“Never Before” Mantra about the 47-Republicans Letter…

Via NewsBusters:

…”The idea that this is unprecedented or new is preposterous. The only thing wrong with the letter is it should have come EARLIER and should have included references to IRAN and AL QAEDA.“… (emphasis added)

Vice President Biden said this about the letter to Iran signed by 47 Republican senators:

“In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which senators intervened in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.” 

Before continuing with The Weekly Standard article, consider this via Forbes:

Picking his way through the Soviet archives that Boris Yeltsin had just thrown open, in 1991 Tim Sebastian, a reporter for the London Times, came across an arresting memorandum. Composed in 1983 by Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB, the memorandum was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.

“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 memorandum explained, “Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic senator from California.) “The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”

Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”

Kennedy made Andropov a couple of specific offers.

First he offered to visit Moscow. “The main purpose of the meeting, according to the senator, would be 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.” Kennedy would help the Soviets deal with Reagan by telling them how to brush up their propaganda.

Then he offered to make it possible for Andropov to sit down for a few interviews on American television. “A direct appeal … to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country. … If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will 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. … The senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as coming from the American side.”

Kennedy would make certain the networks gave Andropov air time–and that they rigged the arrangement to look like honest journalism.

Kennedy’s motives? “Like other rational people,” the memorandum explained, “[Kennedy] is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations.” But that high-minded concern represented only one of Kennedy’s motives.

“Tunney remarked that the senator wants to run for president in 1988,” the memorandum continued. “Kennedy does not discount that during the 1984 campaign, the Democratic Party may officially turn to him to lead the fight against the Republicans and elect their candidate president.”

…read it all…

Now, let’s add some items of interest to the above by continuing with TWS article:

But in fact, a number of U.S. senators, including then-Senator and now Secretary of State John Kerry, have contacted unfriendly governments, in opposition to the policies of the White House at the time.

Senator James Abourezk (D-South Dakota) secretly met with Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat in 1973, and arranged for Adlai Stevenson III (D-Illinois) to do likewise. This violated both American government policy and U.S. law, which prohibited such contacts because of the PLO’s involvement in terrorism and refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

In December 1979, Sen. Abourezk undertook a secret trip to Tehran, at the behest of his colleague Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). The Iran hostage crisis was generating public sympathy for President Jimmy Carter, making it difficult for Kennedy to gain traction in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Kennedy hoped Abourezk, an Arab-American, could negotiate a release of the hostages, and thus deprive Carter of the political advantage.

The episode became public only in 1986, when congressional candidate Joseph (son of RFK) Kennedy rejected a $100 contribution from Abourezk, because of the latter’s extreme animus toward Israel. Abourezk took revenge by writing Kennedy a letter — and making it public — in which he announced, “I risked my life and my career” by going to Tehran in response to a request from Sen. Ted Kennedy. The request was conveyed by Kennedy aide Jan Kalicki, former JFK aide Theodore Sorensen, and Kennedy’s close colleague, Sen. John Culver (D-Iowa). Abourezk explained to the Los Angeles Times that he did not speak directly to Sen. Kennedy, in order “to give him an element of deniability.”

Sen. Kennedy himself was no stranger to the world of friendly contacts with hostile governments. In 1991, a London Times reporter combing through newly released Soviet archives found an internal KGB memorandum reporting a remarkable communication to the Soviet leadership from Kennedy, via his close friend ex-Sen. John Tunney, in May 1984.

According to the memo, Kennedy proposed to visit Moscow in order to help Soviet leaders craft more effective “explanations” to use against the Reagan administration concerning nuclear disarmament issues. He also offered to arrange U.S. television appearances for Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov to make a “direct appeal” to the American people that would undermine the administration. Kennedy evidently hoped these efforts would increase the Democrats’ chances of retaking the White House that year.

Senator Charles Percy (R-Illinois) had a Moscow connection of his own. In November 1980, he traveled to the USSR for private meetings with then-Premier Leonid Brezhnev, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, and Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov. During the talks, Percy advocated the creation of a Palestinian state headed by Soviet client Arafat — essentially taking the Soviet position, as against the position of both the outgoing Carter administration and the incoming Reagan administration.

Percy’s remarks were reported to Washington by the American ambassador in Moscow, Thomas Watson. What Percy said so alarmed U.S. officials that one of them leaked Watson’s classified cables to the New York Times.

“Arafat has a compelling desire to be a chief of state, no matter how small it is,” Percy said in Moscow, according to the cables. “He is a terrorist, he has done same dastardly things; but he is a fact of life, he exists.” His Soviet interlocutors must have been very pleased.

Each of these contacts was shrouded in secrecy, arguably a far more serious undermining of the executive branch than this week’s Iran letter, which was crafted as an open, public letter, not a private communication to any particular Iranian leader. At least nobody at the White House can accuse of the 47 GOP senators of going behind the president’s back.

And while the 47 Republicans merely issued a public statement, some other senators have gone the extra mile by visiting hostile capitals in opposition to U.S. policy.

In 1985, for example, then-freshman Senator John Kerry traveled to Nicaragua for a friendly get-together with the Sandinista president, Daniel Ortega. The position of the Reagan administration was to support the opposition Contras. Kerry wasn’t much interested in the administration’s position. Upon his return to the United States, Kerry met with President Reagan to convey a message from Ortega. Reagan “wasn’t thrilled,” Kerry later told the New York Times. This week, it’s Kerry’s turn to be less than thrilled.

In late 2006, Democratic senators Kerry, Chris Dodd (Connecticut), and Bill Nelson (Florida), as well as one Republican who later became a Democrat, Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania), traveled to Damascus. That is, at a time when the policy of the Bush administration was to isolate the Bashar Assad regime because of its aggression in Lebanon support for terrorism, the senators decided to show their support for renewed U.S. relations with Syria…

…read both pages (one and two)…

One should take note as well that like Goldberg said, the letter didn’t go far enough, here is National Review on the matter:

Time for a primer on international agreements, thanks to the controversy over Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran.

Joined by almost all Republican senators, the missive warned Tehran that any nuclear deal with President Obama would not last unless it went to Congress for approval:

★ We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

As a description of American constitutional law, Senator Cotton has it exactly right. It was as if he were just informing Iran about the text of the Constitution. There are three types of international agreements under U.S. law:

a. Treaties: These require two-thirds of the Senate for approval. The U.S. has generally used treaties for the most serious commitments of American sovereignty, such as alliances and arms control.
b. Congressional-Executive agreements: These require approval by the House and the Senate. Although unmentioned in the Constitution, they are nothing more than regular laws passed by Congress. These have been used for deals such as trade agreements.
c. Sole executive agreements: These are made by the president alone. They are constitutional only because they represent promises by the president on how to exercise his constitutional power.

The Cotton letter is right, because if President Obama strikes a nuclear deal with Iran using only instrument (c), he is only committing to refrain from exercising his executive power — i.e., by not attacking Iran or by lifting sanctions under power delegated by Congress. Not only could the next president terminate the agreement; Obama himself could terminate the deal.

In fact, the Cotton letter could have gone farther and pointed out that Obama may make promises that he cannot keep. Since a sole executive agreement is only a commitment for the use of the executive’s authority, it cannot make promises about Congress. Under the Constitution’s Foreign Commerce Clause, only Congress has the authority to impose international economic sanctions….

…read it all…