Montana Sen. Steve Daines would have you believe that his signature on a controversial letter to the government of Iran was born from a concern about nuclear arms.
But if Daines had really been so concerned, he would have done enough research to understand a confrontational letter to a hostile government wasn’t going to make the world a safer place.
Daines might also have you believe that Iran needed a civics lesson about American government; that the Iranian regime needed a government primer that defined Congress’ power.
Yet, we’re pretty sure the Iranians understand America enough to get that Congress is part of the equation, and it has the power to ratify treaties.
Daines also downplayed his role in the letter, saying that in Washington, D.C., Congress meets and communicates with world leaders all the time.
But meeting and talking with leaders is much different than sending what can only be seen as a threatening letter to a foreign, hostile government.
Daines should quit making excuses and apologize for overstepping his role as a senator, thrusting himself and 46 of his friends into a tense situation that is clearly the province of the State Department. His participation in this half-baked scheme doesn’t just make him look foolish; it has a destabilizing effect on the world and undermines U.S. credibility. In other words, he’s done just the opposite of what should be expected from our leaders: His actions make the world less safe, not more.
Daines’ reasons for why he signed such hokum are clever non sequiturs aimed at justifying an action which has no defense.
Let’s call this what it is, a rookie mistake.
Iran knows how the government works. And the American people understand the danger of nukes in the hands of the Iranians. No one believes Congress isn’t interested.
Almost as soon as the letter was sent, leaders and experts talked about what a bad move this was.
“I didn’t think it was going to further our efforts to get a place where Congress would play the appropriate role that it should on Iran,” Sen. Bob Corker told The Daily Beast, a news and opinion website.
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Keep in mind: Corker is the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If Corker — a Republican — doesn’t think it’s an appropriate role, how come these 47 senators, including Daines, who’s been in Washington as a senator for a few months, know better?
Don’t let Daines off the hook. This was no trifling letter. This wasn’t just a casual exchange of opinions.
“If you are a country in the Middle East or Asia relying on Washington, this raises questions about America’s predictability,” said Richard Haass, who is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in The Washington Post.
Haass served under both former President George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush.
In the same Washington Post article, Phil Zelikow, who was a senior adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said, “It is never a good idea for elected leaders to give foreigners, and especially foreign enemies, a formal invitation to join our domestic arguments.”
Those who have joined the chorus to condemn this letter aren’t simply partisans on the other side of the political spectrum.
Many of them have strong Republican credentials. Don’t let anyone fool you: It’s not just Democrats who are mad.
The real galling part of this letter is the feigned concern for Iran. Sure, every leader — every American — should be concerned about Iran and nuclear weapons. However, Iran seems to be a convenient backdrop for what is really a political grudge match. The issue really isn’t about Iran. Instead, it’s about a power struggle between the president and Congress — a Republican Congress that is still reeling from questionable immigration policies done by executive order; or, maybe it’s the fallout from the somewhat successful yet vilified Obamacare health insurance program.
Whatever the genesis for the animosity — no matter how justified — it should not spill into other serious realms like foreign affairs, which need careful, strategic attention.
If senators and Congress want to fight the president and the perceived (or real) overreaches of Obama— that’s great. Just do it here — at home. Don’t bring Iran and the rest of the world into it.
The net result of a partisan battle shouldn’t be a more dangerous, hostile world.