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March 13, 2015

Cotton Pickiní Time

Joe Charlebois

Who would have thought that an open letter explaining a ninth-grade civics lesson would cause such a ruckus? Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R., AR) open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran has done just that. It has ruffled more than a few feathers this week.


The senator from Arkansas had 46 co-signers – all Republicans senators – to his letter.


As a new senator, Mr. Cotton, who would be accurately described as a Tea Party Republican, has managed to straddle the caucus fence between the more conservative Tea Party members and the more liberal establishment Republicans. The same cannot be said for his relationship with the opposition party and those with progressive ideals. With progressives, he has quickly become the focal point of character assassination.


Mr. Cotton has not been afraid to step into the fray. He has a history of making statements that garner attention. While serving in Iraq in 2006, he even called for three members of The New York Times to be charged with espionage for releasing detailed information regarding the Bush Administration’s active monitoring of terrorist financial dealings.


Reading his letter to Iran’s leaders one has to consider why? Why would this freshman senator and 46 of his colleagues sign onto a letter that seems to undermine the administration’s diplomatic endeavors? Could it be, that after six years of executive usurpation of power, Mr. Cotton wanted to send a shot across the president’s bow?


The Republican caucus – which in effect is still the minority party – needs to take stands like this in order to maintain some semblance of their constitutional responsibility. President Barack Obama, through the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, has continued to bypass Congress through executive actions using his “phone and pen.”


This letter is a plain statement to the leaders of Iran that explains that any executive agreement made with this administration would not carry the same weight as a treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate. The executive agreement, if signed by President Obama, although significant could be altered or dismissed by future administrations. The current secretary of state – John Kerry – has even admitted so just this week.


Interestingly I don’t believe this letter was being sent to the leaders of Iran, but rather it was an open letter to the president and the progressive left that continues to seek the fundamental transformation of the United States. It was a primer in the workings of how treaties are made and a reminder to the president that Congress does matter.


The imperial presidency is upon us.  Many of the newer more conservative members of the House and Senate have been elected in reaction to the actions of Mr. Obama. They aren’t afraid to face the arrows of the media, either.


Mr. Cotton may be criticized by many on the left, but where he has succeeded is within his own party. He has been able to make a controversial stand that unites nearly all Republican senators for the benefit of keeping an adversary at bay.


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