Senator Cotton Dares to Challenge Obama

Tom Cotton smiles at camera with flags in background

Is U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, who led the way in sending the letter (signed by 47 U.S. Senators) putting the government of Iran on notice that any “peace treaty” implemented by Obama might or might not be valid once Obama leaves office, a traitor to the nation?

Military commander Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton said the following, reported by the Washington Post on 3-13-15:

“What Senator Cotton did is a gross breach of discipline, and especially as a veteran of the Army, he should know better,” Eaton [said]. “I have no issue with Senator Cotton, or others, voicing their opinion in opposition to any deal to halt Iran’s nuclear progress. Speaking out on these issues is clearly part of his job. But to directly engage a foreign entity, in this way, undermining the strategy and work of our diplomats and our Commander in Chief, strains the very discipline and structure that our foreign relations depend on, to succeed.” The consequences of Cotton’s missive were plainly apparent to Eaton. “The breach of discipline is extremely dangerous, because undermining our diplomatic efforts, at this moment, brings us another step closer to a very costly and perilous war with Iran,” he said.

Interesting. Major General Eaton views Senator Cotton as he would view a member of the military. But Cotton is no longer a member of the military. He’s not a soldier whose Commander in Chief (the U.S. president) sets the policy and orders all soldiers must follow. He’s a U.S. Senator. A Senator is part of the legislative branch of the U.S. government, not a member of the military.

In his statements, Eaton tries to have it both ways. On the one hand, he says, as a U.S. Senator it’s Cotton’s “job” to state his positions on important national security matters. On the other hand, he’s supposed to follow the chain of command represented by the word and concept “discipline.” Since when is there a military chain of command with the president at the top, and members of Congress beneath him?

If we accepted this premise and followed it all the way, this would mean that Obama is actually a military dictator, leading a military dictatorship. As the commander of the armed forces, all underlings must stand in line and follow orders, whether they agree with them, or not.

Clearly, this is not the function of the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Congress has its own powers, expressed in the U.S. Constitution, just as the President does. Nothing in the Constitution states or implies that Congress is subordinate to the President when it comes to matters of foreign policy. Members of Congress had no problem expressing opposition to the Vietnam War, and the numerous wars in the Middle East since that time.

Eaton’s contradiction rests on his use of the phrase “directly engage.” In using this phrase, Eaton implies that Cotton — as a U.S. Senator — has the power to usurp a president’s authority as commander of the armed forces. But Cotton has no such authority. He simply is stating an opinion, and making it known to the Iranian regime, “Whatever happens with our executive branch, the legislative branch of the U.S. government, as currently comprised, does not support it.”

Eaton’s premise is more disturbing than anything of which Senator Tom Cotton is accused. It’s the premise of a military dictatorship, where the President (i.e., Obama) commands and controls from above, and where members of other branches of government — the legislative, and presumably the judiciary as well — who disagree may not challenge that president’s policies in any way. Eaton might not favor a military dictatorship run by Obama, but what he’s implying suggests the necessity or validity of one.

The moment we start to place the executive branch, or any particular President, over and above the separation of powers (into three branches of government) mandated by the U.S. Constitution, is the moment we have effectively permitted the installation of a dictatorship. No, that’s not quite the case in the United States, at this time. But anyone who would suggest that Senator Cotton (and presumably the other 47 Senators) acted outside of the law is setting the stage for one. And it’s even more disturbing when it comes from a military official.

Some are citing the Logan Act as a means of attempting to prosecute and ultimately jail Senator Cotton. However, the Logan Act does not refer to one branch of government being unable to challenge or question the policy of another branch of government. The judicial branch strikes down Congressional actions all the time. The executive branch challenges and attempts to fight or otherwise block the legislative and judicial branches of government all the time. (Obama often proceeds as if the other two branches do not exist, in fact.) Congress IS part of the government. The Logan Act cannot be used as an excuse to state that the president, and only the president, may have contact with foreign governments. Unless you’re seeking to establish a soft or literal dictatorship of the president, that is.

It’s interesting to note that people wish to legally or otherwise proceed against Senator Cotton, who led the effort, but not against the other Senators (nearly half of the United States Senate) who signed the letter. If Senator Cotton broke the law and should be arrested and jailed, should not half the Senate be as well, for signing the letter? Is that the point we have reached in the American government, where anyone who questions or challenges the president (at least if it’s Obama), on entirely Constitutional grounds — then off with their heads?

I’m sick of hearing how the American people twice voted for a President with Obama’s explicit foreign policy points-of-view. Nobody ever points out how the American majority twice voted for a Congress with the opposite of Obama’s foreign policy points-of-view. Why is one forever binding, while the other not worthy of mention?


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