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“Letter-Gate’ Reflects Republican Narcissism

Republicans Can’t Get Out of Their Own Way

Albert Einstein famously defined “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This suits the Republicans latest effort to run an end run around President Obama and embarrass him, and all Americans, on the International stage. First it was inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without even the courtesy of informing the President in advance. They didn’t need his approval but respectfulness, an ethical value, dictates transparency and fair-treatment on the issue. Now, it’s “Letter-Gate.”

What in the world possessed 47 Republican Senators to write a letter to the Iranian leaders warning that any agreement the Obama administration strikes with Iran to limit Tehran's nuclear program may be short-lived unless Congress approves the deal. In an open letter to Iranian leaders, Tom Cotton (R-ARK) and 46 other Republicans said that without congressional approval, any deal between Iran and the U.S. would be merely an agreement between President Barack Obama and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

At best the Republican claim in the letter is debatable. At worst it is a blatant attempt to interfere with the negotiation process and harms America’s image in the world on so many levels I’ve lost count. For starters, it makes the world wonder who is running the ship of state in the U.S. The negotiation is between two leaders not two houses of Parliament. Whether or not the “Treaty” needs approval under our Constitution, the issue is the Republican letter attempts to make the matter moot by killing any deal before it is signed.

We can debate Congresses real intent and whether the Treaty invites disaster for America and the world. That is another issue for another time. If Congress doesn’t like the final deal, it can do what is necessary, in its view, and constitutionally appropriate, after an agreement is reached – if one is at all -- to kill it. At least that would show some integrity, another ethical value lacking in Congress today.

Last week's letter has triggered a firestorm of responses. Democrats and foreign leaders have denounced the letter threatening to undo any nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran. Republicans, meanwhile, have staunchly defended the letter, even as a movement is underway to bring federal charges against the senators for violating a law that dates back to the early years of this country.

John McCain (R-AZ) and fellow senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), spoke extensively in the Senate defending the letter. "We're not going to let you tell us we have no voice in lifting the sanctions we created," Graham said. This is a smoke-screen and provides cover for the decision to send the letter. The issue isn’t sanctions – not at this point. The issue is whether or not a nuclear agreement can be reached with Iran. The sanctions come later.

The Republicans have a habit of getting in their own way. The Republicans feel slighted; their feelings are hurt. I get that. But they are acting like a petulant child who doesn’t get his way. It’s bad behavior in a five-year old and bad behavior in 40-70-year olds. (Cotton is 37 so maybe we can excuse him – or not).

The behavior of the Republicans is classic ends justify the means; an unethical act in my book. The means are important. The way you get to your goal is just as important as the goal itself. If not, why don’t we bomb the living daylights out of ISIS, ISIL, AS-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Iran while we’re thinking about it? Wouldn’t the ends of saving the world from further savage behavior and horrific killings justify the means of dropping a Nuke on them?

Whether or not you agree with the nuclear deal or  you support President Obama in his actions, the narcissistic behavior of Republicans is wrong. It also sets a bad example for American values and our form of government around the world at a time when American leadership is being questioned. What’s worse, the behavior of Congress is potentially harmful to impressionable youth in our country who must be wondering whether it is worthwhile to act out in an effort to achieve what one wants in life. We have all the negative examples of bad role models we can handle.

The Republicans don’t get it. This is not the kind of behavior the public expected when they voted to make the House and Senate a Republican majority. This is business as usual in Congress. Perhaps this is why only 18.2% of those surveyed in the latest Real Clear Politics poll approves of Congress while 73.2% disapprove.

My final word on this matter is Congress needs to get back to doing the people's business and not act in a self-serving manner.

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on March 18, 2015. Professor Mintz is on the faculty of the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.ethicssage.com.

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