The Senate Letter to Iran is Dumb, But Not Unprecedented


In case you still consider the left to be great defenders of free speech, please be advised that nearly half the US Senate is being accused of treason for the heinous crime of writing a letter.

That letter, written by the junior senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, was sent to Iran. In it, Cotton and the other 46 signatories lay out the constitutional case that a potential nuclear disarmament (or armament, depending on your perspective) deal must be approved by Congress. Here is the full letter:


Cotton is right, of course. While the chief executive conducts foreign policy, he can only make treaties with the consent of 2/3 of the US Senate. But that’s precisely what makes this so silly and pointless.

Why would Cotton & Co bother pointing this out to Iran? His chamber has the last say on any deal with Iran. If anyone needs to be reminded of that, it’s the White House, who has suggested otherwise. To go around the White House and engage a foreign government directly, especially while negotiations are ongoing, is petty and unseemly.

However, one thing it is not is unprecedented. There have been many and far worse examples of members of Congress engaging in unauthorized diplomacy with foreign officials. In 1985 then-representative John Kerry met with Nicaraguan Sandanista leader Daniel Ortega specifically to undermine the Reagan administration’s policy toward the country.

And worse, much worse, in 1984 the late senator, Ted Kennedy, sent a close friend to Moscow to negotiate with Soviet leaders to exchange Kennedy’s help in undermining Reagan with Russia’s help defeating Reagan in his 1984 reelection. It definitely isn’t treason to send an official letter explaining the separation of powers to a foreign country. However, it almost certainly is treason to back-channel request the assistance of an enemy empire in an American election.

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