Editor’s Note: Hugh Hewitt is a lawyer, law professor, author and host of a nationally syndicated radio show. He served in the Reagan administration in posts including assistant counsel in the White House and special assistant to two attorneys general. He will be a panelist for the September 16 GOP debate on CNN. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Hugh Hewitt: Congress allowed an Iran deal to take effect without ratification by full senate
He says the agreement isn't binding on the next president and Republicans are making clear their opposition
When the U.S. Congress signed on to the elaborate Iranian nuclear deal oversight structure negotiated principally by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), it turned its collective back on the Framers of the Constitution and their express direction that significant undertakings with foreign powers would be of no lasting, binding effect on future Congresses unless two-thirds of the then-sitting senators ratified the treaty proposed by a president.
Indeed, the Corker-Menendez-Cardin framework turned the Constitution on its head, in essence providing that any “neo-treaty” with Iran could be “quasi-ratified” by a mere 34 senators, barely more than one-third of one house of the Congress. A minority of senators have thus been empowered to not only give tacit approval to the deal but also to in effect alter the Constitution.
That the Iran “deal” – desperately negotiated, improvidently agreed to and still quite likely concealed in key parts from the legislators being asked to vote it up and down – is moving forward without a vocal bipartisan objection to having to vote without full disclosure is clear evidence of a disaster too awful in its particulars to allow full disclosure and debate.
The “self-inspection” provisions to which Iran has agreed with the IAEA concerning its military facility at Parchin are a very bad joke. And the supermajority opposition to the deal in the polls demonstrates that the public knows Iran shows zero signs of moderating its state support of terror, its mayhem-creating proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and around the globe, or even its most public “death to America and Israel” rhetoric at home.
Some senior figures have stepped forward to support the deal, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and not a few retired generals and admirals. Opponents have to concede that there are many wishful thinkers out there in the land, and many supporters of President Barack Obama who want very much to redeem their misplaced backing for the “lead-from-behind” president.
Such folks were there in 1994 as well, when President Bill Clinton struck his nonproliferation “deal” with the now-nuclear North Korea. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of what they know about this deal, but, crucially, no one is vested with the authority to set aside the Constitution’s express provisions.
The Iran deal is not a treaty. The rococo process of its pseudo-vetting now underway will not remotely result in a law or even a regulation. The “deal” is simply an executive agreement, like every other executive agreement ever entered into from 1789 forward. It will have consequences that cannot be undone, but it will have zero binding authority on the next president.
At this point, every opponent of this deal must declare this reality of the slight legal status of the “deal” again and again, and hopefully every candidate seeking to succeed Obama in January 2017 will provide clear, detailed declarations as to their intent concerning the Islamic Republic of Iran, should he or she win through to the Oval Office in 16 months.
Obama and his two secretaries of state have made a wreck of America’s leadership in the world, sowing chaos and turmoil wherever their attention has turned, and allowing the planet’s worst dictators a nearly free pass for every outrage committed, and an eraser for every red line crossed.
There is little the Congress can do at this point save perhaps a joint resolution condemning their own misplaced faith in the process that is now wrapping up. The resolution would have as little legal status as the Iran deal itself, but it would be one that every candidate could endorse or condemn and that voters could weigh in casting their eventual primary and general election ballots.
Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have organized a show of opposition to this catastrophe for Wednesday. It would be good if every Republican candidate for the nomination would either join them or declare their agreement – again.
More than any other issue before the voters, the fecklessness with which three-plus decades of American and international policy against a nuclear Iran has been tossed aside and for nothing more than a very short decade of pretend nonproliferation is a scandal for the history books.
It’s also an issue that provides a key difference between the GOP and Democratic fields seeking the presidency. Candor in admitting as much and specific plans for repairing the damage will matter a great deal in the primaries of 2016 and in November’s vote.