The Democrats are right: What Republicans in the US Senate did was unprecedented.
Never has a missive regarding nuclear arms negotiations signed by politicians named Cotton, Cassidy, Vitter, Rubio and Ayotte been sent to a country whose favorite sobriquet for the United States is “the Great Satan”.
But as for members of Congress meddling in American foreign policy matters without the express written permission of the White House? Well that’s ground that has been well-trodden by Democratic penny loafers. And their intentions were not always good.
Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright injected himself in the negotiations between the Contras and the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the late 1980s. Wright’s involvement, which was unwelcome by the Reagan Administration, included a meeting with Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega, who was a useful stooge of the Soviet Union. Wright even discussed covert CIA operations against the Sandinistas. Combined with other ethics issues, Wright’s meddling in the negotiations galvanized the GOP caucus in the house in a successful bid to drive him out as speaker.
It seems that the Sandinistas were a popular cause for Democrats as then-US Senator and future scolding Secretary of State John Kerry went down to Managua to conduct his own foreign policy with the Ortega regime in a bid to block further Congressional support for the Contras.
Yet another Democratic speaker attempted to carry out her own foreign policy when then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a delegation of five Democratic congressmen and a lone Republican traveled to Damascus in 2007 to visit with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Pelosi’s trip was a direct undermining of the Bush Administration’s policy of isolating one of the world’s most notorious sponsors of terror. Pelosi even played courier, passing a message from the prime minister of Israel to Assad.
Showing more congressional Democratic love for dictators (noticing a trend?), Washington State US Representative Jim McDermott, Minority Whip David Bonior of Michigan and California US Representative Mike Thompson went to Baghdad on the eve of the Iraq War to bring attention to the toll American sanctions were having on the Iraqi people (apparently they lacked the time and/or interest to see what role Saddam Hussein played in said suffering) and to stop a military invasion against a “peace loving country”.
The visit was exploited by Iraq’s Information Ministry, though one can only imagine the hyperbole employed by the facet of the Hussein regime that provided comic relief during the American invasion.
McDermott in particular had no qualms about being a propaganda star, going so far as to publicly criticize President George W. Bush from the Iraqi capital. Even the Democratic National Committee was at a loss for words.
And then there was the big one where a presidential candidate tried to enlist help from a country with nuclear missiles aimed at us.
Leftist icon Ted Kennedy demonstrated the lengths he would go through to advance his White House aspirations and to manipulate the 1984 presidential election by reaching out to Moscow.
KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin defected to the United Kingdom in 1992 and took with him a trove of documents that he had copied over the years. In the Mitrokhin Archive were references that Kennedy, through an ex-California senator, contacted KGB agents in Moscow to express his grievances with the Carter Administration’s hardline stance against the Soviets after their invasion of Afghanistan. Kennedy was challenging President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Later, Kennedy once again contacted Moscow via the same go-between about his willingness to use his personal contacts in the American media to arrange favorable press coverage for the Soviet leadership going into the 1984 presidential election in order to blunt then-President Ronald Reagan’s resolute posture against the Soviets.
Now what Kennedy did through his proxy went well beyond good-intentioned meddling and bordered on treason.
While there have been altruistic voices that have questioned the wisdom or the propriety of the letter to Tehran during the midst of haggling over the Iranian nuclear weapons program, anyone caterwauling about the unprecedented nature of the Republican senatorial open letter is either ignorant of the facts or simply has no problem lying to the American public.
The Democrats in Congress certainly didn’t give the Nixon and Ford Administrations a free hand on Vietnam and they actively impeded the Reagan Administration’s attempts to push regime change in Managua.