A Step Way Too Far!

The letter sent by GOP senators to the leaders of Iran is certainly not the first attempt by the GOP to undermine our president. But it is, most certainly, the most egregious and the most dangerous.

Since President Obama defeated John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, the Republicans in Congress have done everything in their power to demean him and diminish his power. Indeed, the day of the inauguration they plotted to block his proposals in order to make him a one-term president. (Though it’s not unusual for the opposition party to want to defeat a president in the next election. It is unusual for that planning to take place the day the president is sworn into office.)

Despite an overwhelming margin of victory, Republicans have considered Obama unqualified to hold office. They haven’t merely questioned the president’s policies. They have questioned his birthplace, his religion, his patriotism and his authority. In the Senate, they blocked, or attempted to block, virtually every one of his appointments. They invoked the filibuster at every opportunity, with such a frequency that Congress was brought to a virtual standstill.

They have attempted to repeal his Affordable Care Act more than 50 times. They refused to consider legislation to deal with the nation’s most pressing problems. Then, when the president was forced to take action through executive orders, they have accused him of being king. They have fabricated phony “scandals” to undermine his administration. They circumvented long-standing protocol to invite the leader of Israel to speak to a joint session of Congress in order to embarrass the president and to undermine negotiations with Iran.

They have waged a propaganda war against the president on the all too willing corporate media outlets. They have used every dirty trick in the book and a few never seen before. All of this is entirely without precedent.

Yet all of that pales in comparison to the letter signed by 47 Teapublican senators sent to the government of Iran…a letter that literally tells the Iranian government to ignore any deal the administration offers in its attempts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. “The president will only be in power until 2017,” they wrote. “Congress will not ratify any agreement and the next president could wipe away any agreement with the stroke of a pen,” they continued.

Such congressional meddling in negotiations with another nation is not only a breach of protocol. It is a violation of the Logan Act, a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison. It is also a breach of constitutional powers. And it may lead to yet another ill-advised war. Indeed, it is an act of sabotage that makes these 47 senators and their party unequaled in American history. Except for, perhaps, Benedict Arnold.

We Could All Learn From “The Jerk.”

The Jerk, starring Steve Martin, has long been one of my favorite movies. Not only is it filled with great comedy, it is filled with wisdom and life lessons. One such lesson is represented by the scene in which Martin’s character, Navin, first sees his name listed in the phone book. “I am somebody!” he exclaims.

That should be meaningful to all of us since it represents the human need for acknowledgement and respect. In fact, I believe respect is one of the most basic of human needs right after air, food and water. None of us want to think that we will journey through life without leaving a mark or even being noticed. Indeed, many human conflicts could be avoided by simply showing respect for others.

Street gangs are formed as a result of seeking a sense of belonging. Usually, they band together when the individual members feel disrespected by others in their community. And they are willing to fight and die when they are disrespected by other gangs.

Likewise, consumers experience frustration and anger when corporations and other institutions treat them as mere sources of money instead of actually working to fulfill their needs. Workers feel unappreciated and disrespected when they are paid too little money, or when extra effort goes unnoticed. Civil rights issues, such as gay marriage, are as much about respect and fairness as they are about freedom and personal liberty.

The need for respect even leads nations into war when they feel that others are trying to take advantage of them. For example, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States began as the result of President Truman’s bellicose and belligerent statements that showed contempt for our World War II ally. Truman thought that, since we were the only nation to hold the secret of nuclear weapons, he could use that power to disregard prior agreements and exact new concessions from the Soviets.

In other words, Truman ignored the Soviets’ need for respect.

This is a lesson that should be considered as we enter negotiations with Iran and as we press for new trade concessions from China. It’s what both Democrats and Republicans need to consider if they are to accomplish anything that will benefit our citizens during the next session of Congress. It’s what we all need to keep in mind as we interact with each other. Not just during the holiday season, but year ‘round.

As Aretha Franklin sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T…I got to have a little respect.” It’s what everyone needs and deserves.