The problem with the GOP letter is that it’s a distraction from what should be the main political goal of persuading the American people. Democratic votes will be needed if the pact is going to be stopped, and even to get the 67 votes to override a veto of the Corker-Menendez bill to require such a vote. Monday’s letter lets Mr. Obama change the subject to charge that Republicans are playing politics as he tries to make it harder for Democrats to vote for Corker-Menendez.
This is an amusing rebuke from one group of hard-liners to another. Surely even the WSJ editors can see at this point that the Netanyahu speech that they enthusiastically welcomed did far more damage to the cause of recruiting Democrats to push through new Iran legislation than anything else could have done. The Senate GOP’s stunt with this “open letter” just follows from the bigger stunt that Boehner and Netanyahu pulled last week. But then it’s hard to separate this crude bit of interference by the Senate GOP from what Netanyahu said to members of Congress last week.
Senate Republicans are openly meddling in the process because they share Netanyahu’s view that there should be no deal. Even if Cotton refuses now to admit that this is what he and his colleagues are doing, there is no mistaking their purpose. Cotton has previously admitted that he thinks Congress should seek to derail the negotiations, and there is no reason to think he has changed his mind. He and his fellow Iran hawks should be made to own up to what they are trying to do, and they should be forced to account for their obnoxious and unusual behavior.
As for “persuading the American people,” it is entirely possible that the hard-liners in the Senate don’t think that there is any need for persuasion because they have been relying on garbage polling information. That is always the potential danger of operating inside a bubble. It is easy to imagine how Cotton and his allies fell victim to believing their own side’s propaganda. If hard-liners in the Senate think that the public overwhelmingly supports them, they are liable to make all sorts of careless and clumsy maneuvers in the belief that their sloppiness and blatant interference won’t cost them anything. The reality is that the public is against them, and they are just reconfirming their lack of trustworthiness on important foreign policy issues. Their letter is more than a “distraction.” It is a serious and discrediting blunder that draws attention to what the real goals of Iran hawks have been all along.