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Monday, March 23, 2015

Was The Iran Letter Unconstitutional?

Last Friday I posted a piece about Iran.  The main point of the post was to show that Iranians have good reason to believe that possessing nuclear weapons is the only sensible thing to do to prevent aggression against them by the vast military complex of the imperialistic Socialist Democracy of Amerika.  Why has the SDA military, the most powerful in the history of the universe, not invaded North Korea and brought about a regime change?  Why has the line of dictator tyrants who rule North Korea been permitted to continue with nary a word of criticism from career politicians in the SDA?  Why do neo-conservatives blather on and on about how Christians are being killed in Syria but ignore the even more serious case of Christian genocide in North Korea?  The answer to all of those questions is the same.  North Korea has a couple of nuclear weapons and would not hesitate to use them if the SDA invaded.  Our rulers are fully aware of that fact so they leave North Korea alone.  This reality has not escaped the perception of Iran.
Iran has the right to defend itself.  Republicans in the SDA Congress are wrong when they say that the treaty being negotiated with Iran should forbid Iran from ever having nuclear weapons of any sort.  That is not a treaty, that is SDA hegemony designed to keep Iran under SDA control.  Many career politicians in the SDA have been very outspoken about their desire to invade Iran and bring about another regime change.  Apparently the total disaster that is Iraq has had no impact upon their thinking.  Equally as apparent is that the total disaster that has been the history of Iran's political relations with western powers since WWII has also had no impact upon their thinking.  All they can think about is somebody somewhere might have a nuclear weapon and we are the only ones allowed to play with those toys.  So Iran must be stopped. 
In the course of making the above argument I mentioned that I believe the letter sent by a couple dozen Republican career politicians was unconstitutional.  A regular reader of this blog took exception to my characterization.  He wrote me and said, "I don't agree that the open letter to Iran's leadership was unconstitutional. The letter was not put into an envelope and sent, but an open letter. The letter was not passed/approved by the House. 46 citizens, despite their political position, should be able to compose and 'send' such a letter."  Here is the complete text of the letter:

"An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran:
    It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.  Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.
    First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them.  In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.  A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).  Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.
    Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.  As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.
    What these two constitutional provisions mean is that 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.
     We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress."

I did not make the effort to actually read the letter prior to posting to my blog last week.  I should have.  I had several misconceptions about the letter.  Today I would like to clarify my position on this issue.
My anonymous critic is correct.  The letter was an "open letter," meaning it was not sent to anyone. He is also correct in that the writing and posting of the letter was not an official action of the House of Representatives of the SDA, although all of the signatories are members of the House.  I have searched the Internet in vain attempting to find out who the letter was actually sent to.  If it was not sent to Iran, who received it?  Somebody got a copy of it or we wouldn't know about it today.  Did any Iranians receive it?  If so, who?  I have no answers to any of these questions.  I am forced to conclude that I have been exposed for the charlatan I am, I am Welsh after all, and confess that my accusation of allegedly unconstitutional action on the part of 46 SDA Republican House members may be incorrect.  Notice that I wrote "may" be incorrect.  At this point I am just not sure what is going on.
The Constitution is very clear and simple about the matter of making treaties with foreign countries.  The President has the authority to negotiate treaties with foreign nations.  Congress has no such authority.  Once a treaty has been negotiated the President must present the document to the Senate which then has the power to either approve or reject it.  A 2/3rds majority is required to approve any treaty negotiated by the President.  In addition to these items, the Constitution says that the Senate may give "advice" to the President as he negotiates a treaty with a foreign power.  At no point in the process of negotiating and approving a treaty with a foreign country does the House of Representatives have even the slightest constitutional authority.  In light of the clear and obvious rules about treaty construction I am forced to see the House letter in a different light.
The first point made in the Republican's letter is incorrect.  They rightly declare that any treaty negotiated with a foreign power requires a 2/3rds endorsement by the Senate but then they go on to create an extra-Constitutional category called a "congressional-executive agreement" which allegedly requires House approval as well.  They then incorrectly conclude that "anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement."  That statement is false.  The Constitution is perfectly clear.  The President makes a treaty and if the Senate approves it it becomes official.  The House has nothing to do with it.  This extra category that they have created might actually exist in the real world of extra-Constitutional congressional actions but it is not right, proper or Constitutional. 
Although my anonymous critic is correct that the 46 House Republicans have the right to write a letter to anyone they want, just like any other citizen of the SDA, they abuse that right in their second point.  When they reference the fact that King Obama will be out of office in a few short years whereas all of them are entrenched career politicians they are clearly speaking in their capacity as members of the House and not merely as citizens of the SDA.  The statement is clearly a threat.  The threat is clearly intended to convey to Iran the understanding that those men who have signed the letter have political power and are going to use it.  But the Constitution does not give them any political power in the case of treaty construction and it is hard to see how their assertions are anything less than an abuse of the power they do have.
The conclusion which they draw that any agreement between Obama and Iran is nothing but an "Executive Agreement" is most interesting.  If it is indeed the case that Obama has no intention of presenting his negotiated treaty to the Senate for confirmation, they are correct.  It is not worth the paper it is printed on.  On the other hand, if the King does present his treaty for ratification the House has nothing to do with the matter.  In either case the entire issue is not the business of the 46 members of the House who signed the letter to no one.  In the final analysis I am forced to conclude that the entire affair is nothing more than political grandstanding, designed to garner votes to ensure their "career" status as politicians. 

UPDATE:  Later on today, March 23rd
Man is my face red.  Of course that is due to the fact that I have a naturally ruddy complexion, like all true Welshmen.  But not only that, my attempt to make things more accurate ended up only perpetrating additional inaccuracies.  No wonder nobody reads this blog.  It is full of material misstatements and biased generalizations.  Please note the following corrections:
1.  The letter was sent by 47 people, not 46.
2.  The people signing the letter were all Senators, not members of the House. Hence all of my scathing vitriol about how these stupid House members had no authority to write what they wrote is not true.  I still believe the Senators had no business saying anything to the leaders of a foreign country while they are engaging in treaty negotiations with the President and I still believe that they are clearly trying to threaten the Iranian leaders but I also have to admit that the Senators will be the ones who might ultimately be responsible for the ratification of the treaty, if it gets that far. 
Given the total inability on my part to get anything straight on this issue I am giving up, never to return to this topic again.  The Constitution is easy to understand. That is not the case with the machinations of our career politicians. 

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