the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, 73% of Americans support an executive order to ban discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
If House Republicans don’t like these executive orders, then pass immigration reform and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Don’t sue the President. Passing laws that our nation wants and needs is doing your job. Suing the President just because you don’t like him is irresponsible partisan petulance.
Speaker Boehner, you write: “If you look back over American history, there has always been a tension between the inherent powers of the executive branch versus the inherent powers of the legislative branch.”
Yes, that’s true, and President Obama is simply exercising those inherent executive powers. Now please exercise yours and pass some laws to help America instead of wasting taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit that is nothing more than a flagrant partisan stunt.