The snarky quip attributed to 19th-century French Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand -- "It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder" -- has recently been making the rounds to deride a letter written by Sen.
They wrote to the Iranian theocracy that any agreement on nuclear proliferation negotiated with President Obama will not constitutionally bind the next administration -- unless it is properly ratified by
Democrats were outraged. They charged that Cotton's letter is a crime, a violation of the 216-year-old Logan Act. That law bars unauthorized individuals from conducting negotiations with foreign governments.
Even some Republicans sighed that the letter was a political blunder. It supposedly plays into President Obama's caricature of right-wing and obstructionist conservatives.
In fact, the letter was not a crime or a blunder.
Senators and House members have a long history of freelancing in foreign policy. Sometimes they do it wisely, sometimes stupidly.
Republican senators went to great lengths to undermine
Secretary of State
As a freshman senator, Kerry traveled to
Most unfortunate was House Speaker
Cotton and the senators, in contrast, never traveled to hostile territory, never met with America's enemies, and never wrote warm personal letters to thugs.
But was the Cotton letter a political "blunder"?
Obama's effort to negotiate an end to Iranian nuclear proliferation is probably bound to fail, given that it greenlights further Iranian nuclear enrichment. Obama also has no diplomatic credibility after issuing several prior empty deadlines for the Iranians to cease their nuclear enrichment.
Obama's "red lines" to
Obama's estrangement from both
First designated as a sponsor of terrorism in 1984,
Given all that, no sane American administration would trust the Iranians to give up their nuclear program. Instead, most presidents would have continued with tough economic sanctions -- with even tougher embargoes to follow if the Iranians did not quit trying to make a bomb.
What Cotton and the senators have done is not criminal or stupid, but valuable both for the country and -- ironically -- for the Obama administration.
Obama is already mischaracterizing the letter to use it as a wedge with the Iranians. He seems to be reminding them that he is the only thing standing between them and the anti-Iranian hardliners in the
More likely, the
When it does, Obama will then blame Cotton and his Republican colleagues for undermining his doomed efforts. Such scapegoating is now old hat for Obama, who has blamed factors ranging from
Republicans, Democrats and all Americans should thank Cotton for reminding the Iranians that under the U.S. Constitution, the
But Cotton will endure plenty of blame if Iranian negotiators walk away in fury because a skeptical
In other words, Cotton is not a blunderer -- he is a classic lose/lose tragic hero.