Both men seen as the faces of the political battle over negotiations with the thuggish Iranian regime, Secretary of State John Kerry for the Democrats and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) for the Republicans, were on CBS’ Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer on Sunday.
Kerry did so via an interview with CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan, while Cotton was live in studio with Schieffer.
Interestingly enough, both men also made arguments against the other, which they attempted to couch on “constitutional” grounds. I guess it’s up to us to decide which argument more faithfully aligns with the constitution, because it’s a sure bet that both arguments can’t both be constitutionally acceptable.
Kerry’s interview played first, and the Secretary or State came out swinging with both fists, claiming that Senator Cotton’s letter was “unconstitutional” and that Congress had no “right to change an executive agreement.”
Margaret Brennan: So, how do you clear the air? Are you going to apologize for this letter?
John Kerry: Not on your life. I’m not going to apologize for the — for an unconstitutional and unthought-out action by somebody who has been in the United States Senate for 60-some days.
That’s just inappropriate. I will explain very clearly that Congress does not have the right to change an executive agreement. Another president may have a different view about it. But, if we do our job correctly, all of these nations, they all have an interest in making sure this is in fact a proven peaceful program.
And it would be derelict if we allow some gaping hole in this program that doesn’t do so. But let’s see what it is first. And I think this applies to everybody, incidentally, who has been trying to judge this before, in fact, the deal, if it can be sealed, is sealed.
Alright, I’ll just jump right in here and tell you that Kerry is flat out wrong. And both Kerry and his colleague Joe Biden have said the same things that Tom Cotton is saying many times before… the difference is that Kerry and Biden did so when Republicans were President. Apparently, their minds change depending on who’s in office.
Senator Cotton came onto the show to discuss the same issues with Bob Schieffer – and Cotton too argued from a constitutional perspective.
Bob Schieffer: You heard what the secretary said, unprecedented, inappropriate, unthought-out, unconstitutionally wrong.
What were you trying to accomplish, Senator?
Tom Cotton: Bob, I and 46 other senators are focused on stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
And we wanted to be crystal clear that Iran’s leaders got the message that, in our constitutional system, while the president negotiates deals, Congress has to approve them for them to be lasting and binding. And I have to say, I’m surprised by the secretary’s comments this morning, because just a few days ago, he testified before the Senate to say that any deal would not be legally binding.
And now he says that future Congresses can’t change a mere executive agreement if we disagree with them or if a future president disagrees with them? That’s not the way our constitutional system works. And it’s certainly not the way we should be negotiating with Iran.
Cotton’s response is perfect. Using Kerry’s own (and very recent) words against him, he’s proven that Kerry’s arguments are silly and trite.
I’m kind of in the middle here, because the President does have the power to talk with Iran and try to negotiate some international agreements with them. I’m also not sure it was the wisest move on the parts of Republicans in the Senate because the media has spun this in ridiculous ways (as they do everything Republicans do). However, I am a biased observer, and I love whenever the GOP gets the spine to do anything that antagonizes liberals… so I’m not sure how to feel about the letter or what’s happened since.
I think that this has become a bigger issue than anyone originally expected, and I’m honestly not sure why. Everyone knew the GOP majority in Congress disagreed with the Obama administration’s approach to Iran, and everyone knew that the Obama team doesn’t care what the GOP thinks. How this letter, which simply states facts about how our government works, could cause such a commotion is a little baffling. But the media does love controversy… and if they can spin it as a GOP controversy, they love it even more!