It has only been a few weeks since the speaker of the House of Representatives, without seeking the concurrence of the president of the United States or even bothering to consult him, chose to invite the head of state of another nation to
address a joint session of the Congress. And it was on a matter, moreover, which was even then the subject of delicate negotiations between this country and a potential adversary, Iran.
As expected, that leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, had a view of the issue that was diametrically opposed to that of President Obama. No problem on that point: People and nations differ. The timing, however — just as negotiations with Iran were reaching the crucial point and (no accident, either) just before Netanyahu faced an election back home — was atrocious. And the issue — the very sensitive one of a deal with Iran to restrain that country's ability to make a nuclear weapon — was no small matter. Neither was the matter of this country's constitutional checks and balances, which Speaker John Boehner's partisan power move, at the very least, put in jeopardy.
Steve Cohen, the 9th District congressman who happens to represent Memphis, more or less said all the above back then, and we were happy to quote his words editorially, deferring to him as a Jewish American, a lifelong supporter of Israel, and a patriot.
Putting all the breaches with tradition and good sense aside, the fact is that Netanyahu spoke well and forcefully in his address, the point of which was to condemn the proposed agreement with Iran as a "bad deal," which, in his view, made it worse than no deal at all.
But there was something terribly wrong with his logic, as there is, to an even worse degree, with a follow-up letter by 47 Republican senators to the reigning Ayatollah of Iran instructing him, in essence, to disregard the proposed deal — to reject it, rather, on grounds that the Republican Congress had the power to strike the deal dead by not ratifying it and would almost certainly do so.
Now this effort to scuttle a pending treaty, to further hobble the elected chief executive, and to nullify, not just weaken, the checks and balances of our political system, is not only egregious, it is patently in violation of the Constitution, both in letter and in spirit. It is in fact, borderline treasonous. Once again, though, leaving that aside, it ignores the fundamental point of view, as did Netanyahu, that the five other nations participating in negotiations with Iran — Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — have made it clear they will not join the United States if it should follow Netanyahu's advice and jettison the pending deal. They, in fact, are likely to forgo the existing multi-national sanctions they have adopted in deference to the U.S. position and to resume trade with Iran, leaving the United States out of the loop and Iran home free to do as it chooses with its nuclear program. That's what's wrong with Mr. Netanyahu's logic and with that of the GOP barn-burners in Congress. And, along with a trampling of the Constitution, that's the bottom line of what "no deal" actually means. Iran wins outright.