The Corner

Law & the Courts

The Cotton Letter Was Not Sent Anywhere, Especially Not to Iran

Tom Cotton on Face the Nation, March 15, 2015 (CBS)

Before U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and 46 of his GOP colleagues are frog-marched to the gallows and hanged for treason, one vital point of confusion must be cleared up. Say what you will about the Republicans’ open letter “to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The Cotton/GOP letter regarding Tehran’s atom-bomb talks with Obama was not sent to the ayatollahs. Had Cotton & Co. actually delivered their communiqué to Iran’s mullahs — perhaps via a Swiss diplomatic pouch or something even more cloak and dagger — their critics would be on less swampy ground in calling them “traitors,” as the New York Daily News screamed.

Either through befuddlement or deceit, many of the Republicans’ detractors have echoed this gross inaccuracy.

‐A Slate column by Fred Kaplan last Tuesday bore this sub-headline: “The letter 47 Republican senators sent to Iran is one of the most plainly stupid things a group of senators has ever done.”

‐According to the Washington Post, “47 Republican senators sent a letter to leaders in Tehran saying that any agreement reached between Obama and Iran without the approval of Congress could be revoked by the next president.”

‐A citizen petition posted on the White House’s public-participation webpage demands that the federal government “File charges of treason against the 47 Senators who sent letter to Iran.”

‐No less a conservative luminary than Michael Reagan wrote in last Thursday’s Newsmax.com: “Those 47 Republican senators didn’t need to send a public letter to Tehran to remind the Iranians how America’s separation of powers works.”

Despite this hyperventilation, the Cotton Club did not send its letter anywhere — particularly not Tehran. As I mentioned last Thursday, Cotton drafted this letter, which explained to Iran’s leaders several relevant aspects of basic American civics. “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 letter states. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen,” it continues.

Cotton got 46 other senators to sign this letter in ink. “Because it was an open letter, it was not sent to Tehran but rather posted on Senator Cotton’s website and social-media accounts,” Caroline Rabbitt, Senator Cotton’s communications director, explained to me last week. Cotton & Co. never even dropped an envelope in the mail.

The fact that Cotton and his colleagues created a letter to nowhere seems to have escaped the loudest voices in this national conversation. Had that letter been posted on the website of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, or the Washington Times, the tumbrels would not be rolling toward Capitol Hill. So, this fight largely concerns which website first carried Cotton’s letter.

As Americans debate the wisdom of this GOP gambit, it should not surprise Obama that nearly half the Senate went around him to express its views on what White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough calls a “non-binding arrangement” with Iran. (This sounds like handcuffs without locks.) After all, Obama very openly craves an accord with Iran that goes around Congress. Thus, Obama is getting precisely what he deserves, given his overbearing, anti-Constitutional lust for common cause with the ayatollahs — to the exclusion of America’s duly elected representatives. Obama is desperate for a deal with this radical-Islamic, terrorist-sponsoring, IED-detonating regime. And he wants Republicans to shut up about it.

If Obama finds this Republican medicine bitter, he should stop pouring his own acrid elixir down their throats.

Agree or disagree with that point, here is the inescapable truth: Tom Cotton and his Senate colleagues never contacted anyone in Iran. That fact alone should turn the Left’s fluttering “GOP = Treason” banner into a wet rag.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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