Point-scoring is, and always will be, part of politics, but sometimes the “game” goes too far.
The open-letter to Iran signed by 47 Republican Senators is one of those times. Tom Cotton, author and organizer of the letter, used a combination of American Government 101 and condescension to imply that Iranian leaders are too primitive to understand our system of government. Praise the heavens for their insightful explanation about how term-limits work. Apparently four year term-limits go … four years. Huh.
Already, some of the letter’s signatories are backpedaling their stances. Sen. John McCain, a war-veteran old-hat who should have known better, tried to save face. “Maybe that wasn’t the best way to do that,” he said on Fox News Wednesday, after host Greta Van Susteren makes it clear she isn’t cool with undermining the Commander-in-Chief in this way. I can’t recall any permanent staff on FoxNews ever defending this President — it was kinda weird. But good on her for getting McCain to concede his party-primed talking point a tad, and for speaking her mind on the air.
In an interview with the Denver Post, Cory Gardner, Colorado’s newest senator who also signed the letter, did not quite commit to a backpedal, choosing instead to pirouette. “If you listen to the reaction of the administration, they are in hyperdrive trying to downplay what’s really at stake. That’s why the president is trying so hard to distract people from the real issue.”
Standard political dodge, nothing out of the ordinary here. Patches O’Houlihan just gave a smug smile of approval from the grave. But it gets better from the freshman senator.
Sometimes, when caught with your pants down, instead of admitting a mistake or just getting the f*ck out of there, you try to convince people the sh*t you just took is creme brulee. “We’re not just talking about trade goods here, we’re talking about the very future of the world,” Sen. Gardner said.
Nobody is trying to make the letter or the deal about trade goods. The administration isn’t downplaying what’s at stake in the deal, although two GOP aids certainly engaged in downplaying after the backlash began, calling the letter to Iran “cheeky.” When the words “nuclear deal” are mentioned, people understand its probably pretty important. You know what doesn’t help a massive multinational nuclear negotiation with a theocratic regime that has been ongoing since George W. Bush was President? A “cheeky” letter telling them it won’t matter what they do with our “mere executive” Barack Obama, because the Senate is waiting in the wings to shoot your carefully constructed pact to smithereens, motherf*cker.
I’ve been pretty hard on the poor newbie, but I’m not here about the need for a recall or anything like that. This was an ill-conceived scene in the endless political theatre of Washington: it wasn’t treason. Concerned constituents can voice their disapproval in other ways (like writing columns). His website has a lovely “Contact Cory” page where you can share serious concerns to your heart’s content. He also has a term-limit (again, thanks for reminding me Sen. Cotton), and if you’re still irked when re-election comes in 2020, just don’t vote for him.
Party politics sometimes force political actors to do things they don’t want to do. Maybe Sen. Gardner is working on support for his promise of immigration reform, and needs to play ball to get it. I couldn’t say for certain why he signed it. But if the deal with Iran stumbles in connection to this letter, and Iran develops the nuclear weapon the GOP fears so much … well. I hope it was worth it, Senator. It is the future of the world after all.
Collegian Opinion Editor Zack Burley doodles on bathroom stalls when his phone battery runs out and the boredom is just too much. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @zackburley.