EAST GREENWICH, Rhode Island—U.S.A.
From the dawn of American history to present day, right-wing opportunists, blowhards, and clodpates have conspired to scuttle White House dealings with foreign heads of state. This meddlesome predilection began with “the great fool of Pennsylvania,” as eighteenth century politician George Logan was known. It is today replicated in the ill-advised action of a freshman United States senator of ill-disguised ambition—Tom Cotton: failed lawyer, torture advocate, and self-ordained consigliere to the ayatollahs and mullahs of Iran.
World leaders and rational politicians here in the United States are appalled by Senator Cotton’s reckless letter of March 9, which he addressed to “the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” In it, he counseled the Muslim theocrats against trusting President Barack Obama in the matter of nuclear arms negotiations in Switzerland between Iran and a European-Russian-Chinese-U.S. coalition. He managed to round up forty-six fellow senators as signatories to the letter, thus committing 47 percent of the hundred-member upper chamber of Congress to improvidence. This accomplishment has elevated the young and quite delighted Mr. Cotton to the pantheon of Republican Tea Party sociopathy—
—Wherein such dubious heaven, his godly elders include Oklahoma’s James Inhofe (rhymes with “oaf”), who last month brought a snowball onto the Senate floor as dispositive evidence of a climate change “hoax”; Congressman Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin (1908-1957), celebrated drunkard and red-baiter of the Cold War era; the amphibious Newt Gingrich, a 2012 presidential contender who served divorce papers on his wife as she lay in a hospital bed dying of cancer; Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz of Texas by way of Canada, the scourge of undocumented Latino immigrants who last Monday announced his 2016 presidential campaign before an audience of bible college students forced to listen; and the politician with the gummiest footprints ever to stain the streets of Washington—Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994), forced to resign the presidency in 1974 and quickly pardoned of criminality past, present, and forevermore by his White House successor.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, was first in a long line of international éminence grises to speak negatively of Mr. Cotton’s recreancy. Among the flood global denunciations, his was the mildest of rebukes: “This is not just an issue of American domestic politics,” said Herr Steinmeier, “it affects the negotiations we are holding in Geneva.” (Despite the Cottonistas’ desire to torpedo the nuclear arms talks in Geneva—and embarrass President Obama—broad outlines of agreement have been established. Negotiators have set a March 31 deadline to affirm a draft document that would limit Iran’s capacity for nuclear development in return for the lifting of economic sanctions now crushing Teheran.)
Under the startlingly forthright headline “Republican Idiocy on Iran,” the usually ultra-understated New York Times thundered in its lead editorial of March 12:
The letter was an attempt to scare the Iranians from making a deal that would limit their nuclear program for at least a decade by issuing a warning that the next president could simply reverse any agreement. It was a blatant, dangerous effort to undercut the president on a grave national security issue by communicating directly with a foreign government.
…Besides being willing to sabotage any deal with Iran (before they know the final details), these Republicans are perfectly willing to diminish America’s standing as a global power.
Mr. Cotton hails from the state of Arkansas, a southern backwater known to the world for Ku Klux Klan lynchings of Jews, homosexuals, and the darkly complexioned. Inspired by the state’s habitués, the late American satirist Al Capp christened it “Dog Patch,” using the fictive Arkansas as backdrop for his long-running comic strip “L’il Abner,” starring a hunky naïf named Abner Yokum. In Washington, where political life regularly imitates satiric art, congressional observers note both physical and intellectual resemblance between Mr. Yokum and the freshman senator from Yell County, Arkansas.
An alumnus of Harvard University—an august institution with the unfortunate habit of admitting generations of dullards from wealthy families, e.g. ex-President George W. Bush and ego-manic Ted Cruz—Mr. Cotton washed out of two Washington-based law firms in the space of eighteen months after graduating with a juris doctor degree in 2002. Following these flops, he failed to sustain the sinecure arranged for him by a good-old-boy network in the “management consultant” trade. After one year in this nebulous business, Mr. Cotton packed it in and returned to the family cattle farm—dropping his Washington credentials in favor of licensure with the Arkansas bar. Soon, however, he traded muck boots for combat boots to become a mid-level officer in U.S. Army, where he battled wily Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. (With understandable modesty, he did not request assignment to the Army’s legal unit, the Judge Advocate General Corps, which would have provided him the automatic rank of captain.)
Neither the Times nor Herr Steinmeier—nor others in the realms of media and diplomacy—have clocked Mr. Cotton for what he simply is, in the racialized state of American partisan politics: one more ornery white foot soldier in a conspiracy to destroy the nation’s first African American president.
As reported here two years ago—the initial muster of Mr. Cotton’s confreres was held on January 20, 2009, under cover of darkness. On that night, Mr. and Mrs. Obama celebrated an historic presidential inauguration, and a triumph for their Democratic Party in capturing both the House and Senate sides of Congress. Simultaneously, a sulky cabal of fourteen beef-eating, martini-swilling Republican Tea Party panjandrums met in a private dining room at the Caucus Room steakhouse and saloon, not far from the inaugural festivities. There, they swore a blood oath: everything the new black president and his Democratic allies were for, decent white folks like themselves were against. Their two-edged sword of resistance: relentlessly vile character assassination aimed at the black family in the White House, and legislative constipation in Congress.
To Hell with civility, and damn the nation’s business. Full obstinacy ahead!
From the ‘09 night of the long knives forward, Mr. Obama has been variously (and inexplicably) derided as a Nazi, radical Marxist, foreign-born alien, secret Muslim, “fag,” drug addict, and terrorist-appeasing traitor with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” All such locutions have actually been used by Republican Tea Party yahoos, high-paid propagandists, and elected officials alike. Never mind that the president is, in fact, a moderate Democrat; a devout Christian gentleman, with a lovely wife and two daughters; a former cigarette smoker who chews Nicorette tabs on occasion; the man who captured and killed Osama bin Laden and who has sent hundreds of Muslim warriors to the arms of Allah by way of drone bomber strikes; and whose late mother was Caucasian—as were the grandparents who proudly raised him to become an Ivy League scholar, Chicago community organizer, best-selling author, constitutional law professor, Illinois state legislator, U.S. senator, and two-term president.
In March 2010, a few hours after waving loaded pistols at a “right to bear arms” rally sponsored by the execrable National Rifle Association, white Republican Tea Party goons swarmed the Capitol steps in Washington. There, they spat loogies at black members of Congress—Democrats to a man—as they sang old-timey rebel songs and waved their Confederate flags, evocative of America’s shameful two centuries of enslaving Africans. Then in December 2011, Teapublican Senator Jim Sensenbrenner verbally attacked First Lady Michelle Obama, an elegant black woman of professional and (earned) academic accomplishment. “She lectures us on eating right,” said the jowly Mr. Sensenbrenner, “[but] she has a large posterior herself.”
Teapublicans have even made crude sport of the poised, demure, and rather attractive Obama girls—Malia, 16, and Sasha, 13. Last November, for instance, Elizabeth Lauten, a blonde aide to Congressman and blond bible zealot Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, criticized the presidents’ teenaged daughters for dressing as if looking for “a spot at a bar.” Ms. Lauten speculated that their lack of “class” was due to their “coming up short in the good rôle model” department.
Armchair psychiatrists have identified these and thousands of similarly contemptible taunts as symptoms of O.D.S. (Obama Derangement Syndrome)— politesse for peckerwood bigotry. Republican Tea Party officials have seen none of this behavior as meriting institutional apology.
Here we shall pause, dear reader, for a bit of legal perspective. There is nothing criminal in racist notions, so long as a bigot’s thinking, so to speak, steers clear of threat or physical action. Political and diplomatic vandalism, on the other hand, requires statutory punishment—theoretically. The markers:
- According to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1936 matter of United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation, the president “makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate, but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation, the Senate cannot intrude.”
- Black’s Law Dictionary defines sedition as: “[A]ttempts made by meetings or speeches, or by publications, to disturb the tranquility of the state…publishing, verbally or otherwise, any words or document with the intention of exciting disaffection, hatred, or contempt against the sovereign, or the government and Constitution…exciting feelings of ill will and hostility…”
Consider now the “great fool” George Logan (1753-1821), a Pennsylvania physician who commenced written and oral negotiations with government officials in Paris at the time of U.S.-French tensions in 1798. The negotiations were unauthorized by the White House or the State Department. Thus did Mr. Logan inspire 18 U.S. Code § 953, adopted in 1799 to outlaw interference with presidential authority in foreign affairs. The statute remains on the books, as amended last in 1994. Mr. Logan, who became a senator following his whirl at diplomacy, went to his grave attempting to repeal the namesake Logan Act, according to which:
Any citizen of the United States [who]…directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government…in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
To many Americans displeased by Republican Tea Party ethics, so to speak, the Logan Act would apply to this month’s Cottonista shenanigans. Indeed, many would happily see almost half the U.S. Senate sent to the slammer for the next three years. And yet, the senator from Yell County took to television on Sunday, March 17, to declare “no regrets” for orchestrating an attempt to thwart President Obama and his international allies from reaching nuclear accord with Iran.
As for Tom Cotton’s partisan co-religionists and their ongoing agenda of undermining the presidency, others see 18 U.S. Code § 2384 as applicable. Under this law, seditious conspiracy exists—
If two or more persons in any…place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States conspire to…prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States…they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
The Logan Act has never been successful in attempts to prosecute the ancestors of Cottonistas—most notably, political gadfly and Richard Nixon supporter Anna Chenault. (During Mr. Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, Ms. Chenault urged leaders in Saigon, then the capital of then South Vietnam, to boycott negotiations in Paris among diplomats seeking to end war in Indochina. A presumed Nixon victory, she assured the South Vietnamese, would redound to their benefit were peace talks postponed.)
However, federal prosecutors have won numerous seditious conspiracy cases against Puerto Rican independentistas and a diversity of leftists, although no one on the radical right—yet.
As of March 13, a quarter million American citizens have signed a petition on the “We the People” section of the White House website demanding some manner of prosecution for Mr. Cotton and his comrades. Justice being in short supply in the U.S. nowadays, the odds of shackled right-wingers being frog-marched into federal court are long. As for the sine qua non of justice, former President Jimmy Carter said during a June 2013 event in Atlanta sponsored by Berlin-based Atlantik Brücke, “America no longer has a functioning democracy.”
Meanwhile, the seditious beat goes on in Congress, a body dominated by the Republican Tea Party leadership of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—whose respective vegetable and reptilian appearances have inspired nicknames invented by aides and interns:
Mr. Boehner, aka “Carrot,” is responsible for the latest stunt in the ongoing right-wing plot against the White House—his secret invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the purpose of attacking President Obama on March 3, on the floor of Congress. While in the midst of his reëlection campaign back home, which devolved to one as racist as any mounted here by a Republican Tea Party candidate, Mr. Netanyahu blasted the American president for hoping to achieve a nuclear treaty with Iran.
As a gesture of common respect, let alone the niceties of protocol, no foreign head of state has ever addressed Congress without advance planning that involved the White House. And as a matter of even-handed policy, no president has ever countenanced such an address during the fever of an election campaign; in fact, no such proposal has ever been made.
Mr. Boehner’s unprecedented insult in failing to consult the White House about Mr. Netanyahu’s speech—an insult heartily endorsed by Mr. McConnell—is exacerbated by the speaker’s plan to confer in Jerusalem, any day now, with the reëlected beneficiary of a racist political strategy.
Perhaps while in the Middle East, Mr. Boehner will add to a Jerusalem powwow with his own favorite foreign right-wing potentate a short flight to Teheran for a sit-down with Mr. Cotton’s own favorite racist potentate—Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who refers to Israel the “sinister, unclean, rabid dog of the region [whose leaders] look like beasts and cannot be called human.”
Whether Messrs. Boehner and/or Cotton will see irony in this is an open question.
It has been said that living well is the best revenge.
When his term of office expires in two years hence—and when the American electorate grows sick and tired of being sick and tired of seditious Republican Tea Partiers—the Obama family will live well indeed. According to famed literary agent Andrew Wylie, the post-presidential memoirs of Michelle and Barack Obama are certain to garner combined advance payments against royalties of at least $32 million (€29 million).
Failing the arrests and convictions of Cottonistas and associated seditionists, dramatic enrichment of the Obama family exchequer may be seen as the scant remains of justice, American-style.
Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag.
Im Februar 2015 erschien seine Erzählung “The Cannibal of Pang Yang” als eBook bei CulturBooks.