The President engages in a little bit of straight talk

The Reality-Based Community has obtained the following extraordinary 
document. Of its veracity there can be no doubt. Its authenticity is not
quite so certain; no doubt the White House and the Senate will deny that
it was ever sent or received.

The White House
Washington, D.C.

To the Senate of the United States:

It has come to my attention that a group of Senators, acting without the authority of the Senate, has taken the extraordinary step of communicating directly with the government of a foreign power with which the United States is holding tense and urgent negotiations about matters that might lead to war or might, instead, greatly enhance our national security.

As part of that communication, those individuals have taken it upon themselves to inform the government with which we are negotiating that the pledged word of the United States of America, given by its President, is without value.

Of course it is true that, if the Islamic Republic of Iran – or any other nation – enters into an executive agreement with the United States, and upholds its obligations under that agreement, it would be within the lawful power of the President to unilaterally order that the United States breach its obligations under that agreement.

But it is also true that doing so, absent exigent and unforeseen circumstances, would be in the highest degree dishonorable, and would weaken the ability of any future President to conduct diplomacy, thus making our great nation less strong, less respected, and more vulnerable.

Accordingly, it has been the unvarying practice of the United States, not only under this Administration but under all past Administrations, to scrupulously carry out the nation’s international obligations, whether or not embodied in treaties ratified by the Senate. There are nations that treat international agreements as mere “scraps of paper,” but those of us who love this country would hate to have it counted in their disreputable number.

The Constitution assigns to each House of Congress disciplinary authority over its own members. Accordingly, I am bringing this unfortunate, unwise, and even (at least in its effect) unpatriotic action to the attention of the Senate for such action as it deems, in its wisdom, necessary and appropriate.

/Barack H. Obama

February 30, 2015

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

8 thoughts on “The President engages in a little bit of straight talk”

  1. Geeeze.. Never have I seen anything like this.. Ok.. We get it.. WOW

    The foreign press is eating this up.. Headlines around the globe declaring 'United States Senators Warn Iran Not to Trust President'.. And 'US Senators Demand US Unable, Not to be Trusted with Negotiations..,. Or this heartbreaking one.. 'United States Senators Vote no Confidence in United States'….. What the heck GOP?????

    How the HECK did some Freshman Senator with only SEVEN weeks under his belt, convince far elder Statesmen to join in this embarrassing nonsensical, yet incredibly damaging escapade?

    If one were to ask me, there is a real mental illness here, and we better reign it in America.. Before it is too late and these clowns do something REALLY stupid.. vs just regular old #@$'ing stupid.. I don't know if they want my kids, or they want your kids, but they are ACHING for war.. Rarely have I heard the drums of war beat so loudly..

    It isn't cute or funny anymore.. This politically petulant nonsense has global consequences… For ALL of us….you 47 jerks (who get a lifetime of benefits from the taxpayer, Cadillac health care plan, retirement fund, etc etc.. ..

    Not half bad .. This country you and I live in and .. Well,.. then there is YOU (nothing enigmatic about it, it is the Republicans).. trying to sell the American people out.. The VERY Americans that subsidize your very lifetime existence ……. What the heck is wrong with you???

  2. As much as I think the Republican senators in question are not only wrong, but also idiots, I strongly disagree with this argument. What it would mean is that the need for Senate ratification of a treaty is discarded. Why bother with it if an agreement is to be considered binding without it?

    If the Senate hasn't ratified an international agreement, the United States hasn't given its word. The president may have given his personal guarantee but he is the only person he can commit unilaterally. Maybe it's just another example of the separation of powers being a suboptimal idea, but it is a real thing.

    I'd be very surprised if foreign negotiators are unaware of U.S. constitutional requirements for a binding agreement. The Iranians surely understood that a Republican administration could back out of any agreement long before the morons decided to remind them of it. What they are surely counting on is that, if they sign an agreement and it comes into force before there is a Republican president, the next Republican president will honor it not because it is somehow binding upon him but rather because the practical consequences of unilaterally torpedoing it are too large. Given that you wouldn't get anyone else meaningful to agree to reimposing sanctions would be one of those consequences.

    1. This is also relevant to the Paris climate agreement due to be adopted in December. It's probably in the interests of the other parties to have a document that can be signed in the US by President Obama as an executive agreement, rather than a treaty that can't be ratified before 2017 at best. Of course, this is a much wider multilateral forum. Still, getting the US, China, and the EU on board is a must. Leaving India out would be an embarrassment – but on both sides.

    2. See, I doubt a Republican president would back out of a deal. And I think the pressure to ratify (or enact implementing legislation, more likely) is going to be very strong. Why? Because every sane person on earth thinks a deal is better than no deal and war, and this will be all the clearer once the deal is in place.

      The purpose of the letter is to prevent a deal. And it was sent because preventing a deal from being reached is the only way the Scorched Earth Republicans can ensure that there's no deal in effect in the future.

      1. "Why? Because every sane person on earth thinks a deal is better than no deal and war, and this will be all the clearer once the deal is in place."

        Your argument appears to rest the assumption a Republican President would both be sane and act sane. I think that's a flaw in the case.

      2. I agree that they won't back out but it won't have anything to do with not wanting to break the word of the United States, which they correctly believe will not have been given. It will be for the practical reasons you cite.

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