American exceptionalism is prone to making claims that the US is the greatest country on Earth in every aspect and always has been. The true believers likely think that the Garden of Eden was here and that Jesus was an American too. In this spirit, the US senate keeps boasting that it is the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body though it is telling that as far as I can tell no one other than its own members gives it that title because not only is it false, recent years have shown that calling the behavior of its members childish would be to give children a bad name.
Nothing symbolized its lack of seriousness more than what is coming to light about the 47 of its members, all Republicans, who signed the infamous letter to Iran. Jonathan Chait fills us in how the letter came to be.
Second, the letter was drafted and signed with maximum haste and a total contempt for planning or serious thought of any kind. “It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm,” confessed John McCain. “Many of the 47 signatories reasoned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement was vetting enough,” notes former Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson, disgustedly. “There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign).” Most people who signed on did so because they assumed somebody else had thought through the details. It was the Iraq invasion of foreign-policy maneuvers.
And, then, finally, there is the stubborn refusal to concede the plan has backfired even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Numerous Republican signatories have admitted, tacitly or overtly, that the letter was a mistake. Senator Pat Toomey concedes he “didn’t have any particular anticipation of the level of controversy.” His colleague Ron Johnson now says maybe the letter should not have been addressed to the Iranian regime.
It is extraordinary how members of the very body that the US Constitution envisaged as a check on hasty action acted so hastily on an obviously serious matter of international importance. They were like bored teenagers who couldn’t bother to do their homework and dismissed it with a “Yeah, man, whatever, I’m cool with it.”
Chait fingers Bill Kristol, arch neoconservative, ardent member of the Israel lobby, and strong supporter of Arkansas senator Tom Cotton, as the man behind the letter. We have to recall that Bill Kristol was one of Sarah Palin’s greatest admirers, one of her strongest advocates in convincing John McCain to select her as his running mate, so we know that the man is a strategic genius.