|Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)|
US Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) recently bucked the downward spiral of Capitol Hill into a dysfunctional mess by working across party lines to come up with the Corker/Cardin Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015
The CCINARA for short. They could have come up with a better acronym but at least it is not as bad as some others we have had over time such as COBRA, OBRA and TEFRA.
We have made no secret of our deep concern over this effort by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to: A) lift sanctions on Iran, one of the most ardent supporters of state-sponsored terrorism in the world and B) give Iran nuclear capability without any real movement towards insuring the safety of Israel in the Middle East or not renouncing their support of state-sponsored terrorism around the globe.
That seems to be a clear case of 'Heads, Iran wins; tails, America loses'. And so does the rest of the peace-loving and peace-keeping nations around the world.
We have asked at least a half a dozen former military leaders such as admirals and generals and former State Department diplomats and staff what they think is going on in Obama and Kerry's head to get this deal done under the cloak of 'executive privilege' and without any US Senate oversight advice and consent.
Not one of them can come up with any rational, coherent or cogent reason why any leader of the United States of America would push headlong into such an agreement unless he really believes he has some sort of magical powers to turn bad people into saints. It goes against common logic and historical American foreign policy postures.
But the real head-scratcher in all of this has been President Obama's fervent desire to keep this agreement out of the hands of anyone on Capitol Hill such as the US Senate, a place that he conveniently used on his way to being a 'one-and-doner' and then on to the White House.
President Obama somehow managed to be the #1 draft pick in the entire nation and walk right into the White House in 2008 after a very brief and not-too-distinguished career in the Illinois state legislature and a clipped term in the US Senate. He has been trying desperately ever since to 'fundamentally change America' (his words, not ours) at the same time he has been learning on-the-job what it takes to follow in the august footsteps of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR and Ronald Reagan.
We can't see where any of those other great American leaders would take at face value the actions of a terrorist-supporting nation such as Iran where they chant 'Death to America!' and 'Death to Israel!' and say: 'Hey! Let's sign a deal with them lifting economic sanctions that will re-fuel their funds to support more terrorism and hey, by the way! let's give them the capability to build a nuclear weapon to use as well!'
It defies all logic and reason.
Stepping into this Alice in Wonderland scenario came US Senators Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland with their recent deal noted above.
We thought this was a good chance to point out a couple of things about our democratic form of government that actually gives us all a shimmering glimmer of hope that adults will stand up and figure out that our nation needs such grown-up leadership before it gets too much later.
First of all, you will notice that Senator Corker is indeed a Republican and Senator Cardin is indeed a Democrat. That in and of itself is something of a miracle after the last 18 years of virtually no bipartisanship behavior on the part of the US Senate or US Congress save the extended committee of the whole Congress debates on going to war in Afghanistan post-9/11.
They somehow figured out how to work together and forge a consensus not only of a majority of US Senators, 51, to support the CCINARA but a super-majority, 67, who could override a previously-promised Presidential veto of any effort to force President Obama to submit this Iranian deal to Congress for their review and approval.
Think about that for a moment. Senators Corker and Cardin somehow figured out how to work together and compromise enough to get 54 Republicans, 1 Independent (Angus King of Maine) and 12 Democrats to support their bill.
We haven't seen that sort of cooperation since 1997 when Bill Clinton signed the Balanced Budget Act with those dastardly Republicans in the House, Newt, Dick and Tom.
Second, we think this is a good sign that the adults in the room, or at least the US Senate for now, understand they are never going to get 100% of what they want in any session of Congress until and unless, like the Democrats did in 2009-2010, have 60 US Senators. Senators Corker and Cardin apparently worked their tails off to corral the 67 votes necessary to force Obama to kneel before the US Senate and agree not to veto it and they did it all by compromise and rational, calm adult conversations and trust.
We think it is critically important to remind everyone that the Founders of this Republic never intended for one person or one party to have absolute total authoritarian power...ever. Thomas Jefferson used to say that he was against the concentration of power in a small faction of leaders in Congress, even if he agreed with them!
The simple fact that President Obama assumed it was ok for him to embark on a deal of this magnitude without any input or oversight from Congress should send shudders up the spin of even the most ardent Obama supporter.
Why? Because what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If Obama had been allowed to get away with this, imagine how you would feel in the future when President George Bush X is in the White House and making plans to invade Freedonia for its strategic mineral reserves without any input whatsoever from the Democrats in Congress.
The Founders, and then later, Speaker and then Senate Majority Leader Henry Clay, believed in 'legislative supremacy' where the people would take precedence over the whims and goals of one person in the White House. Senators Corker and Cardin's deal is one small step for mankind back to asserting that 'legislative supremacy' in the eternal tug-of-war between the legislative branch and the executive branch of our federal government.
Third, we hope this will be a lesson in how our Constitution is supposed to work where people campaign during campaign season (whatever that is nowadays) but then go to work for the nation as a whole once elected. We can not have our government run by polls or essentially by national referendum every time there is something important to do such as balance the budget or reform healthcare. Again.
Fourth, this should be a very good lesson in the dangers of having a president willing to 'go it alone' as if he were a king or a dictator on any large foreign policy matter. Democrats thought dealing 'arms to Iran' as part of the Iran-Contra deal that involved Oliver North was such a shocker that they formed the Iran-Contra Committee to investigate this fully and bring Ronald Reagan down a notch or two in the mid-1980's.
Imagine if they thought Ollie North was trading 'nuclear weapons to Iran' in exchange for running guns and money to the Nicaraguan insurgents against Daniel Ortega! They would have really been hot and bothered back then.
The Constitution is pretty clear about foreign policy in America. Clear as mud that is.
The President is the Commander-in-Chief, there is not doubt about that. But the US Senate has the 'advice and consent' function that most Presidents have used to build consensus around international treaties, both in trade and nuclear disarmament negotiations with our friend abroad and our enemies.
The US House has the power of the purse-strings meaning no President can go to war if Congress doesn't authorize funding to actually pay for the war.
Congress also has the constitutional power to 'declare war' which they haven't done so since World War II which is one other way Presidents have been able to keep some significant degree of flexibility when dealing with such things as the Chinese communist invasion of Korea and the Vietnam 'police action' started by JFK and exploded, literally, under LBJ.
Since the Constitution is as 'clear as mud' on this subject, you will never see the Supreme Court rule one way or the other on which branch of government has more power to prosecute wars for America. They would say 'go fix it yourself first by amending the Constitution if you want to. Knock yourselves out but leave us alone here at the Supreme Court when that train leaves town!'
We are grateful that Senators Corker and Cardin have shown such adult leadership in the US Senate on this critical Iran Nuclear Arms/Energy Agreement.
Maybe there will be more like that to follow. We can only hope and pray.
* detailed commentary with link to actual bill for you who really want to dig deep.