As we enter what appears to be the final negotiation period between Iran, the United States and her allies regarding Iran’s nuclear capacity, it would be wise to remind ourselves of the Constitutional responsibilities of the Office of President of the United States. The countries involved in the talks with Iran are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany. These are serious talks at a critical time with the major powers of the world today and we need to treat these negotiations very seriously.
In the last six years we have witnessed a partisan approach in the Republican response to the Presidency of Barrack Obama. Until recently most of this adversarial relationship has dealt with domestic affairs. Until now Congress has maintained the traditional approach to the issues of war and peace.It has stopped at the door of the executive branch’s responsibilities in this area of foreign affairs. We can not have two voices expressing America’s current views on international issues and concerns. If we wind up having an executive agreement between Iran the United States and our allies, we may see partisanship raise it’s ugly head and have Congress contest a President’s executive authority in the realm of foreign affairs.
Our system of checks and balances may be at risk if Congress seeks to dictate to a President it’s point of view. For the sake of future Presidents, Republicans should stop for a moment and forget their personal angst and problems that they may have with the current occupant of the office of President for the sake of the institution of President of the United States. Some day we may have another Republican as President, and the last thing we need is to make peace or war a partisan punching bag. Our political party partisanship needs to stop at the waters’ edge.
If we are to remain the leader of the free world other countries need to believe that only the current President speaks for us. Yes, Congress and in particular the Senate has a Constitutional role in its advisory capacity to give advice and consent to any treaty. But no treaty has yet been agreed to. In fact it seems that only an executive agreement between Iran and ourselves may occur, if we are so lucky to have the current negotiations be successful.
These are difficult times in the world where we not only see strife between nations but we see an aggressive Russia as well. The Middle East is on fire and acts of terror are on the increase. This is a time of crisis when nations need to work together for peace. Our allies need to trust the United States when it comes to any mutual agreement that is made.
There was another period in history when decisions were made in crisis where proper authority was questioned. During the time leading up to World War II, a conservative Supreme Court had given President Roosevelt a hard time finding a few of his New Deal legislation unconstitutional. But when a case came before the court regarding the executive Branch’s power in foreign relations the conservative court’s reaction was quite different.
In the U.S. v Curtiss-Wright decision Justice Sutherland spoke for the court in its near unanimous decision. Justice Sutherland held that ” no powers except those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and such implied powers as are necessary and proper to carry into effect the enumerated powers, is categorically true only in respect of our internal affairs.” He went on to state that”the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations-a power which does not require as a basis for its exercise as act of Congress.” The court further stated that in present necessity “the President not Congress, has the better opportunity of knowing the conditions which prevail in foreign countries… He has his confidential sources of information. Secrecy in respect of information gathered by them may be highly necessary.” “Premature disclosure ,” might be “productive of harmful results.” “The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the whole nation. Into the field of negotiations the Senate can not intrude, and Congress itself is powerless to invade it.”
We have recently seen Congress invade and intrude into the negotiations with Iran with the publishing of the letter from 47 senators and the invitation given to Netanyahu was nothing but an attempt to have the harmful effect of torpedoing the current ongoing negotiations between 6 countries and Iran.
In the future we may see Congress raising the specter of interference when it comes to recognizing an executive agreement between Iran, the United States and our allies.
It would be helpful to remember another crisis and another executive agreement that held the future of the world in it’s hands. England stood alone after the defeat of France against the scourge of Nazi Germany with the very future of civilization on the line. Prime Minister Winston Churchill pleaded with Franklin Roosevelt for help. Roosevelt knew that he could not go to Congress directly for any Congressional support for assisting England in its struggle to survive. In a very creative strategy President Roosevelt after consulting with legal authorities came up with the Lend Lease program. Lend Lease was an executive agreement, not a treaty. The lending of destroyers in return for bases helped to keep England survive and eventually with our alliance we defeated Germany. Our victory was in serious doubt and the Lend Lease program was instrumental in our success.
Today, we face a crisis where a war is possible if a negotiated agreement does not occur between the United States, and her allies in their effort to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Peace is on the line. Not only is peace on the line but the power of any president to negotiate any agreement without partisan interference is on the line as well. The very lives of many people are at stake, let the Office of President remain as the spokesman for all of us and continue to respect the office of President of the United States.