Adam L Silverman
Lost amid all the sound and fury around The Cotton Letter are several really substantial issues that significantly impact American government and governance. Sure it is fun, to some extent, to focus on Senator Cotton and his forty-six colleagues inability to correctly describe Congress's actual constitutional role to the Iranians in a letter to the Iranian leadership that was written to explain Congress's actual constitutional role. It is also amusing to watch people speculate about Logan Act violations and the possibility for prosecution, though the actual political problems such a prosecution would create is largely left unexplored. Basically, the next time a Democrat did something that a Republican didn't like on foreign policy during a GOP administration the Logan Act would be utilized as a political weapon. And a recounting of then candidate Nixon working through Henry Kissinger, then on the LBJ Administration's payroll as a negotiator, and Anna Chennault to stymie the Paris Peace Talks in the service of the Nixon for President Campaign is always tons of fun and an actual example of treason.
While this is all amusing, including different members of the GOP distancing themselves or claiming that it was all just an attempt to inject a little levity into the serious negotiations with Iran, it ignores a major, and largely unspoken reality: no one really knows the details of what is being negotiated. Yes, there have been some strategic leaks, such as those about a potential, initial ten year time limit to the agreement. And it is definite that both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress - the Speaker, Majority and Minority Leaders of both chambers and the chairs and ranking members of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees - have been briefed on some/all of the details. This information is to satisfy the Congressional oversight role, is highly classified, and not for disclosure. We also know that US allies have been briefed with the understanding that they will be discreet with the information and hold it closely. Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to use the information that he claims he was briefed on is part of the ongoing deterioration of his relationship with President Obama. No matter what leaks about the negotiations get published, there is simply no way for Americans to know if these are accurate or being finessed for political gain.