Partisan Republican Actions Damaging U.S. National Security

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Partisan Republican Actions Damaging U.S. National Security

Partisan Republican Actions Damaging U.S. National Security

March 11, 2015

The letter on the Iran negotiations by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), signed by 46 of his Senate Republican colleagues, is the latest and most blatant example of what is becoming an emerging pattern of Republican partisanship that expressly works to undermine U.S. foreign policy and national security. More than just an embarrassing political stunt, Sen. Cotton’s unprecedented letter will damage U.S. international credibility and weaken the United States’ ability to conclude a deal that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This willingness to put short-term political goals ahead of U.S. interests has been on display with other Republican initiatives in recent weeks, particularly Speaker of the House John Boehner’s (R-OH) efforts to circumvent the President and invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to refute the Obama Administration’s diplomatic initiative and, even more recently, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and other Republicans’ distortions of Guantanamo recidivism rates to prevent the transfer of detainees necessary to move toward the facility’s closure.

Republicans are abandoning efforts for bipartisanship and trying to scuttle negotiations to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Sen. Cotton’s letter is an unabashedly partisan political stunt that is part and parcel with his objective of derailing the talks. In fact, the partisanship of the theatrics was why Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said he abstained from signing, but in this respect he has demonstrated that he is out of step with his party. The letter was signed by 87% of Senate Republicans and now other prominent members of the GOP, including prospective presidential nominees Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), are lining up to support it. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Politico that he signed the letter because he was frustrated trying to work across party lines. Sen. Graham said he told Sen. Cotton he wouldn’t sign “because I’m negotiating with Democrats to get on the bill.” But then he changed his mind: “So when the president just says, ‘I’ll veto that bill,’ in the middle of us putting it together? I said ‘enough is enough.’” The overwhelming support for the letter among Senate Republicans makes clear that they’re not looking to reach a good deal or reach bipartisan consensus to pass veto-proof legislation, they are looking to prevent any deal and are willing to undermine U.S. foreign policy to do it. This fixation on scuttling the negotiations is now clouding Republicans’ judgment about other critical national security issues, including U.S. strategy to confront the Islamic State. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) suggested in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this morning that U.S. efforts to negotiate a nuclear agreement are preventing the United States from implementing a more successful strategy against the Islamic State, but as Secretary of State John Kerry responded, the facts contradict that. Sec. Kerry noted that fighting the Islamic State is actually something about which the United States and Iran agree and that the nuclear negotiations are not hindering the U.S. counterterrorism response. [Lindsey Graham via Politico, 3/10/15]

Republicans are undermining U.S. diplomacy and weakening the U.S.-Israel relationship to score political points. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) carefully avoided informing the Obama Administration of his invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. The purpose of the address was clearly tocontradict the Obama Administration’s policy and ongoing U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Iranian nuclear negotiations. The partisan subterfuge involved in the invitation led 58 Democratic members of Congress to skip the speech, and led others to characterize it as a “campaign pep rally” that was “straight out of the Dick Cheney playbook.” This partisanship was made clear when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to fast-track Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) bill that would delay the implementation of an agreement and allow greater congressional review, despite previous understandings that the bill wouldn’t move until late March. The insistence of the Republican leadership to follow through on this act of political theater and to capitalize on it by trying to force through deal-killing legislation is another illustration of their prioritization of red meat politics over U.S. interests. Speaker Boehner’s invitation not only worked towards undermining U.S. diplomatic efforts, he was willing to weaken the U.S.-Israel relationship for the Republican Party’s political gain. A new Gallup poll shows that American public opinion of Prime Minister Netanyahu has become more unfavorable since his speech.

Republicans are distorting the facts about Guantanamo and playing politics with U.S. national security. Republicans in Congress have moved backwards on what was previously a bipartisan effort and George W. Bush Administration policy to move towards closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The most recent effort is being led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who has proposed legislation that would freeze the transfer of cleared detainees. Sen. Ayotte and others have consistently distorted recidivism rates tracked by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Rep. Michael McFaul (R-TX) accused President Obama of “releasing hardened terrorists” last week, and Sen. Ayotte claimed the most recent DNI report confirms her exaggerated concerns about recidivism. In fact, as Congressional Quarterly reports, the DNI report suggests the opposite, and Republicans are distorting the truth for political points. “First, not everyone in Guantánamo is a ‘terrorist,’” John Donnelly of CQ Roll Call reported yesterday. “Hundreds have been determined to have been wrongly incarcerated there. Even for those who are known to be dangerous, it’s not as simple–or as partisan–as Republicans have made it sound. The DNI report shows that 110 of the 116 former Gitmo prisoners who are ‘confirmed’ to have re-engaged in terrorism were released by Bush. Another 69 former Gitmo detainees are ‘suspected’ of reengaging in terrorism, and 68 of those were released by Bush. Incidentally, 48 of the 116 who were confirmed as returning to terrorism were either killed or jailed anew after they got out. While just six former detainees who were released by Obama have returned to the fight, only one new person has been added to that list since last year.” This flatly contradicts Sen. Ayotte and others’ claim that 30% of released detainees have “reentered the fight.” National security experts from both the Bush and Obama Administration have made the case for years that keeping Guantanamo open is damaging U.S. relationships with its allies and encouraging terrorist recruitment, but the Republican Party is more interested in distorting the facts to play politics with Americans’ fears than addressing this threat to U.S. national security.


Photo Credit: Joint Task Force Guantanamo photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elisha Dawkins, 3/1/11.

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Ethics and new defense technologyCongressman Tom Cotton Speaks at the 2013 CPAC Conference [Gage Skidmore, 3/14/2015]