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Monday, March 16, 2015


Are Republicans putting party ahead of country?

It’s hard – at least for me – after being involved in politics for nearly five decades to understand just what the Republican Party stands for these days and what its goal really is. Perhaps it is on an ego trip now that it has control of both houses of Congress, or perhaps the party feels a need to flex its political muscle to demonstrate to the world that Republicans are now in charge. There’s just one little problem with its bravado – a Democratic president is in the White House.

There has been a chronic disrespect for the office of the Presidency since Barack Obama took office in 2009. It began not long after the Obama administration took office when then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky brazenly announced his party’s No. 1 priority would be to make Obama a one-term president. There was no mention of let’s work together for the betterment of all Americans, a majority of whom had put Obama in the White House.

Was McConnell’s proclamation racist in nature or just political theater? Only he can provide the answer to that question. Despite the GOP’s best efforts to sabotage every initiative put forth by Obama, he was re-elected in 2012, defeating Mitt Romney by 5 million votes and capturing 62 percent of the electoral vote.

There has been little effort from Republicans in the Senate or House to work with the president on a multitude of issues. Since Republicans took control of the House in 2010, their actions to any proposal made by Obama prompted many political observers to give them the title of “The Party of No.” Now the Senate, with a Republican majority, appears ready to follow that path.

The letter from Senate Republicans to Iran about pending sensitive negotiations on a nuclear weapons deal is unprecedented. It was formulated by a freshman senator from Arkansas, and it’s unbelievable that 46 senators signed the letter. And, yes, the two senators from Louisiana – David Vitter and Bill Cassidy – signed it. Seven GOP senators did not.

In its open letter to the leaders of Iran, the Republicans warned that any agreement between the Obama administration and Tehran could be voided by Congress and simply be disregarded with the stroke of a pen once Obama leaves the White House. Obviously, they feel a Republican will be elected president in 2016, but I would not bet the farm on that just yet.

I am not a fan of Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid, but he hit the nail on the head when he said on the Senate floor, “It’s unprecedented for one political party to directly intervene in an international negotiation with the sole goal of embarrassing the president of the United States.” And Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois also made a good point when he said, “Senate Republicans should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East.” Apparently, the bright idea came to upstart Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas to write the letter after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress, having been invited by the Republican congressional leadership without conferring with the White House. There are two caveats here. Cotton, a former military officer, is regarded as the hawkest of hawks. He bought into Netanyahu’s rhetoric that the diplomatic talks with Iran will inevitably lead to Tehran becoming a nuclear power. Never mind that the Israeli prime minister was using his appearance before Congress to campaign for re-election back home, where he is facing stiff opposition. And never mind that the negotiations are designed to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, put the whole episode in perspective recently in an interview on “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” He said, “I think it is deeply irresponsible to have these GOP senators write to a foreign government in a way that’s at odds with the president’s policy. It’s beyond disturbing; we are so far beyond politics ending at the water’s edge.”

Fortunately, the letter has been viewed by Iran leaders and our allies as just what it is – an attempt by Republicans in Congress to undermine the president of the United States. Their reckless use of their power certainly did nothing to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we are the “United” States of America. Putting political party ahead of the interests of the country is a dangerous road to travel.

I certainly don’t agree with every policy decision of Obama, but there should always be room for discussion and compromise. Trying to keep Iran from having nuclear weapons is obviously a worthy goal. My take is that the Republican Party is paying too much attention to its radical fringe elements. I don’t believe a majority of the country falls into that category. They may have won control of Congress, but winning the presidency is a whole different ball game. In the meantime, it would be nice to see the GOP worry more about the future of the country rather than the future of its party.

Lou Gehrig Burnett, an award-winning journalist, has been involved with politics for 44 years and was a congressional aide in Washington, D.C., for 27 years. He also served as executive assistant to former Shreveport Mayor Bo Williams. Burnett is the publisher of the weekly “FaxNet Update” and can be reached at 861-0552 or louburnett@comcast.net.


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