One can imagine hearing such counsel from a contemporary United States senator on the receiving end of President Obama’s “full disclosure” of the nuclear deal with Iran. But the admonition actually came from James Iredell, a champion of the Constitution’s ratification, who was later appointed to the Supreme Court by President George Washington.
Iredell was addressing the obligations the new Constitution imposed on the president in the arena of international affairs. Notwithstanding the chief executive’s broad powers to “regulate all intercourse with foreign powers,” it would be the president’s “duty to impart to the Senate every material intelligence he receives.” Indeed, among the most egregious offenses a president could commit would be fraudulently inducing senators “to enter into measures injurious to their country, and which they would not have consented to had the true state of things been disclosed to them.”
Interestingly, the perfidy in Madison’s hypothetical involved summoning into session only senators favorably disposed toward a formal treaty that the president wanted approved. That was more plausible in the late 18th century: Under the Constitution, a treaty may be approved by “two thirds of the senators present” for the vote; and back then, senators coming from far and wide could not fly to the nation’s capital at the drop of a hat.
Madison could not fathom a president who undermines the Constitution’s treaty requirements by the ruse of labeling a treaty an “agreement” or a “joint plan of action.” Still less could he imagine a president who resorts to chicanery in communicating the terms of an international agreement to the Congress. Such duplicity must have seemed inconceivable.
Yet now, it is not just conceivable. It is happening:
Obama’s original stated commitment to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapons power has deteriorated into a deal that enables Iran to become a nuclear-weapons power by abiding by the deal’s terms. The mullahs’ inevitable cheating will merely speed up matters; the outcome is already certain.
Obama is willfully providing material support to the mullahs’ terrorism (a felony violation of federal law) — the deal will inject over $100 billion into Iran’s economy, and Iran brags that it will continue its open and notorious funding of Hezbollah and other anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israel “allies” (while the administration splutters that, gee whiz, curbing terrorism was not part of the negotiations).
Obama not only lifts restrictions on Iran’s traffic in ballistic missiles and conventional weapons (which were also not supposed to be part of the negotiations) but also looks the other way while Russia sells the mullahs hundreds of sophisticated surface-to-air missiles — missiles that will be used against American forces when, inevitably, a future president decides to deal differently with our enemies.
Obama’s deal, rationalized as necessary to delay (but no longer to forbid) Iran’s nuclearization, obliges the United States to protect Iranian nuclear facilities from sabotage — i.e., the deal makes America the scourge of erstwhile allies like Israel, with which we have colluded in impeding our actual enemy’s nuclear progress
Yet, however shocking they may be, these acknowledged concessions do not fully convey the depth of the president’s betrayal. After a few days of misdirection, administration officials now admit that there are “side deals” that the administration has not revealed to Congress and does not intend to make public.
So far, we know of two “side deals” — who knows how many more there may actually be? As the Center for Security Policy’s Fred Fleitz writes in National Review, they involve (a) a full accounting of Iran’s prior nuclear activities (many of which are believed to have been in blatant violation of international law) and (b) access to the Parchin military base, where Iran has conducted explosive testing related to nuclear missiles.
Apropos of these subjects, recall that the administration repeatedly promised there would be no deal, that the president would walk away from the table, unless Iran agreed to a rigorous inspection regiment. Such a regiment minimally requires: (a) complete disclosure of the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s past nuclear work, in order to establish a baseline for evaluating future conduct, and (b) the ability to conduct credible snap inspections of nuclear facilities.
Despite the administration’s chest-beating about these “red lines,” the Iranians remained alternatively coy and intransigent: When not lying about what cards they were willing to show, the mullahs insisted that Americans would not be permitted to snoop around their country and interfere in their military affairs.
Someone had to cave in, and — you could set your watch on it — that someone is Obama (if, that is, you are one of those who believed he was being honest in the first place). Thus the problem: how to cover up this decisive surrender within the surrender?
So, in his signature “if you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan” style, the president has come up with a fraudulent scheme: use the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency) as a smokescreen. His administration now cynically claims that these critical agreement components — the rationale for lifting American sanctions on and making American commitments to the “Death to America” regime — actually have nothing to do with America . . . they are strictly between Tehran and the IAEA. Translation: Blame the IAEA, not Obama, for the abandonment of Obama’s core commitments.
This would be laughable if it were not so offensive — and so perilous. Put aside that the Constitution does not permit the U.S. government to delegate American national security to anyone. The IAEA is not an independent actor. It is an international bureaucracy forged by the United States in the 1950s. Not only is the U.S. is a staple of its governing board; the American people underwrite over 25 percent of its budget. Furthermore, the IAEA reports to the United Nations (to which the American taxpayers’ contribution also far exceeds that of other countries) and, specifically, to the U.N. Security Council (of which the United States remains the dominant permanent member).
Now consider this: Under cover of this IAEA ruse, Obama ran to the Security Council and rammed through a resolution commencing implementation of his Iran deal before Congress or the American people could consider it. He thus undermined American sovereignty and the Constitution by scheming to impose an international-law fait accompli. And he thus undermined American national security by transferring his inspection commitments to an international agency that he knows is not close to being capable of executing them — an agency that will be further hampered by notice restrictions that, as Charles Krauthammer concludes, render the inspections “farcical” in any event.
The Constitution forbids providing aid and comfort to America’s enemies. And the Framers’ notion that a president would be punishable for deceiving Congress regarding the conduct of foreign affairs meant that lawmakers would be obliged to use their constitutional powers to protect the United States — not merely shriek on cable television as if they were powerless spectators.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.