This is in response to the Paul Waldman’s extreme whining titled: Republicans are beginning to act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president
Let’s examine what he says..
It’s safe to say that no president in modern times has had his legitimacy questioned by the opposition party as much as Barack Obama. But as his term in office enters its final phase, Republicans are embarking on an entirely new enterprise: They have decided that as long as he holds the office of the presidency, it’s no longer necessary to respect the office itself.
Up until this past election, the President has enjoyed the Democrat controlled Senate as his buffer from having to be held accountable, or even offer a veto to legislation. Then, Majority Leader Reid managed to cut off any opportunity to have legislation come before the Senate that did not square with the policies and desires of the President. Not sure how you’d feel about that, Paul, but for me, the Senate long ago gave up its Constitutional authority, only to have the Republican’s bring it back to where it belongs. So its not that the office isn’t getting respect; far from it. It’s the President himself who has brought this unwanted attention.
It’s one thing to criticize the administration’s actions, or try to impede them through the legislative process. But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. And just imagine what those same Republicans would have said if Democratic senators had tried such a thing when George W. Bush was president.
Imagine how President Bush felt when Nancy Pelosi went overseas to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when President Bush’s policy was to isolate Syria and its involvement in Iraqi insurgency, as well as halting support for terrorists. Pelosi may not have been a Senator, but the legislative interference is not unprecedented, and for Democrats, nothing new.
The only direct precedent I can think of for this occurred in 1968, when as a presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly communicated with the government of South Vietnam in an attempt to scuttle peace negotiations the Johnson administration was engaged in. It worked: those negotiations failed, and the war dragged on for another seven years. Many people are convinced that what Nixon did was an act of treason; at the very least it was a clear violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits American citizens from communicating with foreign governments to conduct their own foreign policy.
Here, the real context is not that the Senate Republicans are the culprit, but anyone that is a Republican is the enemy of a Democrat President. Let’s not forget that President Johnson was stopping the bombing campaign, as a political move, to help Hubert Humphrey. When Nixon’s aides were seen trying to delay the talks by offering incentive, President Johnson ordered wiretaps of his political opponent. While it may seem that the issue of a Republican negatively affecting a foreign policy outcome, the President himself abused his own authority, if you hold that Nixon did the same for Watergate and was forced out of office. Essentially, a political stalemate, to which Paul should concede.
This move by Republicans is not quite at that level. As Dan Drezner wrote, “I don’t think an open letter from members of the legislative branch quite rises to Logan Act violations, but if there’s ever a trolling amendment to the Logan Act, this would qualify,” and at least it’s out in the open. But it makes clear that they believe that when they disagree with an administration policy, they can act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president of the United States.
If the move isn’t quite to the level of the Nixon transgression, then why bring it up? It’s purpose again, is to smear the Republican’s in general, and their desire to establish Foreign policy initiatives in violation of protocol at a minimum, as well as Constitutionally, depending on your view. Forget that the fact that earlier, before this article, Josh Earnest already declared that the President didn’t need to consult with the Senate for this executive action. This is fundamentally an incorrect interpretation of the Constitution, and to be sure, the Senate Republican’s merely asserted their vested power, reminding the Iranians that there was no opportunity to take advantage of the situation.
And it isn’t just in foreign affairs. In an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Mitch McConnell urged states to refuse to comply with proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency. Never mind that agency regulations like these have the force of law, and the Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions — if you don’t like the law, just act as though it doesn’t apply to you. “I can’t recall a majority leader calling on states to disobey the law,” said Barbara Boxer, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “and I’ve been here almost 24 years.”
Paul’s equivocating Mitch McConnell’s op-ed on domestic policy with that of Foreign policy is laughable. Already the President has ignored established law by changing the mandate requirements on Obamacare for employers until after he leaves office. He has singularly changed his correct Constitutional stance on Immigration and usurped Congressional authority on establishing new laws for Amnesty, which have recently been put on hold by a Federal judge. For McConnell, the issue is clear: the EPA has decidedly become overly burdensome through executive authority not given to it (sound familiar?) and has chosen to tell the states, the Republican’s have your back. After all, Obama seems to usurp Constitutional authority whenever it suits him and has little respect for Congress (unlike Senator Obama.)
The American political system runs according to a whole series of norms, many of which we don’t notice until they’re violated. For instance, the Speaker of the House can invite a foreign leader to address Congress for the sole purpose of criticizing the administration, and he can even do it without letting the White House know in advance. There’s no law against it. But doing so violates a norm not only of simple respect and courtesy, but one that says that the exercise of foreign policy belongs to the administration. Congress can advise, criticize, and legislate to shape it, but if they simply take it upon themselves to make their own foreign policy, they’ve gone too far.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been attacked by the administration with childish taunts. Obama has single-handedly managed to undermine Israel’s positions in the Middle East. America’s influence in the region is supported by a strong Israeli alliance. The Congress, fearful of the Administration’s lack of effort in dealing with ISIS and the many concessions offered to Iran to get them to stop a nuclear bomb program (and the history Iran has with lack of compliance to international demands is completely ignored) allowed the Prime Minister to make his case. Only Obama and his cronies felt threatened because all Obama wants is a signature foreign policy achievement. And when the President’s own advisers admit that a bad deal is better than no deal, someone has to act like the grown up.
But as has happened so many times before, Republicans seem to have concluded that there is one set of rules and norms that apply in ordinary times, and an entirely different set that applies when Barack Obama is the president. You no longer need to show the president even a modicum of respect. You can tell states to ignore the law. You can sabotage delicate negotiations with a hostile foreign power by communicating directly with that power.
I wonder what they’d say if you asked them whether it would be acceptable for Democrats to treat the next Republican president that way. My guess is that the question wouldn’t even make sense to them. After all, that person would be a Republican. So how could anyone even think of such a thing?
As opposed to Harry Reid proclaiming in 2007 that the Iraq war has failed. The continuous attacks on Bush of failed war policies, and the calling of the President “un-patriotic” for running up national debt. I can imagine where this all started from and, while I would agree we have fallen further into the divisive rhetoric, it didn’t start with Republicans. Sorry, Paul, but the guy you love so much sitting at the desk, is guilty of far more breeches of protocol and rule of law, including divisive and poisonous rhetoric. It’s not Republican’s who live in denial.