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Dangers of ignorance

rainey BARRETT


February, 1865, emissaries from the North and South were meeting secretly, trying to set terms for ending America’s Civil War. Killing continued on the battlefields. But talks continued in private meeting places. And it was the results of those talks that brought an end to the killing in April, 1865.

Imagine this alternate scenario. Imagine that 47 members of the then-U.S. Congress wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in February, 1865, warning him any deal he cut with President Lincoln to end the war would not be binding – that Lincoln would not be president forever – that the next Congress could (and likely would) void any agreement arrived at in the current negotiations.

That didn’t happen to Lincoln. But it has to Barack Obama. In an effort almost perfectly defined in the word “sedition,” 47 Republican senators very publically wrote the leaders of Iran that any agreement reached in current multi-nation efforts to keep Iran from owning nuclear weapons could – and might – be ended by Congress. Further, such agreement negotiated would not likely last beyond the Obama presidency.

Reaction – nearly all of it surprise, anger, disgust and negative for what those 47 did – is raining down in this country and in many abroad. The action was unprecedented, dangerous, unnecessarily divisive, wrong, just plain stupid. And it might’ve been illegal.

Ironically named for a Republican, the Logan Act, created in 1799, has seldom been used. In sum, it prohibits U.S. citizens from negotiating directly with other nations on behalf of the American government. It specifically prohibits “correspondence … with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government … in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.” Whether the Act would apply in this case depends on which lawyer you’ve talked to last. Some “yes.” Some “no.”

Several incidents where Logan could’ve been applied have occured in recent years though no one was charged. One was when Rev. Jesse Jackson went to Cuba and Nicaragua in 1984, while President Reagan was involved in his secret deal with Iran to trade American prisoners for military hardware. Jackson was threatened, but that was it.

The second was Idaho’s own international publicity seeker and professional interloper – the late former Republican Cong. George Hansen. He trotted off to Iran in the ‘80’s to be a one man negotiating team. He got lots of publicity but – like most everything he did – the effort was mostly for self-aggrandizement. No charges.

This most recent attempt to kneecap the President also touches Idaho in a direct way. Both U.S. Senators signed on. I’ve known each for more than 40 years. The participation of James Risch doesn’t surprise except his name is out there on this and his usual modus operandi is to do his deeds behind your back. This time – 3rd name, right column, second page.

Mike Crapo’s participation is also not surprising though, a few years ago when he seemed to be thinking more clearly, he likely would’ve kept a lower profile and not publically signed such an odorous document. This is another personal disappointment in how far to the right he’s drifted since his more effective earlier days as a Senator and – previously – in the Idaho Legislature. This time, 4th name, right column, second page.

Though real damage to our international credibility and trustworthiness has been done, it’s unlikely there’ll be legal action against the 47 miscreants. Some should. But it won’t. They’ve undercut efforts of this president and others to follow him. Their arrogance has publically demonstrated how little they really know about our U.S. Constitution – to say nothing about the totality of their own job descriptions and the balance of powers of American government.

Perhaps there was a fitting irony when one of Iran’s leaders – with a proper American university pHd in government – had to publically correct the 47 and accurately define for them the limitations members of Congress have in such international affairs. In fact, of the two dozen or so at the top of Iran’s political system, about half have attended U.S. educational institutions. More of them speak and understand English than any of the 47 speak or understand things Iranian.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton – self-acknowledged primer cord in this foreign affairs bomb – has been a senator for less than two months. You’ll probably still find bread crumbs scattered on the floor from his senate seat to the men’s room so he doesn’t have an accident. His publically demonstrated ignorance of the duties of his office – and of the role of the Senate as one-half of the legislative branch of government – are not surprising. He exhibited the same vacuous abilities in the U.S. House for several years. But, there he was one of 435 – not one of 100.

Cotton is the poster child for what’s wrong in our Congress. Empty-headed, self-serving, ignorant of protocol or responsibility, operating in an ideological vacuum with no sense of compromise or give-and-take required of successful politicians. He comes from the same intellectually-challenged brood as Imhofe, Bachman, Irish, Lee, Cruz, Ghomert, etc.

Their single-minded goal in life was to get to Congress. Having achieved that, the single-minded goal is now staying in Congress at all costs – including abusing the electoral system to assure their “permanence.” Now, with Republican-controlled state legislatures rigging local election laws in their favor, the likelihood of getting rid of them grows dimmer with each passing year.

The far right has been a cancer on the body politic for too many years. Where members were previously just a damned nuisance, some – like Cotton – have now become dangerous in their disregard of both law and protocol. This latest bomb-throwing could well sink hopes of a peaceful no-nuke agreement if not actually light the political fuse for a new international war. Such activities by these – and their equally as uninformed ilk across the rotunda – have now slopped over into dangerous, life-threatening places where they don’t belong.

Our peace – our security – even our lives – cannot afford the likes of Tom Cotton. And, with their signatures on this inflammatory document, the likes of Crapo and Risch, either.

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