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Today, the Right Wing blogosphere, responding in their classic school-yard bully manner, defended the indefensible breach of American political tradition dating back to the John Adams Administration:
A war of Obama’s making
Byron York / Washington Examiner
The White House and some Democrats are livid over congressional Republican attempts to circumvent President Obama’s authority to make a nuclear arms deal with Iran. They have a right to be angry — but not to be surprised. — There’s a war going on between …
Shorter translation: Neener neener poo pooh. Bounces off of me, sticks to you.
In the midst of this, and filled with a Billy Budd rage that Claggart would do well to avoid, I would like to tell you the story of Citizen Genêt.
The story begins in 1793, when the French Revolutionary government dispatches Edmond-Charles Genêt to the United States to drum up US support for France’s wars with Great Britain and Spain. Wikipedia:
Edmond-Charles Genêt (Public Domain)
The Citizen Genêt affair began in 1793 when he was dispatched to the United States to promote American support for France’s wars with Spain and Britain.
Genêt arrived in Charleston, South Carolina on the warship Embuscade on April 8. Instead of traveling to the then-capital of Philadelphia to present himself to U.S. PresidentGeorge Washington for accreditation, Genêt stayed in South Carolina. There he was greeted with enthusiasm by the people of Charleston, who threw a string of parties in his honor.
Genêt’s goals in South Carolina were to recruit and arm American privateers who would join French expeditions against the British. He commissioned four privateering ships in total, including the Republicaine, the Anti-George, the Sans-Culotte, and the Citizen Genêt. Working with French consul Michel Ange Bernard Mangourit, Genêt organized American volunteers to fight Britain’s Spanish allies in Florida. After raising a militia, Genêt set sail toward Philadelphia, stopping along the way to marshal support for the French cause and arriving on May 18. He encouraged Democratic-Republican societies, but President Washington denounced them and they quickly withered away.
His actions endangered American neutrality in the war between France and Britain, which Washington had pointedly declared in his Neutrality Proclamation of April 22. When Genêt met with Washington, he asked for what amounted to a suspension of American neutrality. When turned down by Secretary of StateThomas Jefferson and informed that his actions were unacceptable, Genêt protested. Meanwhile, Genet’s privateers were capturing British ships, and his militia was preparing to move against the Spanish.
Genêt continued to defy the wishes of the United States government, capturing British ships and rearming them as privateers. Washington sent Genet an 8,000-word letter of complaint on Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s advice – one of the few situations in which the FederalistAlexander Hamilton and the Republican Jefferson agreed. Genet replied obstinately. President Washington and his Cabinet then demanded that France recall Genet as its Ambassador.
The Jacobins, having taken power in France by January 1794, sent an arrest notice which asked Genet to come back to France. Genet, knowing that he would likely be sent to the guillotine, asked Washington for asylum. It was Hamilton – Genet’s fiercest opponent in the cabinet – who convinced Washington to grant him safe haven in the United States.
Genêt remained in the US, married New York governor George Clinton’s daughter and lived as a gentleman farmer on an estate overlooking the Hudson river until his death.
Nothing was done at this time, but the rage felt by new American government remained in place until 1798. Wikipedia again:
George Logan (Public Domain)
In 1790, he was disowned by the Society of Friends for having joined a militia, an activity wholly antithetical to the Quakers’ pacifist views. A Jeffersonian Republican, in 1793 he helped to found the Democratic-Republican Societies. An accomplished farmer, he was also a founder of the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Agriculture.
In 1798, he went to Paris to negotiate peace with the French to settle the Quasi-War. On his return, he found he had been denounced by the anti-Jeffersonian Federalists, who had passed a statute informally known as the “Logan Act”, which made it a crime for an individual citizen to interfere in a dispute between the United States and a foreign country. In 1800, the year Jefferson was elected president, Logan was elected to the U.S. Senate for a six-year term.
Logan’s reputation was decidedly mixed. With reference to his political activities, he was called at various times a “busybody” and a “great fool” …
Upon his arrival in Paris, he met with various French officials, including Talleyrand. During these meetings, he identified himself as a private citizen, discussed matters of general interest to the French, and told his audience that anti-French sentiment was prevalent in the United States. Logan’s conversation with Merlin de Douai, who occupied the highest political office in the French republic, was typical.
Logan stated that he did not intend to explain the American government’s position, nor to criticize that of France. Instead, he suggested ways in which France could improve relations with the United States, to the benefit of both countries. He also told Merlin that pro-British propagandists in the United States were portraying the French as corrupt and anxious for war, and were stating that any friend of French principles necessarily was an enemy of the United States.
Within days of Logan’s last meeting, the French took steps to relieve the tensions between the two nations; they lifted the trade embargo then in place, and released American seamen held captive in French jails. Even so, it seems that Logan’s actions were not the primary cause of the Directory’s actions; instead, Logan had merely provided convenient timing for the implementation of a decision that had already been made.
non-sequitur White House photo
The “Logan Act” (its informal, but now historical name) said this:
- § 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.
- Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, 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 or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
- This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
1 Stat. 613, January 30, 1799, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953 (2004).
The point, which the disloyal opposition seems to entirely miss, is that Congress finally realized that “politics stops at the water’s edge,” and American foreign policy has been carried out by the Constitutionally appointed Executive branch SINCE that time, without the assistance of club-footed amateurs, like, say, Tom Cotton.
Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;
You can’t make a treaty if the senate scuttles the negotiations. Sophistry will attempt to muddy the waters on this, and make specious arguments denying this simple truth, but according to the Constitution (whom they CLAIM, constantly, to venerate and defend) only the President can conduct negotiations and draft the treaty. In practice, if the Senate does not then concur, it can be — as noted by the scrofulous letter of Tom Cotton — implemented as an Executive order, etcetera. Clearly, the Senate has stepped beyond their Constitutional powers and there is NO DEFENSE for this.
Movie poster 1919 (public domain)
Why? Because the new, democratic nation needed to speak with one voice. Clearly, allowing free-lancers like Genêt and Logan to go off bumbling with foreign governments (in this case, France, whose revolution nearly set off a new revolution in the just-coalescing Constitutional USA) was a really BAD idea.
Treating with foreign heads of state, sending private or even politically-backed envoys, or allowing Congress to spill its well-known chaos into diplomatic relations was obviously a recipe for disaster, and, while there was partisan rancor over Dr. Logan’s escapade, the wisdom of speaking with one voice was apparent to Congress, and that has been our practice ever since.
Until Boehner decided to treat with the head of a foreign government (Netanyahu’s “campaign” appearances before AIPAC, beginning in 2009 when he held his pep rally as the senator from the 51st state, have looked like NOTHING so much as Genêt’s pep rallies in the Carolinas to create his own US foreign policy.
And I have written about how profoundly wrong this was, without reference to whether or not Netanyahu was subject to religious penile mutilation or not. He is a foreigner and should NOT be pulling a “Genêt.” (If he wants to move to the USA in exile and marry the daughter of Governor Cuomo, I have no objection.)
Even the Iranians realize how stooopid this was, replying hilariously (from a press release by the UN Iranian Mission, emphasis added):
Asked about the open letter of 47 US Senators to Iranian leaders, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.”
Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.
Foreign Minister Zarif added that “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.”
Indeed, Americans had better shoot off their mouths now, rather than shoot off their guns later. But the Corporate media now treats this as less important than the phony Clinton Email scandal, which dominates TODAY’s reporting.
more truthiness from the party of “Mission Accomplished” (White House photo)
This is akin to picking at a scab while failing to apply a tourniquet to a severed limb.
Or, as Mark Twain noted:
In the course of a certain battle a soldier whose leg had been shot off appealed to another soldier who was hurrying by to carry him to the rear, informing him at the same time of the loss which he had sustained; whereupon the generous son of Mars, shouldering the unfortunate, proceeded to carry out his desire. The bullets and cannon-balls were flying in all directions, and presently one of the latter took the wounded man’s head off—without, however, his deliverer being aware of it. In no-long time he was hailed by an officer, who said:
“Where are you going with that carcass?”
“To the rear, sir—he’s lost his leg!”
“His leg, forsooth?” responded the astonished officer; “you mean his head, you booby.”
Whereupon the soldier dispossessed himself of his burden, and stood looking down upon it in great perplexity. At length he said:
“It is true, sir, just as you have said.” Then after a pause he added, “But he TOLD me IT WAS HIS LEG! ! ! ! !”
But to treat this monumental affront not only to the Administration and the Constitution, but to the coalition of world powers sitting down with Iran RIGHT NOW in Switzerland as some kind of hilarious partisan panty-raid, ought to tell us how far from patriotism the secessionist “patriots” of the GOP have blundered.
And yet, in their typical, libelous, bullying manner, the shrikes of the Reicht, shrieking their derision for civility and civilization have taken to the front pages to scream their scofflaw entitlement to all who would listen to their poisonous nonsense.
We are one step closer to civil war, and no one can claim that we are not now Lincoln’s House Divided.
Ironically on the 150th Anniversary of the next to last month of our LAST civil war.
Remember, this began back in 2009, when Rick Perry started toying with the notion of “secession,’ and which has progressed through our society at all levels,
And, in psychologically telling fashion, they scream that it is Obama’s “lawlessness” and “disrespect of the Constitution” that has driven them to break the law and stomp on the Constitution. York:
Of course, it is still a bad thing. It is not good to invite a foreign leader to address Congress in a campaign against the U.S. president. It is not good to undermine the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy. But it’s not a good thing to undermine Congress’ authority to make laws, either. And to threaten even more undermining in the future, as Obama has done.
It’s too bad for Obama that he couldn’t persuade Congress to do everything he wanted. That did not give him the right to encroach on Congress’s constitutional authority.
Now Congress is pushing back. It’s a shame it’s come to this, but that’s the way things work.
Some kind of “patriots,” these GOPs.
(My favorite GOP fallacy, by the by, claim that media is biased which justifies YOU being blatantly biased. It doesn’t. And claim Obama has trampled on the Constitution which justifies YOU stomping on the Constitution. It doesn’t and it never worked with your mother, either, BUT WALLY DID IT!)
And no, you can’t have my lunch money. Just TRY to take it. I dares ya.
UPDATE: The New York Daily News gets it right: