It’s almost impossible to believe 47 United States Senate Republicans would be so reckless and irresponsible as to blatantly sabotage the president’s peace-seeking negotiations with Iranian leaders.

But when you consider how both the Senate and House GOP have continually undermined Barack Obama’s presidency since he took office in 2009, it shouldn’t shock anyone to see these Republicans think they can get away with anything. Because up until now, our country has let them.

The letter they sent telling the Republic of Iran any agreement reached with Obama isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on should be the last straw. Childishly playing politics with America’s foreign policy in the most volatile region on the globe makes us all less safe. It’s a betrayal of this entire nation and its principles that is unforgivable.

It’s not surprising to see the names of Wyoming U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi on the list of the 47 who signed the letter. Only seven Republicans had the integrity to tell their party no, we’re not with you this time. Barrasso is part of the GOP’s Senate leadership, and he’s long proven his loyalty to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). Barrasso will dance to any tune the Senate majority leader plays — even if it’s not in America’s best interests — if it hurts Obama.

Enzi, the new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has a history of falling in line and voting how his conservative leaders want him to vote. He’s not about to suddenly buck the system in his fourth term.

I’d like to believe neither of the state’s senators is foolish enough to follow a freshman Tea Party senator like Tom Cotton of Arkansas off a cliff, but their actions show otherwise. It demonstrates a complete lack of judgment by Barrasso and Enzi, since Cotton openly stated before his term even began his goal was to end President Obama’s talks with Iran at any cost.

Barrasso and Enzi know every president has the constitutional right to implement the administration’s foreign policy and negotiate such critical matters as Iran’s nuclear future with its leaders, without any interference from Congress. Once a deal is reached the Senate can then weigh in, in its constitutional role to advise and consent.

To purposely scuttle the whole process simply because Cotton fears Obama will inevitably make a “bad deal” with Iran is beyond the pale. Maybe Cotton finally realized this when fellow conservative and Fox News’ host Megyn Kelly chewed him out about it on the air last week.

“What’s the point in writing to the Iranian mullahs?” she asked. “They already dismissed it, like, ‘Whatever.'”

Yes, Iran’s leadership provided the senator a lesson about how his own government works, and embarrassed Cotton by telling him his correspondence will be ignored. Talks with the U.S. and five other world leaders will continue.

But in a sense, the other Tea Partiers and right-wing extremists who preceded Cotton in the Senate didn’t give him any idea about how much rope he could take before he was in danger of hanging himself, because there literally hasn’t been any kind of check on the ridiculous amount of power their small ranks wield in Congress.

The Republican Party has consistently operated under the “philosophy” that anything that could make Obama look bad will make them look good. The GOP threw a monkey wrench into the economic stimulus Obama proposed, shrinking its size so small most economists warned it would not be nearly as effective as its potential indicated. Guess what? It wasn’t enough, thanks to Republicans stamping their feet and refusing any attempt to compromise.

The GOP played the same game over healthcare reform during Obama’s first two years in office, making certain the Affordable Care Act would be so damaged in the public’s eyes it couldn’t possibly get off to a good start. Since then Republicans have done everything in their power to handicap “Obamacare” while not taking a single action to improve the law.

The same scenario played out whether the issue was the debt ceiling, the totally unnecessary federal government shutdown or tax relief for the middle class. Despite rampant Republican obstructionism throughout his first term, voters returned Obama to the White House in 2012.

But instead of punishing the party for the gridlock it willfully caused, voters rewarded the GOP with control of the Senate and gains in the House last year. They showed conniving politicians like Cotton the road to power was to keep clubbing Obama over the head at every turn, so something as outrageous as trying to blow up negotiations with Iran seemed like what the public would embrace.

That was a total misreading of the public’s sentiments. Republicans benefited from their past efforts to belittle Obama, but there’s clearly too much at stake in keeping Iran’s nuclear potential in check for the 47 signers to get away with their action.

Nationally, public sentiment is against the Republicans, and it should be in Wyoming, too. Even a red state like ours knows it’s outrageous for the vast majority of a political party’s U.S. senators to tell Iranians they can ignore our president because Congress and/or his successor can wipe out any agreements he makes with foreign governments.

Obama isn’t negotiating a treaty with Iran, he’s trying to buy some time and make sure Iran’s nuclear capabilities are properly monitored. Along with besmirching Obama, Republicans have also attacked the peace-keeping efforts of Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.

How are Barrasso and Enzi trying to justify what they’ve done?

“A nuclear-armed Iran makes the world less safe, less stable and less secure,” Barrasso said in a statement released by his Washington office Friday. “I’ll continue to do everything I can to protect Americans and prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and starting a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. If the agreement the president and secretary of state are negotiating can’t survive this letter, then maybe the deal isn’t as solid as they believe it is.”

Barrasso’s initial words are true: A nuclear-armed Iran would unquestionably make the world less safe. But the rest of his statement ignores the reality of the situation and the fact that by bashing Obama, he and other Republican senators are actually siding with Iranian hardliners determined to obtain nuclear weapons.

Enzi declined to answer my questions about why he signed the letter. On his webpage Friday was a news release that stated Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, and the letter was important because only Congress can lift sanctions on Iran.

He characterized the letter as “simply a reminder to Iran that Congress does have a role to play in accepting a final deal that can last. Congress is doing its job by double checking the administration’s work.”

What Congress is doing is by no means “double checking,” which by definition would allow the talks to reach a conclusion before it renders any advice on the agreement’s content. No, Enzi, Barrasso and the other signers have gone much farther than any other senators have in the nation’s history, and denounced the president to leaders of a foreign regime that could plunge us into World War III.

If Democrats did exactly the same thing to a GOP president, treason trials would have already started.

If current negotiations fail, the only way to keep nukes out of Iran’s hands will be to launch a preemptive war, which is precisely what hawks like Dick Cheney, John McCain and now Cotton have been advocating. They’ve learned absolutely nothing from the long, drawn-out wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and don’t have a clue how much the American public wants to keep out of another war.

Or if they do know, they don’t care a bit, because gearing up America’s war-making machinery is the lifeblood of politicians of their ilk. Enzi and Barrasso owe it to their constituents to quit hiding behind the facade of wanting to assure peace if their real intention is to keep Iran from stockpiling nuclear weapons by pulverizing it first.

— Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer at dustin@wyofile.com.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. As a former resident of this great state, and had voted for Enzi prior to moving to Arizona for health reasons, I too am amazed at Senator Enzi’s endorsement of the highly toxic letter concerning Iran. This is overreach by the legislative body concerning separation of powers at the federal level. Also now it has come to light from the Wall Street Journal, a conservative newspaper stating the State of Israel, has been spying on the egotiations between the U. S. and Iran. Should not the senator’s be concerned that they too are being spied on by Israel?

    Alan Robertson

  2. I’m particularly disappointed in Mike Enzi. I went to high school with him and believed him to be a thinking Conservative. Like so many Republicans, he checks his brains at the door when it comes to GOP orthodoxy. The GOP has so many Chickenhawks in its ranks that it is incapable of making an intelligent decision about defense.

    Neil Thex

  3. I am ashamed of our Barrasso and Enzi. I raised my children and grandchildren to respect for our President even if you don’t agree with him. These men want respect but they don’t show it for anyone else. They should be fined, suspended, arrested, subject to an inquery, taken to task, and whatever else fits their terrible behavior. To act like spoiled high school kids is totally unacceptable. I am of no difference to them because I have no influence or money but I’m older than both of them and deserve the respect of seeing the get their just dues for albeit treasonous behavior.

    Jude Silver Nance

  4. The lack of understanding of the actual operation of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches by the GOP in general and the Tea Party in particular is astounding. I’m consistently ashamed of the behavior of the Representative and Senators who are from Wyoming. Diplomacy is not the role of the U.S. Senate, but it is the role of the Executive Branch.

    Thank you for the excellent article.

    Marsha Dreier

  5. Another great article. It is shocking that the GOP can stoop to such a low level to intentionally embarrass the US before our negotiating partners and the diplomatic world. They have made the US out as an unreliable partner, internally divided, and insincere in our negotiations.

    This, of course, is not unexpected in the partisan politics of Washington but the 200+ year policy of leaving partisanship at the boarder seems to have been forgotten by many in the GOP. Clearly, Cotton and the the other signatories have not read or don’t understand the Constitution and, as usual, have offered no other reasonable approaches to this potentially de-stabilizing issue of a nuclear Iran.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Barrasso signed the letter. He shoots from the hip, doesn’t think about consequences, and, generally, is a disgrace to the people of Wyoming. But, I am shocked that Enzi signed. I have always viewed his as a thoughtful, elder statesman who showed poise and respect in the presence of those with whom he disagreed.

    We have a tremendous problem holding together a coalition of allies and adversaries and didn’t need the GOP to undermine a foreign policy process that could have serious consequences for years to come.

    Loren Nelson
    Jackson, WY

  6. I can’t help but wonder if this is not a smokescreen of some kind. The Senate has always been strict with freshman senators, they are not allowed to even tell the tourists where the bathrooms are. Now here comes this bonehead and all of the senators scream AMEN and fall in line…..?. In Wyoming we see the same thing when the legislature falls over themselves over some piece of legislation and while we are watching that they hammer us with something else.

    LJ Turner

  7. Right on all points. Tehran Tom is a dangerous fool. Arkansas voters should begin the recall immediately.

    Marc Ethier