After four days, there is no easing of the White House and the liberal media fury over the letter signed by 47 Republican senators reminding Iran’s theocratic government that the Senate must approve any nuclear agreement with them pursued by President Barack Obama.
"It certainly interferes," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday, when asked if the lawmakers' letter would cause problems in ongoing negotiations with Tehran.
On Twitter and other social media, critics of the letter have drawn a bead on its author, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and branded him "Tehran Tom" — strange, considering Cotton is a decorated Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Traitors!" blared the Tuesday edition of the New York Daily News, with a smaller headline charging that GOP senators sought to "sabotage" a "nuke deal."
But for all the venom against the 47 Republican senators for allegedly interfering in the administration’s handling of foreign policy, it is nothing new. Attempts by members of the legislative branch of government to contact foreign governments over policy have gone on for decades and are not limited to one major party or the other.
"This doesn’t happen often, but, sure, it’s happened before," former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) told Newsmax.
In August 1939, the Roosevelt Administration and the pro-Democratic Party press vigorously hammered Rep. Hamilton Fish (R-New York) for meetings he held with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in Oslo, Norway, during the Interparliamentary Union Congress (of which Fish was president that year). The two had tea together and Fish shared a ride on von Ribbentrop’s plane.
A bitter opponent of FDR and of U.S. involvement in the war in Europe at the time, Fish called for better relations with Germany and told reporters he hoped to find a solution to the disputes between Germany and Poland over the "Danzig Corridor."
Democrats in Congress in the 1980s made clear to foreign leaders their disagreement with President Ronald Reagan’s hardline policy against Communism and did so more than once.
In May of 1983, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) reached out through his close friend and law school roommate, former Sen. John V. Tunney (D-California) to then-Soviet strongman Yuri Andropov. According to a memo from then-KGB boss Viktor Chebrikov to Andropov (that was released by the Russian government in 1991), Kennedy offered to visit Moscow to "arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA."
Through Tunney, Chebrikov wrote Andropov, Kennedy promised that he and his friends would "bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews … Like other rational people, [Kennedy] is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations."
In April 1983, 10 House Democrats — including then-House Majority Leader Jim Wright (Texas) and then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Edward Boland (Massachusetts) — wrote Daniel Ortega, comandante of the Marxist junta ruling Nicaragua, commending his government ''for taking steps to open up the political process in your country.''
The writers went on to state their opposition to funding anti-Communist rebels trying to oust the Ortega regime. In what The New York Times called a "veiled reference to the Reagan Administration," the letter insisted that if Ortega’s junta held elections, those who are ''supporting violence'' against them would have ''far greater difficulty winning support for their policies than they do today.''
One Republican who served in the House at that time told Newsmax that the "Dear Comandante" letter was far light years more egregious than anything the 47 senators wrote to Tehran.
"The Dear Comandante letter was a specific attempt to undermine Reagan administration policies in Central America and to call into question congressional support of those policies," said former Rep. Robert Walker (R-Pennsylvania). "It was a serious breach of foreign policy implementation in that it undermined our attempts to counter Communist expansion right below our own borders and put lives immediately in jeopardy.
"The letter written by 47 Senators to Iranian officials was aimed at current negotiations where the Obama administration is seeking an agreement which they intend to implement without seeking the constitutionally mandated advice and consent of Congress.
"The only way around that mandate is to take a purely executive action and the senators put on the record that such an agreement could be nullified with the stroke of a pen," Walker said.
"The 'Dear Comandante' letter was a true breach of national trust. The senators’ letter was a diplomatic warning of the consequences of pursuing an agreement that does not have congressional input."
Chris Plante, WMAL (Washington, D.C.) radio talk show host, devoted his program Wednesday to compiling modern examples of Democrats dealing with foreign leaders over the objections of Republican presidents.
Among cases he cited were those of then-Rep. David Bonior (D-Michigan) flying to Baghdad in 1990 and denouncing President George H.W. Bush for his hostility to then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) meeting in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2007 over the objections of President George W. Bush.
"When you had Ted Kennedy, Jim Wright and Nancy Pelosi telling the likes Andropov, Ortega and Assad how much they disagree with their presidents," Plante told Newsmax, "it seems a bit hypocritical to hear Democrats impugn the patriotism of someone who served his country like Tom Cotton."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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